Supreme Court holds initial date of appointment/continuous officiation a valid principle for adjudging inter se seniority in absence of specific guidelines 

  • Aishwarya Iyer
  • 12:46 PM, 07 Nov 2021

The Supreme Court last week held that the principle of initial date of appointment/continuous officiation may be a valid principle to be considered for adjudging inter se seniority of the officers in the absence of any rule or guidelines in determining seniority to the contrary.

These observations were made by a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S Oka in appeals challenging two separate judgments passed by the Delhi and Punjab & Haryana High Court which raised the same question of determination of seniority inter se of the candidates selected in their respective Command at the stage when a combined All India seniority list was to be prepared.

A plea was filed by Candidates for post of Group 'C' personnel of Military Engineering Services who were selected and placed in the select panel dated 29th June of the Western Command but appointed after 5 years down the line were appointed from April 1987 to April 1988.

The seniority of these candidates was determined on the basis of their date of joining.

It was argued by them that since they were the candidates of the select panel of June 1983, seniority of the candidates who were selected by direct recruitment was to be determined in the order of merit regardless of their date of joining and and that they were entitled to claim seniority with their counterparts who were appointed out of the 1983 select panel.

The Court found that the there was no rule or guidelines issued by the respondents including Union of India to determine the inter se seniority when a combined seniority list at the All India level was to be prepared.

It was further noted that the relied on a Office Memorandum of DoPT dated July 3, 1986 which dealt with the determination of seniority of direct recruits who were selected and placed in one and the same select panel to be determined by the order of merit in the select list and those who were selected in the earlier selection will remain senior to such persons who were appointed in the later selection.

Accordingly, the Court held,

"We are also of the view that in the matter of adjudging seniority of the candidates selected in one and the same selection, placement in the order of merit can be adopted as a principle for determination of seniority but where the selections are held separately by different recruiting authorities, the principle of initial date of 15 appointment/continuous officiation may be the valid principle to be considered for adjudging inter se seniority of the officers in the absence of any rule or guidelines in determining seniority to the contrary."

With this view, the Court allowed the appeal and upheld the decision of the CAT whereby it had observed that while adjudging seniority in silent in determining inter se seniority of the Commands at All India level, the only possibility and the rationale rule would be to have their seniority reckoned from the date of entering into service when he is compared to the person who belonged to yet another Command.

Cause Title: Sudhir Kumar Atrey v UOI and Ors