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Merit and ability come before seniority for promotions: HC

August 31, 2019 06:42 AM


Merit and ability come before seniority for promotions: HC


The Punjab and Haryana high court has observed that suitability of an employee for promotion is to be determined on basis of merit-cum-seniority and not seniority-cum-merit.

Observing that merit is predominant and seniority is subordinate, the high court clarified that “merit-cum-seniority” puts greater emphasis on merit and ability and seniority plays a less significant role.

“It has become a rampant notion among the sloths and the malingerers that promotion only means easy access to higher salary viewed as an automatic birthright. The transformation comes with pain and fear of being passed over to merit but it will secure in some measure the future of the institution,” Justice Rajiv Narain Raina of the high court said while dismissing petitions filed by seniorscale stenographers serving in the Punjab and Haryana high court.

The stenographers were aggrieved against the decision of the high court administration to hold a test for their promotion to the next higher post of judgment writers.

A committee comprising of judges of the high court, on the administrative side, met on April 9, 2019, to consider filling up 20 vacant posts of judgment writers from amongst eligible senior-scale stenographers. On May 9, 2019, the committee decided to introduce a stenography test to examine their practical performance. Prior to that, the stenographers used to be promoted on the basis of their seniority and their service record.

A representation was submitted by the stenographers, who were due for promotion, to the committee to review its decision. The committee, however, rejected their plea observing that test is the most appropriate method to determine suitability of the candidates keeping in view requirements of the job.

Aggrieved from this decision, they approached the high court on judicial side by challenging the decision of conducting test for promotion.

The decision to introduce a test, they submitted, was in violation of the equal protection clause as enshrined in Article 14 and the equal opportunity principle in Article 16 of the Constitution. Their argument was that in case, they failed to pass the test, they will be superseded by successful candidates and this situation is not foretold or predicted in high court rules regarding employees. They also submitted that ACRs of the employees provide an assessment of their performance as senior scale stenographers.

Hearing their contentions, Justice Raina observed that the decision to put the petitioners to test may be hybrid solution to choose the most efficient person to discharge with ability the duties and responsibilities of the higher post but is not illegal or unjustified as a new-deal policy.

“In an ever increasing workload upon the high court, the place of stenographers is vital to the existence of the high court as an institution in both administrative and judicial work. Merely because past precedents have been departed from is not a valid ground to upset the decisions of the committee. Merit must prevail if public interest is to be wholesomely served. The introduction of the common test in shorthand/typing test for promotion is supplemental to the rule,” observed the HC

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