Seniority can’t be claimed from date when incumbent was not borne in service

The Supreme Court has observed that, under Service Jurisprudence, seniority can not be claimed from a date when the incumbent is yet to be borne in the cadre.

The bench comprising Justice R. Banumathi, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy was considering appealis against Manipur High Court judgment in cases pertaining to an inter-sr seniority dispute in the Manipur Police Service Grade II Officers Cadre.

Relying on a judgment of Supreme Court in Union of India and others Vs. N.R. Parmar (2012) 13 SCC 340, the appellants in this case had contended that an action was initiated for filing up the 2005 vacancies, the administrative delay in finalisation of the recruitment leading to delayed appointment should not deprive the individual of his due seniority, in  N. R.Parmar (supra) it was observed that the selected can not be blamed for administrative delay and the gap between initiation of process and appointment. Disagreeing with such an observation made in N.R.Parmar, the bench in K. Meghachandra Singh Vs.Ningam Siri, said – “such observation is fallacious in as much as none can be identified as being a selected candidate on the date when the process of recruitment had commenced. On that day, a body of persons aspiring to be appointed to the vacancy intended for direct recruits was not in existence. The persons who might respond to an advertisement can not have any service-related rights, not to talk of right to have their seniority counted from the date of the advertisement. In other  words, only on completion of the process, the applicant morphs in to a selected candidate and, therefore, unnecessary observation was made in N.R. Parmar (supra). to the effect that the selected candidate can not be blamed for the administrative delay.”

Retrspectively overruling the judgment in NR Parmar, the bench referred to Jagdish Chandra Vs.State of Orissa (1998)4 SCC 456, the bench observed that the term “Recruitment Year” does not and can not mean the year in which, the recruitment process is initiated or the year in which vacancy arises.While upholding the High Court judgment the Supreme Court added- “These three judgments and several others with like enunciation on the law for determination of seniority makes it abundantly clear that under Section Jurisprudence, seniority can not be claimed from a date when the incumbent is yet to be borne in the cadre. In our considered opinion, the law on the issue is correctly declared in J.C. Patnaik (supra) and consequently we disapprove the norms on assessment of inter-se seniority, suggested in NR Parmar (supra).Accordingly the decision in NR Parmar is overruled.”

-Justice Shiv Kumar Sharma
Former Judge Rajasthan High Court and Ex-Member of Law Commission of India
(The views expressed by the author are personal)