Rakesh Kumar Gupta, Member (A).1. The applicant has filed the present Original Application under Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 seeking the following relief:a) Issue a writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate order or direction, directing the respondents to include the name of the applicant in the merit list at Sl.No.508 in the merit list bearing No. F.No.301(08)/PAADMN.III/2012 to 2114, (Annexure-A10) in the interest of justice and equity.b) Consequently, direct the respondents to promote the applicant to the Assistant Accounts Officer (Grade-B).2. The applicant has also prayed for an interim order directing the respondents to keep one post of Assistant Account Officer (Grade-B) vacant, pending disposal of the Original Application, in the interest of justice and equity.3. This Tribunal vide order dated 11.10.2019 had passed interim order that €˜in the interregnum one post of Assistant Accounts Officer (Grade-B) may be kept vacant.4. The applicant, in her pleadings, filed through her learned counsel Shri Goutam Chand, has averred as follows:a) The applicant was appointed as Postal Assistant on 15.04.2011 in the Department of Posts and posted at Chintamani. Subsequently, she was promoted as Accountant on 06.05.2015. At present she is working as Accountant at Kolar Head Office, Kolar.b) The applicant is a science graduate having obtained the same from the Kuvempu University.c) The applicant had applied for the post of Assistant Accounts Officer (AAO) and appeared in the Limited Department Competitive Examination (LDCE) for recruitment to AAO Cadre of IP & TS Group-B for the year 2018-19. The applicant appeared in the said examination held on 08.07.2018 at M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bengaluru. Subsequently, she was informed about the marks secured by her in the written examination through SMS to her mobile number 9880529887 as per which, she has secured 424 marks (Annexure-A9).d) The applicant submitted that subsequently it appears that the respondents No.1 announced the merit list containing a list of 949 candidates of AAO. The applicant was not aware of the preparation of merit list by the respondents, as there was no communication from them. The applicant has not received any communication from the respondents except the marks secured by her as per Annexure-A9.e) During the 2nd week of September, 2019, she learnt that many candidates who are far junior to her were selected and these candidates had also secured lesser marks to her. Having regard to the marks secured by her, the name of the applicant should have found a place at Sl.No.508 in the merit list. However, the name of the applicant is not found in the merit list.f) The applicant is serving as Accountant in the respondent department. Having regard to the eligibility criteria, she is entitled to participate in the written examination conducted to the post of Assistant Accounts Officer (Group-B). She has secured 424 marks in the written examination and she has also secured more than 40 marks in all the subjects. Thus, the applicant should have been promoted as AAO(Group-B).g) As per Rule 11 of the Recruitment Rules for the post of Assistant Accounts Officer, the applicant should have been put in 9 years of regular service at Level- 4. Though the applicant has not completed 9 years of regular service, she is entitled to write the examination as her juniors who have completed eligibility service are being considered for promotion and she is a graduate. Hence, the applicant is also entitled to be considered for promotion as the eligibility services is not short of more than half of such qualifying service. Further, the applicant has successfully completed her probationary period in her initial post. Therefore, there is no reason for the respondents not to include the name of the applicant in the merit list published as per Annexure-A10.h) The applicant has reliably learnt and it is evident from Annexure-A10 that the candidates who are junior to her and have secured less marks to her in the written examination have been included in the merit list. However, the respondents without any reason left out the name of the applicant from the merit list. This action of the respondents is discriminatory which resulted in deprival of promotion to the applicant.5. The respondents, in their reply statement, through Shri N.B. Patil, learned counsel, have averred as follows:a) The revised Recruitment Rules, 2018 of Indian P & T Accounts and Finance Services (Group B) of Account Officers and Assistant Accounts Officers for Department of Telecommunication & Department of Posts under Ministry of Communications were issued vide notification dated 02.04.2018(hereinafter referred as €œRecruitment Rules 2018€). This was in supersession of all earlier notifications regarding recruitment rules since 1980 to 2005.b) Column 10 & 11 of para 2 to the schedule of Recruitment Rules 2018 lay down the eligibility criteria for recruitment of Assistant Accounts Officers by promotion for departmental candidates who have passed the Subordinate Accounts Service Examination or equivalent examination conducted by Department of Posts and Telecommunications or Competent Authority specified by the Department as detailed below:€œ(A) Senior Accountant or Junior Accountant of Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunications with Three years or Six years regular service in level 6 in the pay matrix (Rs.35,400-Rs. 1,12,400) and in level 5 in the pay matrix (Rs.29,200-92,300).