CAT sets aside promotion order of College Principals

Nishikant Khajuria

JAMMU, Jan 13: In a significant decision, Jammu Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has set aside the Government order where under 61 persons were promoted and appointed as Principal Government Degree Colleges across Jammu and Kashmir in 2017.
Restraining the Principal Secretary Higher Education from giving effect to Government Order No. 684-HE of 2017, dated 12.12.2017, the Tribunal has also quashed communication No. PSC/DPC/HEColl/Sel/Prpl/52d/2013, dated 11.10.2017 and directed the respondents to regularize the promotion of the petitioners as Principal Degree Colleges from their respective dates i.e, from the date, the petitioners were promoted as Principal Degree Colleges in their own pay and grade.
“The exercise in this behalf should be completed within a period of four months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order,” read the judgment, delivered by the CAT Jammu Bench Members, Anand Mathur and Rakesh Sagar Jain, while disposing of the bunch of Transfer Applications of the writ petitions filed through Senior Advocate Abhinav Sharma.
Case of the applicants was that they were appointed as Lecturers in Degree Colleges and in 2008, the J&K Education (Gazetted) Colleges Service Recruitment Rules, 2008 were promulgated which laid down the criteria for promotion to the post of Principal Degree Colleges whereby they became entitled to be promoted to the post of Principal and they were promoted as Incharge Principal on various dates.
In order to make substantive promotions, 51 posts were referred to J&K PSC/DPC by the year 2012 and direction was given to furnish the APRs of persons including the applicants in the list for consideration of promotions. However, in 2013, APRs were sought of the applicants along with persons (private respondents) who did not fulfill the promotion criteria. During this period, SRO 124 dated 21.04.2014 substituted Schedule-I and II attached to Rules of 2008 wherein besides changing the method of recruitment to post of Principal also included the post of Associate Professor between Selection Grade Lecturer and Principal.
As per, the applicants, no DPC/PSC took place for their confirmation as Principals and PSC issued notice dated 11.04.2016 for holding interviews in violation of original Schedule II of Rules of 2008 which was challenged by some of them by filing SWP No. 789/2016 titled Kartar Chand v/s State. In the said SWP, order was passed by the Court that the selection process initiated by PSC’s notice dated 11.04.2016 was directed not to be finalized.
Meanwhile, in LPA (SW) No. 159/2016 filed in the dispute, the Division Bench vide order dated 16.12.2016 observed that the vacancies which arose prior to the said date, which were being filled up by promotion should be filled up by the procedure which was in vogue prior to the substitution of the said rules i.e., the J&K (Gazetted) Colleges Service Recruitment Rules, 2008.
As per, the judgment in the LPA (SW) No. 159/2016, direction was given by the High Court that vacancies prior to amended Schedule II were to be filed up, as per, unamended Schedule II of 2008 and the post becoming vacant after the amendment as per the amended Schedule.
Following this judgment, a review application was filed by PSC and others seeking review of the order dated 16.12.2016 in LPA (SW) No. 159/2016 and during the pendency of the review applications, the Higher Education Department passed the impugned order No. 684-HE of 2017 dated 12-12-2017 whereby the posts of Principals were filled up on the basis of criteria adopted by the PSC in accordance with SRO 124 of 2014 dated 21.04.2014.
After hearing the counsel for the applicants, AAG and counsels for private respondents and going through the materials on record, the CAT observed that it was not in dispute that the applicants acquired eligibility to be promoted to a higher post of Principal before amended schedule II in 2014.
“Looking to the arguments of the learned counsel for the parties and the materials placed on record, it is clear that the PSC/DPC was to be held for the vacancies occurring prior to coming into force SRO 124 of 2014, as per the unamended Schedule II of Rules of 2008 which laid down the minimum qualification as well as method of recruitment. The method of recruitment as per unamended Schedule II was by selection through DPC/PSC from Class II, Category A on the basis of integrity, merit and suitability from amongst persons have at least ten years service in that category,” observed the Tribunal.
“If we look to the impugned order, it has changed the method of recruitment but does not mention the criteria of at least 10 years service. This also gives substance to the submission of the applicants that in the list of candidates, many of them including private respondents who had not completed 10 years of service as Selection Grade Lecturers in the year 2011 and 2012 were included and which too has not been specifically denied by the respondents in their counter affidavits,” further observed the Tribunal, adding that if the list was to be as per unamended Schedule II to the Rules of 2008, there was no necessity to file a revised eligibility list by the Higher Education Department which also tells heavily against the correctness of the impugned order.
Noticing another averment in the impugned order, according to which the candidates figuring in the list are eligible for selection to the post of Principal both in terms of SRO 423 of 2008 as well as SRO 124 of 2014, the Tribunal said that how the applicants could be having teaching experience of at least three years in college as Associate Professor is another factor which throws doubt on the correctness of the procedure adopted by the respondents while passing the impugned order directing promotions.
“The method of recruitment in amended and unamended Schedule II is different and, on this ground, also, the impugned order deserves to be set aside,” observed the CAT.
Referring to the J&K Civil Services (Reference of vacancies and holding of meetings of Departmental Promotion Committees), Rules, 2005, the Tribunal said that the Departments should keep the panel of vacancies ready in advance so that the same may be filled up soon from amongst the approved candidates whose names appear in the panel.
“Unamended Rules of 2008 have fixed the criteria for appointing the Selection Grade Lecturers by way of promotion to the posts of Principal. The respondents are under statutory obligation to follow the mandate of the rules aforementioned in making appointments. Although the Lecturers would constitute a class in themselves, yet while considering their claim for being promoted on next higher posts, the respondents have to adhere to the statutory rules and from amongst the class of Lecturers, only those lecturers are to be considered, who are eligible in terms of the unamended Rules of 2008, so that they cannot be grouped with the ineligible candidates. The ineligible and eligible candidates cannot be grouped together and considered for being given uniform treatment. So, the position is clear that in cases where there has been delay in holding DPCs/PSCs for a year or more, vacancies should be indicated year wise separately and taken for consideration separately on yearly basis by the DPCs/PSCs,” observed the Tribunal, adding that the respondents are therefore duty bound to follow the mandate contained in the unamended Rules of 2008.
“In view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the TAs are disposed of whereby impugned order No. 684-HE of 2017 dated 12.12.2017 is quashed and set aside and official-Respondents are directed that the eligible candidates including the applicants be considered in accordance with the mandate contained in the unamended Rules of 2008 for being appointed by way of promotion to the posts of Principal, Government Degree Colleges and the respondents will also consider claim of the petitioners for regularisation of their services on the posts of Principal from the date they are officiating on the said posts in accordance with the rules and settled law,” ordered the Tribunal.