The Supreme Court held that the conditions of service of a public servant, including matters of promotion and seniority, are governed by the extant rules.
The three judge bench headed by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit overruled its judgment in Y.V. Rangaiah v. J. Sreenivasa Rao which held that the appointments to the public posts that fell vacant prior to the amendment of the Rules would be governed by the old Rules and not by the amended rules.
The bench, also comprising Justices S.Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha, observed that the rights and obligations of persons serving the Union and the States are to be sourced from the rules governing the services and that that there is no right for an employee outside the said rules.
In this case, the High Court of Himachal Pradesh allowed a writ petition and directed the State to consider the case of the writ petitioners for promotion under Rules that existed when the vacancies arose and not as per the subsequently amended rules. The High Court had relied on the judgment in Y.V. Rangaiah (supra).
The issue raised before the Apex Court was whether the vacancies which arose prior to the promulgation of the new rules are to be filled only as per the old rules and not as per the amended rules?
In Rangiah, it was observed that (1) The vacancies which occurred prior to the amended rules would be governed by the old rules and not by the amended rules (2) the posts which fell vacant prior to the amended rules would be governed by the old rules and not by the new rules.
Status of persons serving the Union and the States
The court, referring to the judgment in Roshan Lal Tandon v. Union of India (1968) 1 SCR 185, observed that the following principles are laid down with regard to status of persons serving the Union and the States:
(i) Except as expressly provided in the Constitution, every person employed in the civil service of the Union or the States holds office during the pleasure of the President or the Governor (Article 310). Tenure at pleasure is a constitutional policy for rendering services under the state for public interest and for the public good, as explained in Tulsiram Patel (supra).
(ii) The Union and the States are empowered to make laws and rules under Articles 309, 310 and 311 to regulate the recruitment, conditions of service, tenure and termination. The rights and obligations are no longer determined by consent of the parties but by the legal relationship of rights and duties imposed by statute or the rules. The services, thus, attain a status.
(iii) The hallmark of status is in the legal rights and obligations imposed by laws that may be framed and altered unilaterally by the Government without the consent of the employee.
(iv) In view of the dominance of rules that govern the relationship between the Government and its employee, all matters concerning employment, conditions of service including termination are governed by the rules. There are no rights outside the provision of the rules.
(v) In a recruitment by State, there is no right to be appointed but only a right to be considered fairly. The process of recruitment will be governed by the rules framed for the said purpose.
(vi) Conditions of service of a public servant, including matters of promotion and seniority are governed by the extant rules. There are no vested rights independent of the rules governing the service.
(vii) With the enactment of laws and issuance of rules governing the services, Governments are equally bound by the mandate of the rule. There is no power or discretion outside the provision of the rules governing the services and the actions of the State are subject to judicial review.
The bench thereafter reviewed fifteen cases that have distinguished Rangaiah (supra). These decisions will demonstrate that this Court has been consistently carving out exceptions to the broad proposition formulated in Rangaiah, the bench noted.
"The consistent findings in these fifteen decisions that Rangaiah's case must be seen in the context of its own facts, coupled with the declarations therein that there is no rule of universal application to the effect that vacancies must necessarily be filled on the basis of rules which existed on the date which they arose, compels us to conclude that the decision in Rangaiah is impliedly overruled.", the court observed.
In this case, the court noted that the High Court has proceeded on the premise that the vacancies occurring before the amendment of the Rules on 25.11.2006 must be governed by the 1966 Rules.
"The 2006 rules, governing the services of the Respondents came into force immediately after they were notified. There is no provision in the said rules to enable the Respondents to be considered as per the 1966 Rules. The matter must end here. There is no other right that Respondents no. 1 to 3 can claim for such consideration.", the bench observed while allowing the appeal.
State of Himachal Pradesh vs Raj Kumar | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 502 | CA 9746 -9747 of 2011 | 20 May 2022
Coram: Justices UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha
Counsel: Sr. Adv P.S. Patwalia, AoR Abhinav Mukerji, for the Appellant-State and Sr. Adv Ravindra Kumar Raizada, Adv Divya Roy Adv and Adv Prasanjit Keshvani for the Respondents
Service Law - Public Servants - Conditions of service of a public servant, including matters of promotion and seniority are governed by the extant rules - The statement in Y.V. Rangaiah v. J. Sreenivasa Rao that, "the vacancies which occurred prior to the amended rules would be governed by the old rules and not by the amended rules", does not reflect the correct proposition of law governing services under the Union and the States under part XIV of the Constitution - The rights and obligations of persons serving the Union and the States are to be sourced from the rules governing the services. [Overruled Y.V. Rangaiah v. J. Sreenivasa Rao (1983) 3 SCC 284 ] (Para 10, 37.3)
Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 310 - Status of persons serving the Union and the States - Principles discussed - The status of a Government employee involves a relationship governed exclusively by rules and that there are no rights outside these rules that govern the services [Referred to Roshan Lal Tandon v. Union of India (1968) 1 SCR 185] (Para 6-11)