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Monday, September 14, 2015

CATCH UP RULE - SENIORTY - SERVICE MATTER- In the absence of any provision for consequential seniority in the rules, the ‘catch up rule’ will be applicable and the roster-point reserved category promotees cannot count their seniority in the promoted category from the date of their promotion and the senior general candidates if later reach the promotional level, general candidates will regain their seniority. The Division Bench appears to have proceeded on an erroneous footing that Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution of India automatically gives the consequential seniority in addition to accelerated promotion to the roster-point promotees and the judgment of the Division Bench cannot be sustained. 36. In the result, the impugned judgment is set aside and these


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                    CIVIL APPEAL NOS.  6631-6632 of 2015
             (Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos. 8366-8367 of 2012)

S. PANNEER SELVAM & ORS.                          ..Appellants
GOVERNMENT OF TAMIL NADU & ORS.            ..Respondents

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6633  of 2015
                (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No.10928 of 2012)
VENKATACHALAM & ORS.                           ..Appellants
OF TAMIL NADU & ORS.                           ..Respondents

                    CIVIL APPEAL NOS.  6634-6636  of 2015
            (Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos. 16692-16694 of 2012)

AND ANR. ETC.ETC.                                  .Appellants
V. VIVEKANANDAN & ORS. ETC. ETC.          ..Respondents

