Union Of India vs Manpreet Singh Poonam on 8 March, 2022

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Supreme Court of India

Union Of India vs Manpreet Singh Poonam on 8 March, 2022

Author: Sanjay Kishan Kaul

Bench: Sanjay Kishan Kaul, M.M. Sundresh


                                         IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                          CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                         CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 517-518 OF 2017

              UNION OF INDIA & ANR.                                            …APPELLANT(S)


              MANPREET SINGH POONAM ETC.                                      …RESPONDENT(S)



1. These appeals are filed by the respondents before the High Court and the Central

Administrative Tribunal, raising a challenge on two grounds, namely: –

i. A voluntary retiree cannot seek promotion as a matter of right sans rules


ii. a mere delay in consideration of the promotion would not create a vested

right over a post that quantifies the maximum accommodation in terms of
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Charanjeet kaur
Date: 2022.03.08
numbers, involving a process of suitability.

17:50:21 IST


2. Both the respondents before us worked with the appellant holding the post of

Junior Administrative Grade-II (hereinafter referred to as “JAG-II”) officers.

Respondent in Civil Appeal No.517 of 2017 retired in the said capacity

voluntarily in the year 2010. Respondent in Civil Appeal No.518 of 2017was

promoted on ad hoc basis to Junior Administrative Grade-I (hereinafter referred

to as “JAG-I”) vide order dated 27.12.2011 and regularized vide notification

dated 17.04.2012 with effect from 01.07.2011, after undergoing a selection

process against the vacancies in tune with Rule 4 of the National Capital

Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and

Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Civil Service) Rules, 2003 (hereinafter

referred to as ‘2003 Rules’) which prescribes 10% as the maximum in the cadre

of JAG-I of the total sanctioned strength of the posts in the service. The 2003

Rules were amended vide Notification dated 01.10.2009, and the sanctioned

strength was increased to 472.

3. The respondents filed separate applications before the Central Administrative

Tribunal (CAT). Despite holding that the post of JAG-I is neither wholly

promotional nor an upgradation, the applications were dismissed on the premise

that a conjoint reading of Rule 4 and 7 of the 2003 Rules would disentitle the

relief being granted.


4. The respondents filed writ petitions assailing the aforesaid decision of the CAT,

which were allowed inter alia holding that Respondent in Civil Appeal No.517

of 2017 is entitled to relief in terms of the Circular No.AB.14017/47/2011-EST

(DR) dated 01.08.2012 issued by the Department of Personnel and Training

(DoPT), which facilitates a retired officer who is otherwise eligible as on the due

date to be considered for the benefit of “pay-upgradation”. In the case of

Respondent in Civil Appeal No.518 of 2017, the High Court reasoned that after

keeping the officer without consideration for promotion for a long time, with the

decision to grant promotion with effect from 01.07.2011, there is no justification

for denying it from 01.10.2009. Thus, both the writ petitions found favour with

the High Court. Assailing the aforesaid orders, the appellants filed the present



5. Heard Ms. Rekha Pandey, learned counsel for the Appellants, Ms. Avnish

Ahlawat, learned counsel for the Respondent in Civil Appeal No.517 of 2017

and party in person in Civil Appeal No. 518 of 2018.

6. The learned counsel appearing for the appellants submitted that the High Court

committed a fundamental error in granting the relief in favour of Respondent in

Civil Appeal No.517 of 2017, Shri M.S. Poonam, who admittedly voluntarily
retired in the year 2010 while the promotion was granted after the completion of

the selection process on 04.04.2012 against the vacancies which arose in the

year of 2011, in the light of promotion of ‘JAG-I’ officers to IAS. The High

Court has misconstrued Circular No. AB.14017/47/2011-EST (DR) dated

01.08.20212 issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT),

which can be applied only for upgradation simpliciter. There is no need to

challenge the finding of the CAT when the applications filed were dismissed.

