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Senior, Even Though Less Meritorious, Shall Have Priority: Supreme Court Explains Seniority Cum Merit Principle For Promotion

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
31 July 2021 12:35 PM GMT
Senior, Even Though Less Meritorious, Shall Have Priority: Supreme Court Explains Seniority Cum Merit Principle For Promotion
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Seniority-­cum-­merit means that given the minimum necessary merit requisite for efficiency of administration, the senior though the less meritorious shall have priority, the Supreme Court reiterated in a judgment delivered this week. In this case, the appellants were promoted to the post of Leading Fireman under the Bhakra Beas Management Board Class ­III and Class­ IV...

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Seniority-­cum-­merit means that given the minimum necessary merit requisite for efficiency of administration, the senior though the less meritorious shall have priority, the Supreme Court reiterated in a judgment delivered this week.

In this case, the appellants were promoted to the post of Leading Fireman under the Bhakra Beas Management Board Class ­III and Class­ IV Employees (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Regulations, 1994. Their promotions were annulled by the High Court while allowing a writ petition filed by another employee who was junior to then. The court held them to be ineligible for promotion under the Regulations.

In appeal, the bench noted that the relevant Regulations provide that appointment by promotion is to be made by selection based on seniority ­cum ­merit and no employee is entitled to appointment as a matter of right. In this regard, the court noted the judgments In B.V. Sivaiah and Ors. vs. K. Addankl Babu and Ors., (1998) 6 SCC 72, wherein it was observed thus:

18. We thus arrive at the conclusion that the criterion of "seniority ­cum ­merit" in the matter of promotion postulates that given the minimum necessary merit requisite for efficiency of administration, the senior, even though less meritorious, shall have priority and a comparative assessment of merit is not required to be made. For assessing the minimum necessary merit, the competent authority can lay down the minimum standard that is required and also prescribe the mode of assessment of merit of the employee who is eligible for consideration for promotion. Such assessment can be made by assigning marks on the basis of appraisal of performance on the basis of service record and interview and prescribing the minimum marks which would entitle a person to be promoted on the basis of seniority ­cum ­merit."

Referring to facts of this case, the bench said that a  person possessing good reports is eligible to be considered for appointment by promotion as Leading Fireman based on selection.  "Other things being equal between competing candidates, seniority is to be given due weightage. But it does not mean that even if a junior is more meritorious by way of possessing an appreciable initiative certificate which the senior does not, irrespective of the same, the senior shall march ahead on the seniority ­cum­ merit principle", the court added.

The bench disagreed with the view of the High Court that if a candidate possessed an appreciable initiative and also obtained good reports, then only he was eligible to be considered for promotion. "The use of the word 'and', to our understanding does not make it compulsory for the candidate to possess both because in that event the question of selection from amongst the eligible post on the seniority­ cum ­merit principle would not apply stricto senso.", the Court said while disagreeing with the High Court direction to annul the promotion granted to appellants. The bench, however, did not interfere with the High Court order granting promotion to the other employee (the writ petitioner )



Case: Tek Chand vs. Bhakra Beas Management Board  [CA 4482 OF 2021]
Coram: Justices Navin Sinha and R. Subhash Reddy
Counsel: Adv SN Bhat for appellant, Sr. Adv Kailash Vasdev, Adv Vikas Upadhyay for respondents
Citation: LL 2021 SC 334

Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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