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In service jurisprudence, seniority cannot be claimed from the date when the incumbent is yet to be borne in the cadre: Delhi High Court

In matters concerning administrative appointments, the seniority of the transferee shall prevail as opposed to the direct recruits if the seniority predates the vacancy generated for the office of the latter. A bench comprising of Rajiv Sahai, J. and Amit Bansal J. observed in the matter of Yash Rattan v Union of India [W.P.(C) 3576/2021] that seniority shall not be claimed to a public office prior to induction into cadre.

The petitioners herein were appointed as Inspectors in the Delhi Commissionerate of the respondents in the year 2016 under the direct recruit quota. The private respondents (who were the petitioners before the CAT) were also direct recruits recruited in the year 2011 in various zones outside Delhi. At their request, they were transferred to the Delhi Zone in the year 2014. The main ground of challenge in the OA No. 2955/2019 was that the petitioners who had joined the department after the joining of the private respondents cannot be placed above them in the seniority list. The CAT set aside the seniority list, subsequent to which the present writ petition has been filed.

The counsel contending on behalf of the petitioners relied on the judgment of Union of India v N.R. Parmar ((2012) 13 SCC 340) and opined that the recruitment year would be the year of initiating the recruitment process against a vacancy year. The corresponding counsel pointed out that the judgment in N.R. Parmar stood prospectively overruled in K. Meghachandra Singh &Ors. Vs. Nigam Siro & Ors ((2020) 5 SCC 689). He further added that seniority position was not settled when the K. Meghachandra Singh judgment was delivered, as the private respondents had filed objections against the seniority list of 15th March, 2018 and further had challenged the same before the CAT before the K. Meghachandra Singh judgment was delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Therefore, it is wrong to state that the seniority position was settled.

The Court after a careful reading of the K. Meghachandra judgment followed through that seniority of direct recruits had to be fixed from the date of appointment and not from the date of initiation of the recruitment process, and any person aspiring to a vacant post does not have any vested right to it. The court further observed that “In service jurisprudence, seniority cannot be claimed from the date when the incumbent is yet to be borne in the cadre and therefore, norms on assessment of inter se seniority, suggested in N.R. Parmar case was disapproved; decision in N.R. Parmar case is overruled, however, the decision will not affect the inter se seniority already based on N.R. Parmar case and the same is protected. Decision will apply prospectively.

The bench opined that the CAT had correctly applied the dicta in the K. Meghachandra Singh case in the present case by quashing the seniority list. The court rendered the judgment that, “It is also an admitted position that in the present case requisitions for the appointment of the petitioners were sent to SSC the recruiting authority on 11th February, 2015, after the private respondents had already joined the Delhi Commissionerate. Therefore, even in terms of OM dated 4th March, 2014, the petitioners cannot be placed above the private respondents.

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