7. As there is no vested or accrued right over a promotional post, in the absence of

any vacancies actually in existence for the year 2009, the migration of the other

officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) cadre took place only in the

year 2011. Thus, the embargo brought forth by Rule 4 and 7 of the 2003 Rules

would not facilitate such a relief. Under the Indian Administrative Service

(Appointment by promotion) Regulations 1954, and IAS (Regulations of

Seniority Rules, 1987, Officers inducted into IAS from ‘JAG-I’ get seniority

from the date on which vacancy arises, even though induction takes place

subject to DPC. In the present case, there was a delay in holding of

Departmental Promotion Committee (hereinafter referred to as ‘DPC’) for

induction of JAG-I officers into IAS, as such actual vacancy in JAG-I occurred

in 2011, even though notional vacancy may have arisen in 2009 itself. Since the

promotion from JAG-II to JAG-I is governed by the 2003 Rules, which
prescribe promotion when actual vacancy arises and DPC takes place, as such, a

right would accrue to an officer only after his entry and therefore, mere

inclusion in the select list based on induction of JAG-I officers into IAS, is of no

consequence. Under the 2003 Rules, a vacancy would mean an actual one and

inclusion in the select list to a different cadre governed by different rules would

not create a deemed one. In any case, on facts, the respondent in Civil Appeal

No.518 of 2017 was appointed to JAG-I service on an ad hoc basis only on

27.12.2011 and, therefore, without being inducted in the said cadre, he cannot

seek for promotion with retrospective effect.

8. It was further submitted that regularization took place on 17.04.2012 with effect

from 01.07.2011, after his clearance by the DPC, which is a benefit conferred

upon him. Since there would be an excess of 10% in the post of JAG-I, the

aforesaid rules also clearly indicate that JAG-I is a promotional post from the

feeder category of JAG-II as demonstrated through Schedule I and Schedule III

in tune with the emphasis of Rule 4.1, 7.3, 7.4 and 7.5 of the 2003 Rules.

9. The counsel for Respondent in Civil Appeal No.517 of 2017 submitted that what

has been done is only an upgradation and, therefore, the consequential benefit

will have to be given to the respondent as well. Respondent in Civil Appeal

No.518 of 2017, Shri Suresh Gupta, submitted that one has to see the proviso to

Rule 4 of 2003 Rules, and for the delay committed by the Appellants, he cannot

be made to suffer. It was further submitted that the Respondents were at Serial

No.1 and 2, in the select list for the year 2009, and as such, his appointment

ought to be with effect from 2009 and not 01.07.2011.


10.On considering the submissions made, it would only be appropriate to place on

record the relevant rules governing the issues raised along with the schedules:

Rule 4.1 of the 2003 Rules:

“4. Grades, strength and their review.-

(1) The duty posts included in the various grades, their number and the
scales of pay attached to them on the date of commencement of these
rules shall be as specified in Schedule I: Provided that ten per cent and
twenty per cent of the sanctioned strength of the posts in the Service shall
be non-functional grades of Junior Administrative Grade-I and Selection
Grade respectively, and these shall be operated within the respective
number of posts specified in Parts B and C of Schedule I: Provided
further that the number of posts in Junior Administrative Grade I shall
not exceed the total number of sanctioned posts in the Junior
Administrative Grade in the scale of pay of Rs.12,000-16,500.”

Rule 7.3, 7.4 and 7.5 of the 2003 Rules:

“7. Future maintenance of the Service: –

xxx xxx xxx
(3) All the vacancies in the grades of Junior Administrative
Grade-I, Junior Administrative Grade-II and Selection Grade
shall be filled by promotion from amongst the officers in the
immediate respective lower grade with the minimum qualifying
service as specified in Schedule III.


                     xxx                   xxx                   xxx

               (4)   (a)   xxx             xxx                   xxx

                     (b)   xxx             xxx                   xxx

(c)The promotion to the Junior Administrative Grade-I
and Selection Grade shall be made in the order of
seniority subject to rejection of unfit.