(B) All other officials of the Department of Posts or Department of Telecommunications in Group €˜C€™ cadre possessing a bachelor€™s degree from a recognised University of Institute with the following regular qualifying service:In level-1 with fourteen years regular service, orIn level-2 with thirteen years of regular service, orIn level-3 with eleven years of regular service, orIn level-4 with nine years of regular service, orIn level-5 with seven years of regular service, orIn level-6 with four years of regular servicec) Based on the recruitment rules 2018, the department issued a notification for conducting Examination Notification dated 19th April 2018 and a Corrigendum to Examination Notification dated 15th may 2018 for filling up of 1010 vacancies of Assistant Accounts Officer Cadre of IP & TAFS, Group €˜B€™ for the year 2018-19 through Limited Departmental Competitive Examination for employees of Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunication under the Ministry of Communication, Government of India.d) As per this notification, the last date for receipt of the application was 30th May 2018 and all candidates satisfying the €œeligibility conditions€ mentioned in the recruitment rules 2018, as on the last date for submission of application i.e., 30th May 2018 were eligible to appear for the above examination.e) Further, Para 7 (a to m) of the examination notification dated 19th April 2018 elucidated €œhow to apply€ for AAO-LDCE exam 2018.i. As per 7(c) it was the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that he/she would fulfil all eligibility conditions mentioned in the Recruitment Rules 2018 and that his/her candidature at all the stages of the examination would be purely provisional subject to satisfying the prescribed eligibility conditions.ii. 7(d) affirmed that €œmere issue of Admit Card to the applicant would not imply that his/her candidature had been finally accepted by the department.€iii. Further 7(h) averred that €œFulfilment of eligibility condition would be verified only for candidates who appeared in the final merit list€.f) In the instant case, applicant was appointed in the cadre as Postal Assistant on 15.12.2011 in the pay level-4 and was promoted as Accountant on 22.08.2014 in pay level - 4. As on last date of receipt of the application to the LDCE of AAO 2018 i.e., 30th May 2018, the applicant had put in a service of 6 years 5 months only.g) The applicant had applied for the LDC of AAO-2018 even though she was cognizant/aware that her candidature would be rejected on the ground that she has not met the eligibility condition on regular service as prescribed in the column 11 of point 2 of Schedule to Recruitment Rules 2018 i.e. €œIn level-4 with nine years regular service€h) It was the responsibility of the candidate to ensure the eligibility criteria and mere issue of Admit Card to the applicant would not imply that his/her candidature had been finally accepted by the department.i) Having known about the above conditions laid down in the Recruitment Rules 2018, and the Examination notification of LDCE of AAO 2018, the applicant appeared in the AAO examination. Merit list of the selected candidates of the LDCE of AAO Exam 2018 was published vide OM dated 01st October 2018. The name of the applicant was not in the merit list. The applicant claims that she had secured 424 marks as per the SMS received from DOP detailing the marks secured in LDCE of AAO exam 2018.j) Since the applicant was a Group €˜C€™ employee placed at level 4 as on the last date of receipt of application to the LDCE of AAO 2018 and had put in a service of 6 years 5 months only, (which is lesser than the minimum regular service of 9 years as prescribed in recruitment rules 2018), she failed to meet the eligibility condition of €œregular service€ prescribed in the recruitment rules 2018. Hence, the name of the applicant did not appear in the Merit list published vide OM dated 01st October 2018. 6. The applicant in his rejoinder to the said reply statement, has stated as follows:a) The applicant had joined as Postal Assistant on 15.04.2011 and the length of service as on 30.05.2018 was 7 years and 1 month. The respondents have contended that her candidature was rejected on the ground that she has not met the eligibility criteria as prescribed in Column 11 of Point 2 of Schedule to the Recruitment Rules 2018 i.e., €œLevel-4 with 9 years of regular service€. According to the respondents, she is not eligible to appear for the examination of Assistant Accounts Officer (AAO). They have further contended that the applicant has not furnished the details of the Juniors who have been allowed to write the examination in order to claim benefits of note below point 2 column 11 of Recruitment Rules. In this regard the applicant submits as follows.b) The applicant is producing the list of persons who appeared for the examination conducted for the purpose of Recruitment to the post of Assistant Accounts Officer. In the said list at Sl.No.16 the name of one Shivakumaraswamy is found, whose date of entry to the post of Postal Assistant is 16.04.2012, whereas the applicant was appointed as Postal Assistant on 15.04.2011. Shivakumaraswamy was junior to the applicant and was permitted to file an application for the competitive examination to the post of Assistant Accounts Office. This also gives a right to the applicant to write the examination.c) In the Karnataka Circle Gradation list, the name of the applicant is found at Sl.No.3196 and whereas the name of Shivakumaraswamy is found at 3506. In the Gradation List prepared by the Office of the Senior Superintendent of Post Offices, Kolar Division, the name of the applicant is found at Sl.No.151 and the name of one M.R. Krishna is found