Likelihood of seniority should not be disturbed: Supreme Court

Seniority is always been a matter of concern in every aspect, considering it to be civil matter or business matters. The indifference arises in regard to promotion mostly on the basis of seniority, thus it results in the conflict of law in most of the cases which we come through.

Thus in the case of Vinod Prasad Raturi & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. [Civil Appeal No.495 of 2021], the court held that likelihood of seniority of other officers should always be taken into consideration and not to be disturbed. The facts of the case begin with the Central Government issuing the final allocation list on April 22, 2003, in compliance with Section 73 of the Act, after considering the objections received from the aggrieved parties. The High Court dismissed the Writ Petition filed by Appellant No.2 and others challenging the allocation to the state of Uttarakhand in a judgment dated 11.12.2003. Appellant No.2 and other SCS Officers, including Respondent No.4, were aggrieved by the High Court’s decision and filed Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) in this Court. This Court ordered the authorities to uphold the status quo in an order dated January 7, 2004. In a letter dated January 9, 2011, the State of Uttarakhand informed the Government of India that 9 vacancies in the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) cadre for the select list for the year 2010 were available. In the year 2009, two additional vacancies arose. In 2011, the IAS cadre had 11 vacancies in total. SLP (C) No.24078 of 2003 was withdrawn by Appellant No.2. Following that, the Government of India issued a final allotment order, allowing Appellant No. 2 to enter the state of Uttarakhand on April 15, 2011. The Appellants were included in the select list for 2011 and they were promoted to IAS in the vacancies determined in accordance with Regulation 5(1) of the IAS (Appointment by Promotion) Regulations, 1955. SLPs filed by Respondent No.4 and others against the judgment of the High Court were dismissed on 12.02.2015. Respondent No.4 then lodged a Review Petition, which this Court also rejected. The Government of India assigned Respondent No.4 and other PCS officers to the state of Uttarakhand on June 9, 2015. The Central Government denied the Government of Uttar Pradesh’s request to keep Respondent No.4 in the state of Uttar Pradesh in an order dated June 25, 2015. On September 2, 2015, the Government of India reiterated its decision to assign Respondent No. 4 and others to the state of Uttarakhand. Respondent No.4 was released from Uttar Pradesh on September 28, 2016, and on October 1, 2016, he began working for the state of Uttarakhand. On 20.02.2017, a tentative seniority list of State Civil Services Officers (Executive Branch) was prepared. Respondent No. 4 filed objections to the tentative seniority list, requesting that the time of service he provided in the Indian Army’s Short Service Commission and as a Deputy Superintendent of Police be counted in calculating the total eligible services. However it wasn’t taken into consideration, and On 20.06.2018, the High Court disposed of the Writ Petition with direction to the Respondents to hold a review DPC within a period of six months.

The court had held in this regard that “Respondent No.4 continued to work in the State of Uttar Pradesh by virtue of interim orders passed initially by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad and later by this Court. He did not make any attempt to have his case considered for promotion to IAS when his juniors in the SCS Officers cadre were being promoted to IAS from the State of Uttarakhand.”

He could have made a request for consideration of his case without prejudice to the ongoing litigation in this Court. Admittedly, he did not lodge any protest or prefer any objection at the time of promotion of the Appellants to IAS. Even after the SLP filed by him was dismissed, an attempt was made for his retention in the State of Uttar Pradesh. As the Union of India did not accept the request made by the State of Uttar Pradesh to retain Respondent No.4 in Uttar Pradesh, having no other alternative he joined the State of Uttarakhand. No fault can be found with Respondent No.4 for pursuing his legal remedies.

However, he cannot now seek to disturb settled matters, especially those relating to seniority of others during the period in which he was serving in the State of Uttar Pradesh. In other words, the inclusion of the Appellants in the select list of IAS cannot be reviewed at the behest of Respondent No.4 at this stage. No doubt, the allocation of Respondent No.4 dates back to 09.11.2000. However, Respondent No.4 cannot be permitted to seek review of the promotions made while he was serving the State of Uttar Pradesh. The promotion of the Appellants cannot be disturbed by the 4th Respondent who continued to work in Uttar Pradesh of his volition. The High Court committed an error in directing a review DPC to be conducted without hearing the affected parties and without realising that there was a likelihood of seniority of other officers being disturbed. For the aforementioned reasons, the judgement of the High Court is set aside and the Appeal is allowed.”

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