                              J U D G M E N  T

Leave granted in all the special leave petitions.
2.          Common issues involved in this bunch of appeals are:-(i) In  the
absence of policy decision taken by the State/rules framed pursuant  to  the
enabling provision of Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution of  India  whether
a reserved category candidate promoted on the basis of  reservation  earlier
than his senior general category candidate in the feeder category can  claim
consequential seniority in the promotional post; (ii)   In  the  absence  of
policy decision taken by the  State  with  regard  to  Tamil  Nadu  Highways
Engineering Service Rules, whether Division Bench was right in holding  that
Article  16(4A)  of  the  Constitution  of  India  by  itself   would   give
consequential seniority in addition to accelerated promotion to the  roster-
point promotees.
3.          These appeals are filed  assailing  the  common  judgment  dated
25.11.2011 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras in Writ  Appeals
No. 113, 207 and 208 of 2009 whereby the High Court while setting aside  the
order passed by the learned Single Judge observed that  the  object  of  the
amending  Article  16  (4A)  of  the  Constitution  of  India  is  to   give
consequential  seniority   in   addition   to   accelerated   promotion   to
roster–point  promotees  thereby  holding  that  ‘catch-up  rule’   is   not
applicable among the Assistant Divisional Engineers appointed from the  post
of Junior Engineers following the rule  of  reservation.   For  convenience,
parties are referred to as per their array in the  appeals  arising  out  of
SLP (Civil) Nos. 8366-8367 of 2012.
4.           The  appellants  are  graduate  Assistant  Engineers  and   the
contesting private respondents  are  Diploma  holder  Junior  Engineers  are
entangled in several rounds of litigation for about  two  decades  over  the
nagging question of ‘catch-up rule’ and the consequential seniority  in  the
promotional post of Assistant Divisional  Engineers.   Before  adverting  to
the legal issues, it would be appropriate to refer to the background  facts.
Engineers  of  Tamil  Nadu  Highways  Department  viz.,   Chief   Engineers,
Superintending Engineers,  Divisional  Engineers  and  Assistant  Divisional
Engineers are governed by Tamil Nadu  Highways  Engineering  Service  Rules.
Assistant  Engineers,  Junior  Engineers,  Supervisors  and  further   lower
categories are governed  by  Tamil  Nadu  Highways  Engineering  Subordinate
Service  Rules.  The  categories  viz.,  Assistant  Engineers   and   Junior
Engineers were feeder categories to the  category  of  Assistant  Divisional
Engineer and the first three vacancies to be filled by  Assistant  Engineers
and the fourth vacancy to be filled by recruitment  by  transfer  by  Junior
Engineer of Tamil Nadu Highways Engineering Subordinate Service. Rule 12  of
Special  Rules  to  Tamil  Nadu  Highways  Engineering  Service   prescribes
application  of  rule  of  reservation  for  the  appointment  of  Assistant
Divisional Engineers by direct  recruitment  and  recruitment  by  transfer.
Accordingly  prior  to  24.05.1993,  the  Assistant  Engineers  and   Junior
Engineers were appointed as Assistant Divisional  Engineers  by  recruitment
by transfer after following the rule of reservation.
5.          List of Assistant Engineers/Junior Engineers  as  on  01.01.1993
was  published  vide  Chief  Engineer  Memo            No.  960/N4/91  dated
18.04.1994 not following the  ‘catch  up  rule’.  One  Assistant  Divisional
Engineer (ADE) D. Rajendran  who  belonged  to  general  category,  who  was
overlooked for promotion by Assistant Engineers  who  belonged  to  reserved
category filed  O.A.  No.2186/1996  before  the  Tamil  Nadu  Administrative
Tribunal challenging the  consequential  seniority  given  to  the  reserved
category Assistant Divisional Engineers and prayed to revise  the  seniority
in the higher category as obtained in  the  lower  category.   Relying  upon
Ajit Singh Januja & Ors.  vs. State of Punjab  & Ors.,  (1996)  2  SCC  715,
vide order dated 29.11.1996, the tribunal allowed the application  observing
that even though the respondents therein were promoted as  ADEs  earlier  to
D. Rajendran, they cannot  be  placed  above  the  applicant  by  virtue  of
accelerated  promotion  and  giving  them   the   consequential   seniority.
Aggrieved by the order in O.A. 2186/1996,  Special  Leave  Petition  (Civil)
No. 24455/1996 was filed by the ADEs of  the  reserved  category  which  was
dismissed by this Court vide order dated 18.12.1996.
6.          On 29.04.2004, seniority list of Assistant Divisional  Engineers
was  published  by  applying  ‘catch-up  rule’  among  ADEs  appointed  from
Assistant Engineers and consequential  seniority  was  not  given  to  SC/ST
Assistant Divisional Engineers appointed from Assistant Engineers.  But  the
‘catch-up rule’ was not  applied  among  the  ADEs  appointed  from   Junior
Engineers and thereby  giving  benefit  of consequential seniority to  SC/ST
Assistant Divisional Engineers appointed from Junior Engineers  in  addition
to accelerated promotion. Aggrieved by the seniority list  dated  29.04.2004
and the subsequent seniority list fit for further promotion to the  post  of
Divisional Engineer dated  19.08.2005,  the  Assistant  Engineers  who  were
selected by the Tamil  Nadu  Public  Service  Commission  under  the  junior
category filed the writ petition in the High Court. Contention  advanced  by
the appellants/writ petitioners was  that  the  promotion  given  to  Junior
Engineers as ADEs was based on rule of reservation and  in  the  promotional
post it would not reverse  the  seniority  of  the  seniors  in  the  feeder
category who gained promotions subsequently.  Relying on  the  decisions  of
this Court reported in Union of India And Ors. vs. Virpal Singh Chauhan  And
Ors., (1995) 6 SCC 684;  Ajit Singh Januja  And Ors. vs.  State   of  Punjab
And Ors., (1996) 2 SCC 715; R.K. Sabharwal  And Ors.  vs.  State  of  Punjab
And Ors.,  (1995) 2 SCC 745;  Ajit Singh  And Ors. (II) vs. State of  Punjab
And Ors., (1999) 7 SCC 209 and M. Nagaraj And Ors. vs. Union  of  India  And
Ors., (2006) 8 SCC 212, learned Single Judge of the  High  Court  held  that
the State failed to follow the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court in  the
above judgments and  erred  in  issuing  the  seniority  list  of  Assistant
Divisional Engineers, Tamil Nadu Highways Engineering  Service  by  ignoring
the principle of ‘catch-up  rule’  vis-a-vis  ‘inter-se  seniority’  of  the
seniors who have gained  promotion  subsequently.   The  Single  Judge  thus
allowed the batch of writ petitions by  setting  aside  the  seniority  list
dated 29.04.2004  and  directed  the  authorities  to  prepare  the  revised
seniority list of the Assistant Divisional Engineers.
7.          Aggrieved,  the  respondents-promotees  promoted  as  ADEs  from
Junior Engineers in the reserved category preferred  writ  appeals  and  the
Division Bench by the  impugned  judgment  while  setting  aside  the  order
passed by the Single Judge held that the object of the amending  Article  16
(4A) of the Constitution of  India  is  to  give  accelerated  promotion  to
roster-point promotees in addition  to  accelerated  promotion  and  thereby
held that the  ‘catch-up  rule’  is  not  applicable   among  the  Assistant
Divisional  Engineers  appointed  from  the  post  of  Junior  Engineers  by
recruitment by transfer following  reservation rules. These  appeals  assail
the correctness of the above judgment.
8.          Having heard both the parties,  we  have  given  our  thoughtful
consideration to the rival  contentions  in  the  light  of  the  principles
enunciated by this Court in a catena of decisions.
9.          The concept of ‘catch-up rule’ and ‘consequential seniority’  is
judicially evolved concepts to  control  the  extent  of  reservation.   The
question of reservation and the associated promotion and  the  consequential
seniority have been the matter of discussion in various  decisions  of  this
Court.  The matter regarding reservation in promotions was considered  by  a
nine Judge Bench of this Court in Indra Sawhney  And  Ors.   vs.   Union  of
India And Ors., (1992) Supp.  3  SCC  217  and  this  Court  held  that  the
reservation under Article 16(4) of the Constitution  of  India  is  confined
only to initial appointment and cannot extend to reservation in  the  matter
of promotion.  In order to nullify the effect of the aforesaid dicta,  there
was an amendment to Article 16 by Constitution  (Seventy-seventh  Amendment)
Act with effect from 17.06.1995. Vide  this  Amendment,  after  Clause  (4),
Clause (4A) was inserted in Article 16 of the Constitution.
10.         Clause (4) and Clause (4A) of Article 16 of the Constitution  of
India read as under:-
“Clause 4.  Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making  any
provision for the reservation of appointments or  posts  in  favour  of  any
backward class of citizens which, in  the  opinion  of  the  State,  is  not
adequately represented in the services under the State.

