Read Judgment: Rama Negi vs. Union of India & Ors. 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 3, 2022: While hearing a matter with regard to the eligibility of a candidate for promotion on the basis of seniority and higher pay scale, the Supreme Court has opined that suitability for the selection post is attributable to two factors, namely, merit of the candidate and the inter-se seniority, and despite the difficulty in encapsulating the parameters for ‘merit’, a significant marker can be found in the unblemished record of the employee.  

A Division Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice K.M Joseph observed that a marred service record, though not an insurmountable bar, must carry some consequences, and it could be a comparative disadvantage in promotion for a selection post, and therefore, employer’s preference for a person with a clean service record can be well appreciated. 

The observation came pursuant to an appeal challenging the judgment of the Uttarakhand High Court, whereby Rama Negi’s (Appellant) promotion to the post of Office Superintendent in the Cantonment Board was quashed and the petitions filed by Gopal Ram Arya (third respondent) seeking promotion the said post came to be allowed.

After considering the submissions, the Apex Court found that for the issue of inter se seniority, it is necessary to bear in mind that the third respondent entered service earlier in 1990 but in the lower grade and was promoted to the post of Senior Clerk, only in 1997. 

In contrast, the appellant entered service in 1995 in the higher grade as a Steno-Typist (equivalent to Senior Clerk), and thus, she was senior to the third respondent in the post, just below the feeder cadre, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Hrishikesh Roy found that overlooking the inter-se seniority position of the two, the third respondent as a Scheduled Caste person was granted accelerated promotion in 2005, to the post of Revenue Superintendent.

Besides, the appellant by virtue of her higher pay scale in the post of Accountant in the feeder cadre, also deserves seniority above the third respondent with his lower pay scale, on account of the provision made in the O.M. dated Dec 12, 1988 issued by the Ministry of Personnel.  

Justice Roy further noted that Rule 5-B(8) makes it clear that the post of Office Superintendent is a “selection post” and the criterion for promotion is seniority-cum-merit.

The appraisal of the facts reveals that the third respondent faced a disciplinary proceeding following the chargesheet issued against him, but the High Court questioned the timing of the disciplinary action and observed that the same was issued to deny promotion to the third respondent, added the Bench. 

At the same time, the Top Court found that the inquiry report indicates that the Cantonment Board suffered a pecuniary loss of Rs.3,50,000/- due to dereliction of duty by the delinquent, and significantly, the third respondent accepted the charge and the disciplinary authority imposed the penalty of Rs.10,000/- recoverable from his salary.

It was a “selection post” and the appellant contrastingly had an unblemished service record all throughout her career. Moreover, she was found to be senior by the Board on 11.1.2012 and for this reason was recommended for promotion, in preference to the respondent no. 3”, added the Court. 

The Apex Court therefore concluded that the higher pay in the same grade as per the applicable O.M., is a reliable indicator for determining inter-se seniority, and thus, the decision to prefer the appellant over the third respondent for promotion is in tune with the applicable parameters. 

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal and set aside the order of the High Court. 

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