at Sl.No.198. The very fact that name of M.R. Krishna is included in the said gradation list, makes her also eligible for taking up the said examination. Hence, the applicant is also eligible to take examination for the post of AAO.d) In the Andhra Pradesh Postal Circle, 5 persons namely, Surendra Paidi, Satish Kumar Talachutla, Rakesh Kumar Korivi, Vinaya Babu Pedapudi, Nagendra Babu Jarapla at Sl.Nos.126, 321, 387, 423, 905 respectively in the Merit list have been promoted to the post of AAO as they have passed the examination in question. All the above persons are having less than 9 years of qualifying service. Except Nagendra Babu Jarpla, all others have put in less number of years as qualifying service than the applicant. Further they were allowed to write the examination and have been promoted mainly on the ground of note below Clause II of Column No.11 of Recruitment Rules 2018, by comparing their seniority with D. Parameshwar Rao PA (CO) who stands junior to others 5 PA (CO), in the circle gradation list of PA (CO) cadre as on 01.07.2013.e) From the above narration, it is clear that the contention of the respondents that the applicant has not put in 9 years of qualifying service is not the ground to which her candidature can be rejected. There are number of instances where the candidates were allowed to write the examination and promoted mainly on the ground that there are juniors who were in the same gradation list and they were allowed to appear in the examination and this is a long-standing practice in the Department. However, the applicant was chosen for hostile discrimination for the reasons best known to the respondents.7. An additional reply was filed by the respondents in response to the rejoinder filed by the applicant, wherein the following points have been stated:a) The applicant has completed total service of 7 years 1 month from the date of joining the department as Postal Assistant in Level-4 Group C. The eligibility criteria for Group C as prescribed in the recruitment rules is very clear and as an official belonging to Group C cadre, she has to complete 9 years of service from the date of recruitment to fulfil the eligibility for appearing in the LDCE for AAOs and hence it is quite evident that in her case, she has completed total service of 7 years 1 month only from the date of entry i.e. 15.04.2011, and does not fulfil the eligibility criteria as prescribed in Col No.11 (point 2) of schedule to the AAO recruitment rules 2018 i.e. €œLevel-4 with 9 years of regular service€.b) The applicant has cited name of few officials who appeared for the examination and stated that, even though they are juniors to her, they are permitted to appear in the examination. The details of the following officials with whom the official has compared her seniority is verified and the following is observed.i) Sri Shivakumaraswamy had joined the department on 12.02.2007 in the cadre of Postman (Level-3) and subsequently he has passed departmental examination for the Postal Assistant cadre and working as Postal Assistant w.e.f. 16.04.2012. Sri Shivakumaraswamy has completed 11 years of service from the date of entry as a Postman in Level-3 and fulfils the eligibility criteria prescribed in Col no.11 (point 2) of schedule to the AAO recruitment rules 2018 i.e. €˜Level-3 with 11 years of regular service€™. Hence, Sri Shivakumaraswamy is found eligible for the above examination on the basis of his date of joining to the department as Postman (Level-3) on 12.02.2007 and completed more than 11 years of service.ii) Sri M.R. Krishna had joined the department on 27.07.2000 and subsequently he has passed the Postal Assistant grade examination and since working as Postal Assistant w.e.f. 14.01.2015. Hence, Sri M.R. Krishna had completed more than 17 years while applying for the examination. It has also been submitted that Sri Krishna has not appeared for the examination.iii) As far as the data cited by the applicant regarding 5 other candidates is concerned, they belong to Andhra Pradesh Postal Circle. The RTI replies received from Andhra Pradesh Postal Circle by the applicant are being verified and found that the replies furnished are not complete and hence cannot be relied upon. Moreover, it is pertinent to submit that Postal Directorate has issued FAQs as per which €˜no inter circle/division comparison would be allowed as the €˜Group C€™ cadres are Circle/Division based cadres in both DoP& DoT, therefore inter circle/division comparison is not to be entertained.€™ In the above case also, the applicant is comparing her seniority with the candidates who are not in the same gradation list of her division.c) The merit list prepared by the respondents does not bestow any right or claim to any candidate for being considered for promotion to AAO cadre of IP & TAFS Group B Service. The promotion orders of qualified and provisionally eligible candidates shall be issued separately as per the availability of vacancies in respective categories, consideration of vigilance status and any other issues.d) Since the applicant does not meet the eligibility criteria as prescribed in the recruitment rules for AAO 2018, her name does not appear in the merit list. The contention of the applicant that many juniors to her in service are allowed without eligibility criteria is also proved baseless with material facts in above paras.8. Heard learned counsel for both the parties.9. A careful examination of the Rules relating to the Indian Posts and Telegraphs Accounts and Finance Service, Group €œB€ (Accounts Officer) Recruitment Rules, 2018 issued vide notification of Department of Posts dated 02.04.2018 