Supreme Court: Exercising its power conferred under the civil writ jurisdiction, the division bench of M.R. Shah* and C.T. Ravikumar J.J., held that the case of the petitioner for promotion to the post of Assistant Registrar was required to be considered afresh ignoring the ‘uncommunicated grading’ for the year 2016-2017 and 2019-2020 and the ACR for the years 2017-18 & 2018-19 was to be considered which was stated to be ‘very good’.
In the matter at hand, the petitioner challenged the order passed by the Departmental Promotion Committee (‘DPC’) denying her promotion to the post of Assistant Registrar in the Manipur High Court and prayed for fresh DPC proceedings.
Prior to establishing the High Court of Manipur Officers and Employees Recruitment and Conditions of Service (Classification, Control, Appeal and Conduct) Rules, 2020 (‘Rules 2020’), the promotion to the post of Assistant Registrar was governed by the Guwahati High Court Service Rules, 1967 (‘Rules 1967’).
The petitioner had contended that after the establishment of separate High Court of Manipur in the year 2013, the rules for appointment and other service conditions of the staff were governed by the Rules, 1967. Further the post of Assistant Registrar was to be filled by way of seniority-cum-merit thus, the petitioner being seniormost amongst the superintendents was entitled to the promotion to the said post.
However, the DPC was conducted in the year 2021 and as per the Rules, 2020, the last four Annual Confidential Reports (‘ACR’) were required to be considered. Therefore, the DPC considered ACRs from the year 2016 till the date of the DPC meeting who did not recommend the name of the petitioner and promoted other candidates.
Aggrieved by the order of DCP, the petitioner approached the Court by way of present civil writ petition.
The Court stated that the DPC had conducted a meeting to fill up the post in 2021, therefore, instead of adjudicating the case by way of 1967 Rules, the prevailing Rules of 2020 were rightly considered.
The Bench noted that the ACRs of preceding four years from the date of conducting the DPC were required to be taken into consideration for promoting the candidate to the said post, therefore, in the present case the ACR for the period between 2016- 2017 to 2019-2020 were required to be taken into consideration.
The Court noted that the petitioner had received ‘good’ gradings for the year 2016-2017 and received ‘very good’ gradings in the ACR for the years 2017-18 and 2018-2019 which was admittedly not communicated to the petitioner until the DPC was conducted in 2021.
Therefore, the Court while relying upon Rukhsana Shaheen Khan v. Union of India, (2018) 18 SCC 640 stated that ‘uncommunicated grades’ in ACR, which even though maybe adverse in the context of eligibility for promotion, may not be relied upon for consideration of promotion. Therefore, uncommunicated ACR for the year 2016-17 having the ‘Good’ grading could not have been relied upon for consideration for promotion.
However, the gradings for the year 2019-2020 was communicated to the petitioner one day prior to the DPC meeting in 2021 granting her 15 days’ time to make representation against the ACR grading for the said year. But before the 15 days were over, the DPC conducted its meeting and considered the case of the petitioner for promotion.
The Court was of the view that either the DPC meeting could have been postponed or the ACR for the year 2019-2020 ought not to have been considered and the same ought to have been treated as uncommunicated ACR.
Therefore, the bench held that the case of the petitioner for promotion to the post of Assistant Registrar was required to be considered afresh ignoring the ‘uncommunicated grading’ for the year 2016-2017 and 2019-2020 and the ACR for the years 2017-18 and 2018-19 was to be considered which was stated to be ‘very good’.
With this observation, the Court set aside the DCP proceedings held in the year 2021 denying the promotion to the petitioner for the post of Assistant Registrar.
[R.K. Jibanlata Devi v High Court of Manipur, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 178, decided on 24-02-2023]
Judgment authored by Justice M.R. Shah
Advocates who appeared in this case:
For the petitioner- Senior Advocate R. Bala Subramanian;
For the respondent- Advocate Nabaghanashyam Singh and Advocate Jaideep Gupta.