w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n



Union of India, Represented by The Secretary Posts, Ministry of Communication, Department of Posts, New Delhi & Others v/s G. Lakshmi & Others


Company & Directors' Information:- E N COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U92132DL2005PTC143469

Company & Directors' Information:- T C COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74999DL2000PTC105354

Company & Directors' Information:- J J COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74300WB1997PTC085828

Company & Directors' Information:- P. K. COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U92141DL1984PTC017748

Company & Directors' Information:- T I COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U51109HP2009PTC031079

Company & Directors' Information:- S B M COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U64201WB2010PTC145582

Company & Directors' Information:- P N COMMUNICATION P. LTD. [Active] CIN = U32204DL2001PTC111327

Company & Directors' Information:- A B AND U COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74300MH1997PTC107160

Company & Directors' Information:- K AND D COMMUNICATION LIMITED [Active] CIN = U64120GJ1997PLC031879

Company & Directors' Information:- P & G COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U74140MH2013PTC251505

Company & Directors' Information:- P J COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U72900DL2000PTC105416

Company & Directors' Information:- M K COMMUNICATION PVT LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U72900HP2006PTC030292

Company & Directors' Information:- H V COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U52602DL2009PTC193309

Company & Directors' Information:- A AND A COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U92132DL2001PTC110975

Company & Directors' Information:- B. M. COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U64100DL2012PTC244419

Company & Directors' Information:- H. K. COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U64100DL2013PTC255831

Company & Directors' Information:- B R COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U64203DL2002PTC114477

Company & Directors' Information:- N S N COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U64100KA2014PTC073757

Company & Directors' Information:- N A COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U74120DL2008PTC182901

Company & Directors' Information:- G & D COMMUNICATION PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U64200MP2007PTC019633

Company & Directors' Information:- LAKSHMI CORPORATION LIMITED [Dissolved] CIN = U99999MH1942PTC003739

    OP (CAT). No. 306 of 2019

    Decided On, 16 June 2020

    At, High Court of Kerala

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE A.M. SHAFFIQUE & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE P. GOPINATH

    For the Petitioners: P. Vijayakumar, ASG of India. For the Respondents: R. Leela, Advocate.



Judgment Text


P. Gopinath, J.

1. The only question arising for our consideration in this Original Petition (CAT) is whether the declaration granted by the Central Administrative Tribunal in the impugned Ext.P3 order to the effect that Group-B officials in level-6 of the Department of Posts are eligible to be promoted to the post of Assistant Accounts Officer as per the Recruitment Rules namely, the Indian Post and Telecommunications Accounts and Financial Service Group 'B' (Accounts Officers and Assistant Accounts Officers) Recruitment Rules, 2018 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Rules' for short), is legally sustainable.

2. The petitioners herein are the respondents in OA No.838/2018 and the applicants in the original application are respondents 1 to 3 herein. The parties are referred to as they appear in this court. The Tribunal, on a consideration of the issue, has come to the conclusion that Group-B officials in level-6 are also entitled to be considered for promotion to the post of Assistant Accounts Officer in terms of the Rules.

3. Sri. Raj Kumar, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners would vehemently contend, inter alia, that the Tribunal interpreted the Rules in a perverse manner and granted the declaration sought and that the respondents really had no cause of action to approach the Tribunal. He contends that the filing of the original application before the Central Administrative Tribunal, Ernakulam Bench is an attempt at forum shopping. He states that the 1st respondent (who was the 1st applicant in the original application) was borne in Group-C Cadre and she was eligible to appear for the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination, 2018 (LDCE) in terms of the Rules and she was so allowed to sit for the examination. According to him, the 2nd respondent who represents the interests of those in Kerala Circle is also not aggrieved as the 1st respondent and others whose interests are sought to be protected by the 2nd respondent are eligible to partake in the selection as they are borne in Group C cadre. As far as the right, if any, of the third respondent (3rd applicant) is concerned, it is contended that the third respondent is admittedly working in Tamil Nadu and cannot approach the Ernakulam Bench. It is contended with reference to the prayers made in the original application that the original application was filed to project the case of persons whose names are mentioned in the document produced as Annexure-A4 before the Tribunal. It is specifically pointed out that the 1st respondent (1st applicant before the Tribunal) and the persons mentioned in Sl. No.5 (P. Geetha) and Sl. No.13 (Sreelatha P.) of Annexure-A4 whose interests are represented by the 2nd respondent herein are all Group-C officers though they are in level-6 of the pay matrix after obtaining 'MACP' (financial up-gradation) which, is personal to the officer concerned. Our attention is also drawn specifically to paragraph 9 of Ext.P3 order of the Central Administrative Tribunal where the Tribunal had specifically noticed the stand of the present petitioners that the 1st respondent and Smt. P. Geetha and Smt. Sreelatha P. are eligible and entitled to appear for LDCE 2018 in terms of the Recruitment Rules. Our attention is also drawn to the fact that a specific contention was taken regarding the ineligibility of the 3rd respondent (3rd applicant before the Tribunal) to approach the CAT, Ernakulam Bench as he is not working in the Kerala Circle and is working as Post Master Grade-II at Gopalapuram, Chennai. He would refer to the Recruitment Rules (Annexure-A2 before the Tribunal) and take us through Column-11 of the Rules to contend that Group-B officers in level-6 of the pay matrix were clearly excluded by the provisions contained in the Rules. Smt.R.Leela, the learned counsel for respondents 1 to 3 (applicants before the Tribunal) would submit that the interpretation placed by the Tribunal, on the Rules, is not perverse and that such interpretation is clearly in consonance with the relevant Rules. She would submit that the Tribunal had interfered only on account of the fact that persons who were clearly eligible had been unreasonably excluded by the Department. She would urge that we should confirm the order of the Tribunal.

