A Distressed Assistant Teacher Fights For His Place In The Seniority List – In The High Court Of Judicature At Bombay
The petitioner and respondent no.4 serve as Headmaster and Assistant Teacher, respectively, at the school run by respondent no.3. The Respondent was distressed as he felt he was senior to the Petitioner and should have been given the position of Headmaster. The Learned Judge A.S. CHANDURKAR J pronounced this Judgement on 19.01.2022 in SHRI NILDHWAJ MOTIRAMJI KAMBLE V. THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA.
The Petitioner was hired as an Assistant Teacher on September 9, 1985, whereas respondent No. 4 was hired as an Assistant Teacher on December 11, 2002. The Education Officer gave his approval to their positions. In the seniority list generated for the years 2017-18 and 2018-19, the Petitioner was indicated to be senior to Respondent no. 4. The Petitioner was assigned Serial Number 1 in the 2018-19 seniority list, whereas Respondent No. 4 was assigned Serial Number 6. The Management passed a decision on April 30, 2018, elevating the Petitioner to the position of Headmaster, effective May 1, 2018. As a result, the Petitioner began serving as Headmaster on May 1, 2018, and his appointment was authorized by the Education Officer (Secondary) on May 17, 2018. Respondent No. 4 contends that his placement on the seniority list for the 2018-19 fiscal year was erroneous and that he should be shown to be senior to the Petitioner. As a result, on July 31, 2018, respondent no. 4 communicated to Management, requesting proper placement in the seniority list.
The Education Officer (Secondary) gave a copy of such representation. Based on a Government Circular dated 03.05.2019 and communication from the Office of the Director of Secondary and Higher Education dated 27.05.2019, it appears that on 12.06.2019, the Education Officer (Secondary), acting under Rule 12 of the Maharashtra Employees of Private Schools (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1981, issued an order holding that respondent no.4 was senior to the Petitioner.
On the same day, the Education Officer (Secondary) asked Management to submit a proposal with responder no. 4 as Headmaster for approval. The Petitioner objected to such a directive in communications dated 03.07.2019 and 04.07.2019. The Petitioner filed this writ petition after discovering that the Office of the Education Officer (Secondary) had not responded to the same.
According to Shri Prashant Thakare, learned counsel for the Petitioner, the Education Officer (Secondary) had no jurisdiction to hear any grievance relating to the seniority list for the year 2018-19 under Rule 12 of the said Rules after the Management had promoted the Petitioner based on such seniority list. According to the lawyer, the Education Officer has authority to hear any grievance or disagreement in the issue of inter se seniority only until the Management has acted on the matter and implemented any promotion. A person who is aggrieved by a Management order of advancement must file an appeal under Section 9 of the Maharashtra Employees of Private Schools (Conditions of Service) Regulation Act, 1977 to dispute the promotion charge.
On the case grounds, it was argued that the Petitioner had been correctly proven to be senior to respondent no.4 since 2017-18 and that respondent no.4’s claim was not entitled to be accepted. As a result, it was argued that the disputed communications dated June 12, 2019, should be thrown out.
The statements mentioned above were contested by Shri Akshay Naik, learned counsel for respondent no.4. According to the Counsel, the Education Officer (Secondary) directed the Management to treat respondent no.4 as senior to the Petitioner because it was discovered that the Petitioner’s initial placement in the seniority list was incorrect and that the Education Officer (Secondary) found that the respondent no.4 was senior to the Petitioner after noticing the error. The Education Officer (Secondary) determined that the Petitioner’s initial placement based on Government Circulars dated 24.01.2017 and 14.11.2017 was wrong since the earlier two Government Circulars had been removed by a subsequent Government Circular dated 03.05.2019.
When the circumstances of the case are considered, it is clear that the Petitioner was proven to be senior to respondent no.4 in the seniority list for the years 2017-18 and 2018-19. The Education Officer (Secondary) approved the Petitioner’s appointment as Headmaster on May 17, 2018. The permission was set to take effect on May 1, 2018. It is undeniable that the Education Officer (Secondary) elected to hear the inter se seniority dispute between the petitioner and respondent no.4 after that. Against this backdrop, the Education Officer (Secondary) issued the impugned communications on June 12, 2019.
Given the above-mentioned legal position, it is immediately apparent that the Education Officer (Secondary) lost jurisdiction to determine the inter se seniority between the petitioner and respondent no.4 after the Management promoted the Petitioner to the post of Headmaster on 30.04.2018 and the Petitioner took charge of that post on 01.05.2018. Thus, it is evident that the challenged communications dated 12.06.2019, in which respondent no.4 is determined to be senior to the Petitioner, are the result of an exercise in futility.
The Learned Judge is unable to record a finding that Respondent no. 4’s original placement in the seniority list at Serial Number 6 was inaccurate. The same was adequately instructed to be amended by showing respondent no.4 at Serial Number 1 after hearing both Counsels. This would necessitate competent adjudication, and we believe that the Court’s previous rulings adequately address the problem. If the Petitioner’s elevation to Headmaster causes respondent no.4 to be displaced, he may seek redress under Section 9 of the Act.
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Reviewed by Rangasree