(5) The selection in each case under sub-rule (4) shall be
made on the recommendations of the Departmental Promotion

Schedule I of the 2003 Rules:


[See rule 4(1)]

Name, number and scale of pay of duty posts in the grades of the
National Capital Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Civil

     Part A                                Grades and sanctioned
                                           strength of the Service
     (a)                     Grades of the      Scales of pay
     1                       Junior             Rs.14,300-400-
                             Administrative     18,300
                             Grade I (Group A)
     2                       Junior             Rs. 12,000-375-
                             Administrative     16,500
                             Grade II (Group A)

       Schedule III of the 2003 Rules:

                                     “SCHEDULE III

                                      [See rule 7 (3)]

             Sl. No Grade            Method of promotion      Eligibility          for
               (1)         (2)                (3)                         (4)
             1.      Junior         By promotion in the       A regularly appointed
                     Administrative order of seniority        Junior Administrative
                     Grade I        subject to rejection of   Grade-II officer with a
                                    unfit      on       the   minimum of eighteen
                                    recommendations of        years approved service
                                    the      Departmental     shall be eligible to be
                                    Promotion                 considered           for
                                    Committee.                promotion to the Junior
                                                              Administrative Grade I

11.There is no dispute, at least to the effect, that the aforesaid rules and the

schedules govern the service condition, including the officer’s promotion from

JAG-II to JAG-I. Rule 4 fixes the cap of the sanctioned strength to the post to

the maximum of 10%. The schedules to the aforesaid rules clearly indicate the

different pay scales for JAG-I and JAG-II.

12.Rule 7 of the 2003 Rules specifies that the vacancies arising in JAG-I shall only

be filled by promotion from amongst the officers in the immediate respective

lower grade with the minimum qualifying service as specified in Schedule III.

Schedule III clearly states that JAG-I is the promotional post with JAG-II as the

feeder cadre post, subject to the other prescribed qualifications.


13.As there is no ambiguity in the aforesaid rules, we are not able to approve the

views of the CAT and the High Court that JAG-I is a mere upgradation of JAG-

II. Differential pay scale along with a process of selection qua suitability fixing

eligibility criteria are the factors to determine whether a particular post is the

same as the other or a promotional one. We feel that such an exercise is not

required since the rules themselves are specific. When the rules are specific and

clear, there is no need for interpretation which may lead to a case of judicial

legislation. We are also in agreement with the submission of the learned counsel

for the appellant that the reasoning of the CAT, though not challenged is

unsustainable, since there is no occasion to challenge it with the dismissal of the

applications filed.

14.The High Court also fell in error in taking note of the delay in considering the

case of the respondents to the promotional post of JAG-I. No officer has a vested

right to a promotional post, which is restricted to that of consideration according

to law. The law on this aspect is settled by this Court in the case of Ajay Kumar

Shukla and Ors. v. Arvind Rai and Ors., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1195:

“37. This Court, time and again, has laid emphasis on right to be
considered for promotion to be a fundamental right, as was held by K.
Ramaswamy, J., in the case of Director, Lift Irrigation Corporation
Ltd. v. Pravat Kiran Mohanty
[(1991) 2 SCC 295] in paragraph 4 of the
report which is reproduced below:


“4… There is no fundamental right to promotion, but an
employee has only right to be considered for promotion,
when it arises, in accordance with relevant rules. From this
perspective in our view the conclusion of the High Court
that the gradation list prepared by the corporation is in
violation of the right of respondent/writ petitioner to
equality enshrined under Article 14 read with Article 16 of
the Constitution, and the respondent/writ petitioner was
unjustly denied of the same is obviously unjustified.”