4. We find that there is possibly some merit in the contention raised by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner that the original application could not have been maintained in Ernakulam Bench of the CAT for the following reasons:-

(a) The 1st applicant had no grievance to project for the reason that she was clearly eligible to appear for the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination, 2018 in terms of the provisions contained in the Rules;

(b) The 2nd respondent (2nd applicant before the Tribunal) is stated to be the All India Association of Postal Supervisors (GL) represented by one N.S. Shanker who is the Assistant Circle Secretary of the Kerala Branch of that union. It is not disputed before us that the 2nd respondent / 2nd applicant before the Tribunal was projecting the case of one P. Geetha and one Sreelatha P., who are similarly placed like the 1st respondent (1st applicant) and were eligible to take part in the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination, 2018 in terms of the Rules.

(c) The 3rd respondent (3rd applicant before the Tribunal) was clearly an officer working in Chennai and if he had any grievance he should have approached the Madras Bench of the CAT;

(d) Reliefs were sought in respect of all persons in Group B and specific reference is made to a list of officers who were allegedly excluded, illegally, by the Department (Annexure-A4). Apart from the 1st respondent (1st applicant before the Tribunal) and the persons mentioned in Sl. No.5 (P. Geetha) and Sl. No.13 (Sreelatha P.) of Annexure-A4, none of the other officers could have maintained an application before the Ernakulam Bench of the Tribunal. As already pointed out, the 1st respondent (1st applicant before the Tribunal) and the persons mentioned in Sl. No.5 (P. Geetha) and Sl. No.13 (Sreelatha P.) of Annexure-A4 were eligible to be considered in accordance with the Rules and in that view of the matter they had no grievance whatsoever to project before the Tribunal.

However, we do not intend to pronounce finally on the issue as to whether the original application was at all maintainable before the CAT, Ernakulam Bench, taking into account the view we propose regarding the meaning to be ascribed to the relevant Rules in question in this case and also on account of the fact that our attention is not drawn to any parallel proceeding initiated before any other Bench of the Tribunal for us to hold that there was an attempt at forum shopping.

5. The Tribunal proceeded on the basis that the provisions of Column 11(2)(vi) of the Rules provided that all those in level 6 of the pay matrix will be eligible to compete in the examination for promotion. The tribunal drew sustenance for such findings from the fact that column-9 of the Rules states ‘no probation for Group-B promotees’. The Tribunal also brushed aside the contention of the Department that only Group-C officers in level-6 of the pay matrix, who reached that level only on account of 'MACP' (financial up-gradation) which, is personal to the officer concerned, were eligible to compete.

6. We cannot agree with the reasoning adopted by the Tribunal that the mention of the words ‘no probation for Group-B promotees’ in column-9 of the Rules and inclusion of those in Level 6 of the pay matrix in Column 11(2)(vi) should be taken as an indication that all the officials in Group-B in level-6 of the pay matrix are also eligible to appear for the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination for promotion to the post of Assistant Accounts Officer. In our view, the feeder categories mentioned in Column 11 includes:-

(i) Senior Accountant or Junior Account of Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunications with 3 years in level-6 of the pay matrix or 6 years in level -5 of the pay matrix, in terms of Column 11 (1) of the Rules; and

(ii) all other officials of the Department of Posts or Department of Telecommunications in Group-C cadre possessing a Bachelor Degree recognized by the University or Institute with the regular qualifying service as set out in as items (i) to (vi) of Column 11 (2) of the Rules.

