Srinagar, Dec 8: The High Court today dismissed the plea of Patwaris seeking determination of their seniority on the basis of their selection and not on the basis of Departmental Examination as conducted before their appointment.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Moksha Kazmi dismissed the plea of Patwaris with the view that the course of action adopted by the Department in fixing seniority based on the merit position obtained in the Departmental Examination cannot be said to be impermissible and illegal.
The bench said the seniority as fixed by the department based on the merit position obtained in the Departmental Examination is logical and is in conformity to the intent and purpose behind Rule 24 of the CCA Rules 1956 which gives premium and primacy to merit for determining seniority.
The bench said that it is firmly convinced that in absence of a selection process and competitive examination conducted by the competent authority for appointment as Patwari from amongst the eligible candidates, namely those Patwari Trainees who have successfully undergone training and passed the Departmental Examination, the merit position obtaining in such Departmental Examination has to be the basis for determining the seniority and not on the basis of merit position obtained in initial selection as Patwar Trainees as this selection was only for the purpose of selecting candidates for undergoing training and not for the purpose of selection and appointment of Patwaris.
“If for any reason, as also happened in the present case, the selection process for appointment as Patwari could not be undertaken, since the selection and appointment was from the eligible candidates when they successfully completed the Training course and passed the Departmental Examination, the aforesaid Departmental Examination would be the basis for determining the merit position and consequent fixation of seniority”, read the judgment.
The crux of the case is that an advertisement was issued by the BOPEE on 09.05.2012 for conduct of Common Entrance Test for selection of 1500 Patwar Trainees by laying down the eligibility criteria as mentioned in the said notification.
The Entrance Test and Selection Test were to be conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Recruitment Board (SSRB), but the State Cabinet took a decision 09.04.2012 that instead of the SSRB the Jammu and Kashmir Board of Professional Entrance Examination, (BOPEE) would conduct the said test. There was no dispute with regard to the eligibility of the contesting parties or the conduct of the said test.
The Patwaris have approached the court for determining their seniority in their post on the basis of the select list dated 13.08.2012 prepared as per results of the initial entrance examination conducted by the J&K Board of Professional Entrance Examination (BOPEE) for the purpose of selecting Patwar Trainees pursuant to the advertisement No.20-BOPEE of 2012 dated 09.05.2012 and in terms of Rule 24 of the J&K Classification, Control and Appeal Rules, 1956, (CCA Rules) which provides for determining the seniority on the basis of the merit obtained in the competitive examination was rejected and should not be based on the Departmental Examination conducted before they were appointed as Patwaris as had been done.
After completion of training a Cabinet decision was taken on 24.07.2013 to dispense with the subsequent selection process, and to proceed to make appointment as Patwaris directly of those who had successfully completed the Patwar Training course and passed the Departmental Examination purportedly on the ground that the procedure adopted for making initial selection of Trainees was carried out by BOPEE in a transparent manner and would also save time. It was also decided that the Patwar Trainees who do not qualify the training in the first attempt shall be given a second chance to qualify and upon doing so, they shall be appointed as Patwaris.
Based on the aforesaid Cabinet decision, sanction was accorded for appointment of 945 candidates as Patwaris who had successfully completed Patwar Training course from the Revenue Training Institutes, Srinagar and Jammu in the Revenue Department as per the district-wise breakup, vide Government Order No. Rev/NG/314 of 10.12.2013.
The open competition held by the BOPEE in 2012 was for selecting Patwar Trainees who were yet to be eligible for appointment as Patwaris. In fact, these Patwar Trainees become eligible for appointment as Patwaris only when they successfully pass the Departmental Examination.
The bench said the Departmental Examination conducted after successful completion of the training course is substantially and qualitatively superior to competitive examination carried out by the Board for the purpose of selection of the Patwar Trainees. “These two competitive examinations cannot in any way be compared to the department examination which is of a superior quality and cannot be ignored totally for the purpose of determination of merit”, court recorded.
“For the purpose of fixing seniority merit has been given primacy as clearly evident from Rule 24. If merit is to be given primacy for the purpose of determination of seniority, merit of the candidates in a superior competitive examination and of more immediate relevance and proximate to the appointment as Patwari must be given preference than the merit in an examination of lesser quality and lesser relevance to the appointment as Patwari”, read the judgment.