38. A Constitution Bench in case of Ajit Singh v. State of Punjab [(1999)
7 SCC 209], laying emphasis on Article 14 and Article 16(1) of the
Constitution of India held that if a person who satisfies the eligibility and
the criteria for promotion but still is not considered for promotion, then
there will be clear violation of his/her’s fundamental right. Jagannadha
Rao, J. speaking for himself and Anand, CJI., Venkataswami, Pattanaik,
Kurdukar, JJ., observed the same as follows in paragraphs 21 and 22 and

“21 : Articles 14 and 16(1) : is right to be considered for
promotion a fundamental right

22 : Article 14 and Article 16(1) are closely connected.
They deal with individual rights of the person. Article 14
demands that the “State shall not deny to any person
equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws”.
Article 16(1) issues a positive command that “there shall be
equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to
employment or appointment to any office under the State”.

It has been held repeatedly by this Court that clause (1) of
Article 16 is a facet of Article 14 and that it takes its roots
from Article 14. The said clause particularises the
generality in Article 14 and identifies, in a constitutional
sense “equality of opportunity in matters of employment
and appointment to any office under the State. The word
“employment” being wider, there is no dispute that it takes
within its fold, the aspect of promotions to posts above the
stage of initial level of recruitment. Article 16(1) provides
to every employee otherwise eligible for promotion or who
comes within the zone of consideration, a fundamental right
to be “considered” for promotion. Equal opportunity here
means the right to be “considered” for promotion. If a
person satisfies the eligibility and zone criteria but is not
considered for promotion, then there will be a clear
infraction of his fundamental right to be “considered” for
promotion, which is his personal right.


“Promotion based on equal opportunity and seniority
attached to such promotion are facets of fundamental right
under Article 16(1)

xxx xxx xxx

27. In our opinion, the above view expressed in Ashok
Kumar Gupta and followed in Jagdish Lal and other cases,
if it is intended to lay down that the right guarantee to
employees for being “considered” for promotion according
to relevant rules of recruitment by promotion (i.e. whether
on the basis of seniority or merit) is only a statutory right
and not a fundamental right, we cannot accept the
proposition. We have already stated earlier that the right to
equal opportunity in the matter of promotion in the sense of
a right to be “considered” for promotion is indeed a
fundamental right guaranteed under Article 16(1) and this
has never been doubted in any other case before Ashok
Kumar Gupta right from 1950.”

15.On facts, we find that promotions could be given for the reason that the

migration of the then incumbent in the post of JAG-I, despite being in the select

list to the cadre of IAS, did not take place and thus, they were working in the

said post till the date of notification paving way. The aforesaid factual position

not disputed, the rigor of Rule 4 would certainly come into play. We do not find

the proviso to Rule 4 helping the case of the respondents. The post of JAG-I is

certainly a promotional post from the feeder cadre of the JAG-II.

16.It is trite law that once an officer retires voluntarily, there is cessation of jural

relationship resorting to a “golden handshake” between the employer and

employee. Such a former employee cannot seek to agitate his past, as well as

future rights, if any, sans the prescription of rules. This would include the

enhanced pay scale. The Respondent in Civil Appeal No.517 of 2017 was rightly

not considered in the DPC in 2012 since he was no longer in service at the

relevant point of time. The High Court has committed an error in relying upon a

circular, which has got no application at all, particularly in the light of our

finding that we are dealing with a case of promotion simpliciter as against up-

gradation of any nature.

17.On facts, there is no dispute that Respondent in Civil Appeal No.518 of 2017

was given promotion after the successful consideration by the DPC. On such

clearance the appellant has rightly fixed the promotion with the year of actual

vacancy, as per rules. Thus, the Respondent neither on facts nor on law can

claim retrospective promotion, and that too from the year 2009 being the year in

which he was placed in the select list against a notional vacancy, especially

when the then existing vacancy accrued only in the year 2011, when the JAG-I

officers were actually inducted into IAS, against which he was promoted. As

such, the promotion cannot be granted retrospectively and extended to give

benefit and seniority from the date of notional vacancy, causing violence to Rule

4 and 7 of the 2003 Rules.

