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Initial date of appointment better barometer to decide seniority, says Supreme Court in MES case

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New Delhi, Nov 5 (ILNS) The Supreme Court recently held that if anyone is aggrieved with his or her placement in a re-casted seniority list, the person will always be at liberty to assail their placement in seniority in independent proceedings in accordance with the law.

The bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay Oka was hearing a plea against the Military Engineering Services’ seniority list in which the applicants for the post of Group-C personnel in the grade of Superintendent of MES were selected and placed in the select panel dated June 29, 1983, of the Western Command but were appointed after 5 years i.e., from April 1987 to April 1988.

The bench decided that if their date of joining service at a later stage will be a guiding factor when the combined All India seniority of the five Commands is prepared or seniority will relate to their placement as per the select panel of June 1983 of Western Command, regardless of the fact of their joining at a later stage, anterior to the period one has taken birth in the department.

The bench disagreed, stating, “We disapprove the view expressed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in its judgment. Since the seniority list of the respondents in the civil appeal was revised pursuant to the judgment, although the principles laid down have not been approved by this Court. The fact remains that both the incumbents were promoted in terms of their revised seniority to the higher promotional post and one of them had retired from service in October 2018 and the other incumbent is at the verge of retirement in March 2022.”

“This Court in the exercise of its power under Article 142 of the Constitution to do complete justice is not inclined to disturb the seniority which has been assigned to them in compliance with the order of the Tribunal although on principle has not been accepted/approved by this Court,” said the bench

 “We are in agreement with what has been expressed by the Tribunal while recasting the inter consolidated seniority list of five Commands based on their initial date of appointment/from the date of entry into service,” the bench stated in compliance with the Tribunal’s order dated May 26, 2008.

Further, the bench noted, “The Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi in its judgment has expressed its conformity with the view expressed by the Tribunal so far as the determination of combined inter se seniority at the All India level is concerned, but at the same time has made strong observations regarding the procedure being followed by the authority in making appointments from the select panel of June 1983 after 5 years of the selection in the year 1987/1988.”

“All the five Commands have initiated the process of selection independently at the same time pursuant to the directives of the Engineer-in-Chief, Army Headquarters dated December 9, 1982, while adjudging their combined inter se seniority list, the principle of the initial date of appointment/continuous officiation may be the valid principle to be considered for determination of inter se seniority in the absence of any rule or guidelines to the contrary,” the bench noted while keeping in view the principles laid down by the Constitution Bench of this Court in Direct Recruit Class II Engineering Officers’ Association Vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors.

The facts in brief relevant for the purpose are that headed by the Engineer-in-Chief since its inception, the Military Engineering Service for administrative purposes was bifurcated into five Commands being the Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern and the Central Command with an officer of the rank of Chief Engineer being the administrative head and controller of each Command. There existed a separate cadre of Superintendents for buildings and roads and a separate cadre for electrical and mechanical equipment having the posts of Superintendent (B/R) Grade II and Grade I as also Superintendent (E/M) Grade II and Grade I.

These candidates were appointed from the select list of June 1983 in the Western Command from April 1987 to April 1988. Their seniority was accordingly determined by the respondents on the basis of their date of joining. Their grievance was that as they are the candidates of the select panel of June 1983 and as per the consistent practice and as per the OM issued by the Government of India dated 3rd July 1986, the seniority of the candidates who are selected by direct recruitment is to be determined in the order of merit regardless to their date of joining are entitled to claim seniority with their counterparts who were appointed out of the select panel dated 29th June 1983 of Western Command in the year 1983 and after rounds of litigation before Central Administrative Tribunal/High Court, the matter has travelled to Supreme Court./ILNS/KR/SNG/

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