SUPREME COURT ON SENIORITY DISPUTE OF EMPLOYEES ON
MERGER AND THEN REMERGER
The controversy was emerged on account of a reconstitution of cadres. In the first instance, a separate cadre was constituted, out of the existing ministerial cadre, for discharging electronic data processing responsibilities. Again the separate cadre so created, was sought to be re-amalgamated with the existing ministerial cadre. The above noticed bifurcation and re-amalgamation, resulted in a coincidental career advancement, for those who had accepted to break away from the original ministerial cadre. Some of those who were originally placed at inferior positions in the seniority list of the original ministerial cadre, acquired superiority over their counterparts, consequent upon their promotion within the cadre of data entry operators, which resulted in their acquiring a higher position in seniority, over and above those who were senior to them in the original ministerial cadre.
The members of the two cadres were originally discharging similar duties. It is only as a consequence of the administrative decision to computerize the functioning of the Customs and Central Excise Department that a separate cadre of Data Entry Operators came to be created. The newly created cadre, exclusively functioned towards giving effect to the decision to computerize the functioning of the department.
Consequent upon the merger of posts, upon the promulgation of the TA Rules, 2003, and the STA Rules, 2003, the nature and duties of the two cadres were combined. Consequent upon their appointment as Tax Assistants and Senior Tax Assistants, members of the erstwhile ministerial cadre, and members of the cadre of Data Entry Operators, were required to perform both procedural duties and duties relating to computer applications. The deficiencies in the two cadres sought to be merged, were sought to be overcome, by subjecting the members of the two cadres to different examinations, whereby, the two cadres were trained for discharging their duties efficiently, on merger, whilst holding the posts of Tax Assistants/Senior Tax Assistants.
In the above premises, it was held that there was no serious difference between the two merged cadres, either on the issue of nature of duties, or on the subject of powers exercised by the officers holding the post, or the extent of territorial or other charge held, or responsibilities discharged by them, or for that matter, the qualifications prescribed for the posts. Hence it was further held that the merger of the cadres, and the determination of the inter se seniority on merger, were justifiably determined, on the basis of the different pay-scales of the cadres merged, under the TA Rules, 2003 and the STA Rules, 2003. By the mandate of the above Rules, all posts in equivalent pay-scales were placed at the same level. Posts in the higher scale of pay, were given superiority on the subject of inter se seniority, with reference to posts in the lower scale of pay.
In the considered view of the court, the above determination, at the hands of the rule framing authority, on the issue canvassed before them, could not be termed either arbitrary or discriminatory.
Therefore, constitutional validity of the provisions of Rule 4 of the TA Rules, 2003 and Rule 5 of the STA Rules, 2003 were upheld. As a consequence, the different orders passed by the Administrative Tribunal, and the common order dated 13.4.2007 passed by the High Court, were set aside and the appeals filed by those who moved to the cadre of Data Entry Operators from the ministerial cadre, and were thereupon amalgamated in the cadre of Tax Assistants/Senior Tax Assistants, are allowed. The connected appeals preferred by the Union of India, are also allowed.
(Reference:- Supreme Court of India CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 2485-2490 OF 2010 in Dhole Govind Sahebrao & others … Appellants V/s Union of India & others … Respondents, decided on March 26, 2015)