Recently, three Judges Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Inderjit Singh Sodhi And Others v. The Chairman, Punjab State Electricity Board and Another [Civil Appeal No. 3837/2020], vide its #Judgment dated 03.12.2020 held that the dismissal of Special Leave Petitions is of no consequence on the question of law involved in the case.
The facts leading to the present case involves Er. Inderjit Singh Sodhi, Er. Kirpal Singh and Er. Raj Kumar Garg (‘Appellants’, herein), who have claimed time-bound promotional scale, while working as Assistant Engineers with the Punjab State #Electricity Board (‘PSEB’). The services of the Appellants are governed by the Punjab State Electricity Board Service of Engineers (Civil) Regulations, 1965 (‘Civil Regulations’).
PSEB issued two sets of #Circulars for providing time bound Promotional Scales effective from 01.01.1986. In the First Circular dated 23.04.1990 the benefit of first time bound placement into promotional/devised promotional scale, would become available to an employee on completion of 9 (Nine) years of regular service on a post and the second time bound promotional/devised promotional scale would become available after completion of 16 (sixteen) years of service. If an employee gets normal promotion to the next higher post before completion of 9 years, service from the date of direct recruitment then he/she will not be given first time bound promotional/devised promotional scale. The Circular further decided to allow benefit of promotional increment(s) to an employee on completion of 23 years of regular service if he has not been benefited by the scheme of 9/16 years, time bound promotional scale.
The Second Circular dated 24.05.1990 was issued to grant time bound promotional scale to directly recruited Assistant Engineers. However, the promoted employees were said to be entitled to time bound promotional scale as per the First Circular itself. The Second Circular issued to equally applies to the Civil and Electrical Branch of the Board. The Note to the said Circular mentions that the Circular has been issued under the Civil and Electrical Regulations.
The Appellants were promoted to the post of Assistant Engineer under the Regulation 7(a)(ii) read with Regulation 10 of the Civil Regulations. Shri Kirpal Singh Mangat and Shri Raj Kumar Garg, who were junior to the Appellants in the category of Assistant Engineer (Civil), were appointed by way of Direct Recruitment to the post on the basis of their qualifications under the Civil Regulations. In this regard, a representation was submitted by the Appellant No 1 to claim parity with Shri Kirpal Singh Mangat and Shri Raj Kumar Garg with regard to the time bound Promotional Scale. The said Representation was decided and rejected on 06.11.2012.
The Second Circular dated 24.05.1990 was challenged before the Punjab and Haryana High Court under the following Writ Petitions:
- One Shri Rajinder Singh Patpatia, a promoted Assistant Engineer working with Bhakra Beas Management Board filed the Writ Petition titled as Bhakra Beas Management Board v. Rajinder Singh Patpatia and Anr [(2002) 1 Recent Service Judgments 32] which was allowed by the learned Single Judge, vide Order dated 26.08.1999 and the intra-Court Appeal against the same was dismissed on 13.08.2001. The SLP against such Order was also dismissed on 15.2.2002.
- A Writ Petition No. 19306 of 2003 titled as Krishan Kumar Vij v. State of Punjab [(2010) 8 SCC 701] was filed by the Writ Petitioners who were employed with Bhakra Beas Management Board. The said Board had adopted the Circular issued by Punjab State Electricity Board on 26.6.1992. The Writ Petition was allowed by the Division Bench of the High Court on 6.12.2004. The Order of the High Court was however later set aside by the Supreme Court in a Judgment namely Bhakra Beas Management Board v. Krishan Kumar Vij & Anr (2002).
The Appellants herein have also challenged the Circular before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, whereby the Learned Single Judge of the High Court allowed the Writ Petition and granted 9/16 years’ time bound revised promotional scale to the Appellants. On the other side this was challenged by the PSEB in the intra Court Appeals, whereby the Division Bench of the High Court, vide its Common Order dated 09.04.2014 set aside the Order of the Learned Single Judge.
In this view, the Supreme Court observed that the Appellants were promoted within 9 or 16 years from their initial appointment, therefore, they are not entitled to time bound promotional scale. The Appellants were appointed by direct recruitment as Assistant Engineer (Civil). The Appellant was promoted to the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil). Hence, the Second Circular would not be applicable to them. The promotee employees are entitled to time bound promotion scale in terms of the First Circular only. Hence, the Appellants are not entitled to claim any parity with Kirpal Singh Mangat and Raj Kumar Garg.
In terms of the First and Second Circulars, the employees of the PSEB who have not earned promotion within 9 years from their initial recruitment are entitled to time bound promotional scale. If they have been promoted within the initial 9 years, the next promotion cannot be granted to them after completion of 3 years.
The Supreme Court said that the Circulars were issued with a clear intention of treating the two categories differently. It further observed that such persons, who possessed qualifications for direct recruitment, would become entitled to claim the benefit. Since, the Appellant No 1 did not fall in this category therefore he was not entitled to the higher scale.
Therefore, the Supreme Court said that there is no illegality committed by the Board in rejecting Appellant No. 1’s Representation and the Order of the High Court was upheld.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services