In other words, officials in Group-B are not entitled to apply unless they are in the category of ‘Senior Accountant or Junior Account of Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunications with 3 years in level-6 of the pay matrix or 6 years in level -5 of the pay matrix'. Clearly only Group ‘C’ employees are eligible to apply under Column 11(2). This was the position that was reflected in communication dated 3.10.2018 bearing No.301(18)/2018/PA Admn.III/3718 (produced at page 26 of this O.P (CAT). The Tribunal wrongly set aside this communication dated 3.10.2018 bearing No.301(18)/2018/PA Admn.III/371 despite the fact that it spelt out the true purport of the Rules. As already noticed the Tribunal held that the words ‘no probation for Group-B promotees’ in column-9 of the Rules and inclusion of those in Level 6 of the pay matrix in Column 11(2)(vi) should be taken as an indication that all the officials in Group-B in level-6 of the pay matrix are also eligible to appear for the Limited Departmental Competitive Examination. This, in our view, was clearly against the plain language of the Rules. The words ‘no probation for Group-B promotees’ in column-9 of the Rules applied only to those in Group-B qualifying to compete in the examination under Clause 11(1) of the Rules. Clause 11(2) specifically included those in Group C alone. The mention of those in Level 6 of the pay matrix in Clause 11(2)(vi) referred only to those in Group C who had reached that level of pay while in Group C and not to anybody else.

7. Statutory Rules framed in exercise of the powers relatable to Article 309 of the Constitution of India cannot be lightly tinkered with. The plain meaning of the provisions of the Rules have to be followed. There is no scope for reading anything into such Rules by a process of reasoning or interpretation.The Supreme Court In Dr. (Major) Meeta Sahai v.State of Bihar and Others (2019 SCC OnLine SC 1632) held:-

“It is a settled canon of statutory interpretation that as a first step, the Courts ought to interpret the text of the provision and construct it literally. Provisions in a statute must be read in their original grammatical meaning to give its words a common textual meaning. However, this tool of interpretation can only be applied in cases where the text of the enactment is susceptible to only one meaning. Nevertheless, in a situation where there is ambiguity in the meaning of the text, the Courts must also give due regard to the consequences of the interpretation taken.”

{Also see Nasiruddin v. Sita Ram Agarwal (2003) 2 SCC 577 (para 37) & Baldev Singh Bajwa v. Monish Saini , (2005) 12 SCC 778} In fact, Baldev Singh (supra) cautions us:-

“The golden rule of construction is that when the words of the legislation are plain and unambiguous, effect must be given to them. The basic principle on which this rule is based is that since the words must have spoken as clearly to legislatures, as to judges, it may be safely presumed that the legislature intended what the words plainly say.”

The Tribunal clearly went wrong in adopting a process of reasoning to find out the intendment of the Rules. The Rules in question admitted of no ambiguity. The provisions were clear. The Rules were not challenged as being illegal or in violation of any Constitutional provision. The tribunal should not have, on the basis of the facts and law noticed above, granted the declaration sought for. It should have held that communication dated 3.10.2018 bearing No.301(18)/2018/PA Admn.III/371 spelt out t

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he position, in accordance with the Rules. 8. In the result, this Original Petition (CAT) is allowed. The impugned Ext.P3 order of the CAT, Ernakulam Bench in OA No.180/00838/2018 dated 19-06-2019 is set aside. We hold that officials in Group-B are not entitled to apply unless they are in the category of Senior Accountant or Junior Account of Department of Posts and Department of Telecommunications with 3 years in level-6 of the pay matrix or 6 years in level -5 of the pay matrix, under Clause 11(1) of the Rules. We further hold that only Group ‘C’ employees are eligible to apply under Column 11(2) of the Rules. We also hold that the Tribunal wrongly quashed the communication dated 3.10.2018 bearing No.301(18)/2018/PA Admn.III/3718 (produced at page 26 of this O.P (CAT) No.306/2019) as this communication correctly spelt out the true purport of the Rules. Since the 1st respondent has been permitted to compete in the examination in terms of coloumn 11 of the Rules, the petitioners shall declare her results and also permit her to apply for re-valuation, if the same is permitted in accordance with the procedure followed by the Department. The results of the 1st respondent shall be declared forthwith and she will be permitted to apply for re-valuation, as above, within 2 weeks of the publication of her result.
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