Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising Ajay Rastogi and Bela M. Trivedi, JJ., reversed the impugned judgment of the Madras High Court and held that when the delay in appointment is attributable to the State, it would not deprive the employees of their right to become the member of the Pension Scheme, 1978 merely on the ground that the Scheme was not applicable to their year of appointment, particularly when other candidates who participated in the common process of selection were availing the same.
The Court remarked,
“The premise on which the High Court has proceeded is not sustainable for the reason that the appellants along with other applicants had participated in the self-same selection process pursuant to advertisement dated 9th September 2001”
The undisputed facts of the instant case were that 53 vacancies for Assistant Public Prosecutor Grade-II were advertised by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission in the year 2001. After undertaking the process for selection, 51 persons, including those who were lower in order of merit to the appellants, were appointed by the Government by order dated 24-09-2002.
Pertinently, the names of the appellants were withheld for want of further verification. The Commission on verification granted clearance to both the appellants and intimated the same to the State Government on 03-09-2002 (much before the appointments were made on 24-09-2002). Despite all the formalities being completed, without any reasonable cause or justification, the State Government had withheld the appointments of the appellants, and finally, both the appellants were appointed on 23-08-2005 and 23-04-2004 respectively.
Meanwhile, vide notification dated 06-08-2003, an amendment was made under the Tamil Nadu Pension Rules, 1978. Pursuant to which the State Government introduced a new Contributory Pension Scheme applicable to the Government employees who were recruited on or after 01-04-2003.
The grievance of the appellants was that their names were cleared by the Commission much earlier than the date of appointment of the other 51 candidates by the order dated 24-10-2002, but the State Government failed to include their names while appointments of other selected candidates, including those who were lower in order of merit.
Therefore, the appellants contended that their names were withheld for two-three years by the State without any reasonable cause/justification, and the delay in appointments could not be attributable to them in any manner. The appellants argued that because of their later appointments, the Government had denied them the benefits of the Scheme, 1978 which was applicable to the employees appointed on or before 01-04-2003.
Analysis and Findings
The Court observed that when those who are lower in order of merit to the appellants were appointed and no justification had been tendered by the State as to why the names of the appellants were withheld for two-three years, the delay in making appointments could not be held to be attributable to the appellants in any manner.
Hence, the Court found that in the given circumstances, when all other candidates who had participated along with the appellants were appointed on 24-09-2002 including those who were lower in the order of merit, there was no reason for withholding the names of the appellants. The Court held,
“Merely because they were appointed at a later point of time, would not deprive them of claiming to become a member of Tamil Nadu Pension Rules, 1978, which is applicable to the employees who were appointed on or before 1st April, 2003.”
In light of the above, the Court set aside the finding recorded by the High Court. The State was directed to treat the appellants to be a member of the Tamil Nadu Pension Rules, 1978 for all practical purposes and benefits as members of the Rules, 1978 to which the appellants were entitled, including retiral benefits. [P. Ranjitharaj v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 508, decided on 25-04-2022]