that for the posts of Assistant Accounts Officer, the following provision has been made:€œMethod of recruitment by promotion failing which by deputation failing both by direct recruitment€.Promotion: Departmental candidates who have passed the Subordinate Accounts Service Examination or equivalent examination conducted by Department of Posts and Telecommunications or Competent Authority Specified by the Department.1. Senior Accountant or Junior Accountant of Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunications with Three years or Six years regular service in level 6 in the pay matrix (Rs.35,400-Rs. 1,12,400) and in level 5 in the pay matrix (Rs.29,200-92,300).2. All other officials of the Department of Posts or Department of Telecommunications in Group €˜C€™ cadre possessing a bachelor€™s degree from a recognised University of Institute with the following regular qualifying service:i. In level-1 with fourteen years regular service, orii. In level-2 with thirteen years of regular service, oriii. In level-3 with eleven years of regular service, oriv. In level-4 with nine years of regular service, orv. In level-5 with seven years of regular service, orvi. In level-6 with four years of regular serviceNote: Where juniors who have completed their qualifying or eligibility service are being considered for promotion, their seniors would also be considered provided they are not short of the requisite qualifying or eligibility service by more than half of such qualifying or eligibility service, or two years, whichever is less, and have successfully completed their probation period for promotion to the next higher grade along with their juniors who have already completed such qualifying or eligibility service.10. In the present case, the applicant was appointed as Postal Assistant on 15.04.2011. In the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination for recruitment to AAO Cadre of IP & TAFS, the last date for receipt of application was 30.05.2018 and as per the notification, all candidates satisfying the eligibility conditions mentioned in the Recruitment Rules, are eligible to appear for the above examination. Since the applicant was appointed as Postal Assistant on 15.04.2011, hence, she had a total service of 7 years 1 month in Level €“ 4 as on 30.05.2018. Therefore, in terms of Recruitment Rules, she was having less than 9 years of regular service in level-4. However, as per the Note below the paragraph specifying the eligibility, it is mentioned that:€˜Where juniors who have completed their qualifying or eligibility service are being considered for promotion, their seniors would also be considered provided they are not short of the requisite qualifying or eligibility service by more than half of such qualifying or eligibility service, or two years, whichever is less, and have successfully completed their probation period for promotion to the next higher grade along with their juniors who have already completed such qualifying or eligibility service.11. In this case, the eligible service for the applicant was 9 years. However, as per the note mentioned above, she would have been eligible to be considered if her junior was being considered and she was short of the qualifying service by 2 years. Since she already has a total service of 7 years 1 month at level-4 on the crucial date of
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30.5.2018, hence, she was short of qualifying service for determining eligibility by one year and 11 months only, which is less than 2 years. Therefore, as provided under provision of these Rules, she was eligible to be considered, provided her juniors in the cadre were being considered for promotion.12.The applicant has cited the case of Sri Shivakumaraswamy who is admittedly junior to her in the cadre of Postal Assistant since he became Postal Assistant on 16.04.2012 i.e., almost one year later to the applicant. He is also listed at Sl.No.3506 as compared to the applicant who is listed at Sl.No.3196 in the Gradation List. He was being considered for promotion, since as averred by the respondents, he had been allowed to appear in the examination. Hence, in this case, the contention of the respondents, that the applicant is not eligible as per the Recruitment Rules to be considered for promotion, is not as per the Recruitment rules, and cannot be accepted.13. As claimed by the applicant, she has obtained 424 marks in the said examination and should have been at Sl.No.508 in the merit list. The marks claimed by the applicant have not been rebutted by the respondents who have only stated that she has found ineligible for consideration, since she did not have minimum 9 years of service at level-4 as per the eligibility criteria prescribed in the Recruitment Rules. However, since, one of her juniors has been found to be eligible on the ground that he has more than 11 years of service in level-3, implies that since her junior is considered eligible for promotion, hence, she would be entitled to the benefit of relaxation of upto two years, in the years of service rendered at Level 4 as per the eligibility criteria as per Note below the Recruitment Rules. Since the applicant has more than seven years of service at Level 4 hence, she is eligible to be considered for promotion after providing relaxation in the eligibility criterion.14. Accordingly, the OA is allowed. The respondents are directed to place the applicant in the merit list at the appropriate place based on the marks obtained by her in the qualifying examination and consider her case for promotion to the post of AAO.15. However, there shall be no orders so as to costs.