Punjab and Haryana High Court: Harsimran Singh Sethi, J., held that length of service in the cadre in which the seniority is being prepared is the only relevant factor to be taken into consideration while fixing the seniority.
The instant petition was filed to assail the impugned order by which the objections raised by the petitioner to the provisional seniority list in the cadre of Assistant Secretary had been rejected.
The backdrop of the case was that the petitioner was promoted to the post of District Manager in the respondent-Bank in 2012. In the cadre of District Manager, the name of the petitioner was at Sr. No.7 in the seniority list and the names of the private respondents 4 to 6 were from Sr. No.9 to 11 t. Petitioner was admittedly senior to the respondents in the cadre of District Manager and had a preferential right for promotion to the post of Assistant Secretary, i.e. the next promotional post. However, prior to the consideration of his case for promotion to the post of Assistant Secretary in the year 2014, the petitioner made a request to the Bank that he should not be considered for promotion because of his prevailing family circumstances and he should be allowed to continue working as District Manager which was accepted by the respondent-Bank and ultimately, other employees including respondents 4 to 6 were considered for promotion to the post of Assistant Secretary. Later on, owing to changed family circumstances, the petitioner was promoted to the post of Assistant Secretary in the year 2018.
The grievance of the petitioner was with regard to the tentative seniority list in the cadre of Assistant Secretary wherein, the name of the petitioner was mentioned at Sr. No.6 whereas the names of respondents 4 to 6 were mentioned at Sr. No. 3 to 5. An objection was filed by the petitioner but the same was rejected.
The petitioner argued that as he was senior to the private respondents 4 to 6 in the cadre of District Manager, hence, upon promotion as Assistant Secretary in the year 2018, he would regain seniority over and above those junior persons in the cadre of Assistant Secretary. The petitioner contended that it is a settled principle of law that where a person, who is senior in the feeder cadre, will regain his seniority in the promoted cadre even if, the senior is promoted to the said promoted cadre after his juniors. The reliance was placed by the petitioner upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in Ajit Singh Januja v. State of Punjab, 1996(2) SCC 715.
The second objection taken by the petitioner was that the Managing Director should not have decided his objections as his representation/objections were raised before the Board of Directors and therefore, the rejection of the objections/representation by the Managing Director was without jurisdiction.
Analysis and Decision
Noticeably, though the petitioner was senior to the private respondents 4 to 6 in the cadre of District Manager, but when his turn came for promotion to the next higher post of Assistant Secretary, he himself had foregone his promotion in writing. Hence, the question before the Bench was, whether an employee, though senior in the feeder cadre but had foregone his promotion and juniors were promoted, will regain his seniority in the promoted cadre despite the fact that the said employee was promoted at a later stage as compared to the employees who were junior in the feeder cadre.
According to the Rule, the seniority is to be determined on the basis of continuous length of service in a cadre, Rule 13 which governs fixing of the seniority states that:
“13. Fixation of Seniority
13.1 The seniority shall be determined separately in each category/cadre of service.
13.2 The inter se seniority of the employee shall be from the date of joining that category of service as a regular employee subject to the provision detailed in subsequent paragraph.”
Hence, seniority was to be considered in each cadre separately and the inter se seniority of the employees working in a particular cadre was to be taken from the date of joining the said cadre meaning thereby that seniority of the candidate in the feeder cadre did not have any relevance in the promoted cadre unless and until a junior had been promoted by superseding a senior by way of reservation.
In the present case, it was not a case where the petitioner was superseded by respondents 4 to 6 on the basis of reservation rather, they were promoted on their own turn, therefore, the seniority in the cadre of District Manager was irrelative to the seniority to be maintained in the cadre of Assistant Secretary.
The Haryana Civil Services Rules as framed in the year 2016 clearly deals with the issue regarding the deferment of promotion.
“6. Deferment of Promotion:
When an official forgoes his promotion, his name may not be reconsidered for at least one year and the person promoted during this period will rank senior to him. On these conditions the deferment of promotions may be allowed.”
Admittedly, the continuous length of the service of private respondents 4 to 6 was more than that of petitioner in the cadre of Assistant Secretary and therefore, giving them seniority over and above the petitioner in the tentative seniority list could not be faulted with and the rejection of the prayer of the petitioner for amending the said seniority by the respondents-authorities was also in consonance with the rules governing the service. Differentiating the judgment relied by the petitioner, the Bench stated that,
“Ajit Singh Januja’s case only applies in the case of reservation, where a reserved category junior employee supersedes a senior by availing the benefit of reservation to be appointed on roster point available for the said reserved category in the promotional cadre.”
Regarding the argument that the representation/objections which were raised by the petitioner against the tentative seniority list were before the Board of Directors and not before the Managing Director, therefore, Managing Director did not have any jurisdiction to pass the order rejecting the representation/objections, the Bench opined that,
“A bare perusal of the tentative seniority list would show that the same was issued by the Managing Director. Once, a tentative seniority list has been issued by a particular authority, the objections have to be heard and decided by the said authority.”
The Bench stated further that once the Court had decided the claim of the petitioner on merits, the request of the petitioner to remand the case back to the Board of Directors for a fresh decision could not be accepted. Hence, in the light of the above, the petition was dismissed.[Pradyumna Singh v. Haryana State Co-operative Agriculture and Rural Development Bank Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 1517, decided on 06-07-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the petitioner: Sunil Kumar Nehra, Advocate
For the Respondent: Sharad Aggarwal, Assistant Advocate General, Haryana