18. A mere existence of vacancy per se will not create a right in favour of an

employee for retrospective promotion when the vacancies in the promotional

post is specifically prescribed under the rules, which also mandate the clearance

through a selection process. It is also to be borne in mind that when we deal with

a case of promotion, there can never be a parity between two separate sets of

rules. In other words, a right to promotion and subsequent benefits and seniority

would arise only with respect to the rules governing the said promotion, and not

a different set of rules which might apply to a promoted post facilitating further

promotion which is governed by a different set of rules. In the present case, the

authority acting within the rules has rightly granted promotion after clearance of

DPC on 17.04.2012 with effect from 01.07.2011, when the actual vacancies

arose, which in any case is a benefit granted to the Respondent in Civil Appeal

No.518 of 2017. In our view, this exercise of power by the authority of granting

retrospective promotion with effect from the date on which actual vacancies

arose is based on objective considerations and a valid classification.

19.This Court in the case of Union of India v. KK Vadhera and Ors., 1989 Supp (2)

SCC 625 has clearly laid down that the promotion to a post should only be

granted from the date of promotion and not from the date on which vacancy has

arisen, and has observed that:

“5….We do not know of any law or any rule under which a promotion is
to be effective from the date of creation of the promotional post After a
post falls vacant for any reason whatsoever, a promotion to that post
should be from the date the promotion is granted and not from the date
on which such post falls vacant. In the same way when additional posts
are created, promotions to those posts can be granted only after the

Assessment Board has met and made its recommendations for
promotions being granted. If on the contrary, promotions are directed to
become effective from the date of the creation of additional posts, then it
would have the effect of giving promotions even before the Assessment
Board has met and assessed the suitability of the candidates for
promotion. In the circumstances, it is difficult to sustain the judgment of
the Tribunal.”

20.Similarly, this Court in the case of Ganga Vishan Gujrati and Ors. v. State of

Rajasthan, (2019) 16 SCC 28 has held that:

45. A consistent line of precedent of this Court follows the principle that
retrospective seniority cannot be granted to an employee from a date
when the employee was not borne on a cadre. Seniority amongst
members of the same grade has to be counted from the date of initial
entry into the grade. This principle emerges from the decision of the
Constitution Bench of this Court in Direct Recruit Class II Engg.
Officers’ Assn. v. State of Maharashtra
, (1990) 2 SCC 715 . The principle
was reiterated by this Court in State of Bihar v. Akhouri Sachindra Nath,
1991 Supp (1) SCC 334 and State of Uttaranchal v. Dinesh Kumar
, (2007) 1 SCC 683. In Pawan Pratap Singh v. Reevan Singh,
(2011) 3 SCC 267, this Court revisited the precedents on the subject and
observed: (SCC pp. 281-82, para 45)

“45. … (i) The effective date of selection has to be
understood in the context of the Service Rules under which
the appointment is made. It may mean the date on which
the process of selection starts with the issuance of
advertisement or the factum of preparation of the select list,
as the case may be.

(ii) Inter se seniority in a particular service has to be
determined as per the Service Rules. The date of entry in a
particular service or the date of substantive appointment is
the safest criterion for fixing seniority inter se between one
officer or the other or between one group of officers and the
other recruited from different sources. Any departure
therefrom in the statutory rules, executive instructions or
otherwise must be consistent with the requirements of
Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

(iii) Ordinarily, notional seniority may not be granted from
the backdate and if it is done, it must be based on objective

considerations and on a valid classification and must be
traceable to the statutory rules.

(iv) The seniority cannot be reckoned from the date of
occurrence of the vacancy and cannot be given
retrospectively unless it is so expressly provided by the
relevant Service Rules. It is so because seniority cannot be
given on retrospective basis when an employee has not
even been borne in the cadre and by doing so it may
adversely affect the employees who have been appointed
validly in the meantime.”

This view has been re-affirmed by a Bench of three Judges of this Court
in P. Sudhakar Rao v. U. Govinda Rao, (2013) 8 SCC 693.”

21.For the aforesaid reasoning, we are unable to give our imprimatur to the

reasoning of the High Court. Accordingly, the appeals stand allowed and

consequently, the order passed by the High Court stand set aside. No costs.





New Delhi,
March 08, 2022


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