State can lay down any rule for determining seniority in service: HC

Srinagar, May 27: The state is well within its right to lay down any rule that it thinks appropriate for determining seniority in service, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh has said as it rejected a plea challenging Officers Promotion Policy, 2024 issued by the J&K Bank Limited to the extent it has classified the officers recruited initially in Scale-I cadre and Officers elevated from lower cadres as ‘generalist cadre officers’.
“In view of clear and unequivocal enunciation of law by the Supreme Court of India, it is trite that Article 14 does not forbid the merger or creation of different cadres for its service,” a bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar said, adding, “It is well within the power of the State to integrate different cadres into one cadre.”
The creation of cadres and integration of different cadres into one cadre is entirely a policy matter for the State and does not attract equality clause envisaged under Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India, the court said.
“It is equally true that State is well within its right to lay down any rule which it thinks appropriate for determining seniority in service and it is not competent to the Court to strike down such rule unless it falls foul of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution.”
In their plea, the petitioners said that they were initially recruited as Relationship Executive-Law and thereafter placed in Junior Management (Scale-I). The Bank, they had said, could not have clubbed them with other Scale-I officers to the prejudice of their right to accelerated promotion on the basis of merit/seniority in their own class i.e., confirmed Relationship Executive-Law
“In the case on hand, there was no promise or representation ever given to the petitioners that after they are regularly appointed as Junior Management (Scale-I), they will be put in a separate cadre of Law distinct from the General Scale-I cadre in the matter of seniority and promotion,” the court said, adding, “It is true that the respondent Bank, having regard to their qualification and experience in Law, could have created a separate cadre of Junior Management (Scale-I)-Law but that could have been by way of a policy decision to be taken by the respondent Bank.”
This Court, the court said, in the exercise of extraordinary writ jurisdiction, cannot direct the Bank to create a separate cadre of Junior Management (Scale-I)-Law merely for the reason that it would be more appropriate and advisable to do so.
“As a matter of policy and in its wisdom, the respondent Bank did not create a separate Scale-I cadre for Law Graduates and made them also a part of generalist cadre consisting of all Scale-I officers recruited directly or elevated from lower cadres,” the court said, adding, “This Court finds nothing illegal, arbitrary or discriminatory in such decision of the respondent Bank, as is reflected in the Officers Promotion Policy.”

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