Clause 4A. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from  making  any
provision for reservation in matters of promotion to any  class  or  classes
of posts in the services under the State in favour of the  Scheduled  Castes
and the Scheduled Tribes which,  in  the  opinion  of  the  State,  are  not
adequately represented in the services under the State.”

11.         Article  16 (4) of the Constitution of India enables  the  State
to make a provision for reservation for appointments  or  posts   in  favour
of any backward class of citizens which  in its opinion  is  not  adequately
represented in the services under the State. The constitutional position  on
the insertion of Clause (4A)  in  Article  16  is  that  the  State  is  now
empowered to make provision for reservation in the matter of  promotions  as
well, in favour of SCs and STs wherever the State is  of  the  opinion  that
the SCs and STs are not adequately represented  in  the  service  under  the
State. Clause (4A) of Article 16 of the Constitution  is  only  an  enabling
provision which empowers the State to make  any  provision  for  reservation
for SC and ST candidates in the matter of promotion as well.
12.         In Union of India And Ors. vs. Virpal Singh  Chauhan  And  Ors.,
(1995) 6 SCC 684, a question had arisen as to whether a person in SC  or  ST
category who gets accelerated promotion because of  reservation  would  also
get consequential seniority in the higher post if  he  gets  that  promotion
earlier than his senior in general category and this Court  held  that  such
an  employee  belonging  to  SC/ST  category  on  promotion  would  not  get
consequential seniority and his seniority will  be  governed  by  the  panel
position.  It was held as under:-
“24. …In short, it is open to the State, if it is so advised,  to  say  that
while the rule of reservation shall be applied and the  roster  followed  in
the matter of promotions  to  or  within  a  particular  service,  class  or
category,  the  candidate  promoted   earlier   by   virtue   of   rule   of
reservation/roster shall not be entitled to seniority  over  his  senior  in
the feeder category and that as and when a general candidate who was  senior
to him in the feeder category  is  promoted,  such  general  candidate  will
regain his seniority over the reserved candidate notwithstanding that he  is
promoted   subsequent   to   the   reserved   candidate.   There    is    no
unconstitutionality involved in this. It is permissible for the State to  so

13.         The decision  in  Virpal  Singh  Chauhan  case  led  to  another
Constitution Amendment and  the  Parliament  enacted  Constitution  (Eighty-
fifth Amendment) Act 2001 whereby Clause (4A)  of  Article  16  was  further
amended enabling the State to make a provision for  reservation  in  matters
of promotion with consequential seniority.  Amended  Clause  (4A)  reads  as
“4A.  Nothing in this article  shall  prevent  the  State  from  making  any
provision  for  reservation  in  matters  of  promotion  with  consequential
seniority to any class or classes of posts in the services under  the  State
in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled  Tribes  which,  in  the
opinion of the State, are not adequately represented in the  services  under
the State.”

Eighty-fifth Amendment was made effective retrospectively  from  17.06.1995,
that is, the date of coming into force the original Clause (4A)  of  Article
16 of the Constitution of India.
14.         In Ajit Singh Januja And Ors. vs.  State  of  Punjab  And  Ors.,
(1996) 2 SCC 715, by placing reliance on the principle laid  down  in  Indra
Sawhney case and also the Constitution Bench judgment in R.K. Sabharwal  And
Ors. vs. State of Punjab And Ors., reported in (1995) 2  SCC  745,  a  three
Judge Bench accepted the principle of  ‘catch-up  rule’   as  laid  down  in
Virpal Singh Chauhan case observing that the balance must be  maintained  in
such a manner that there was no reverse discrimination against  the  general
category  candidates  and  that  any  rule/circular  or  order  which  gives
seniority to the reserved category candidates promoted at  the  roster-point
would be violative of  Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India.
15.         In Jagdish Lal And Ors. vs. State of Haryana And Ors., (1997)  6
SCC 538, another three Judge Bench opined  that  seniority  granted  to  the
Scheduled Caste and Scheduled  Tribe  candidates  over  a  general  category
candidate due to his accelerated promotion does not in all events got  wiped
out on promotion of  general category candidate.
16.         In Ajit Singh And Ors.(II) vs. State of Punjab And Ors.,  (1999)
7 SCC 209, the Constitution Bench was concerned  with the issue whether  the
decisions in Virpal Singh Chauhan and Ajit  Singh  Januja  case  which  were
earlier decided to the effect upholding the ‘catch-up rule’,  that  is,  the
seniority of general category candidates is to be confirmed or  whether  the
later deviation made in  Jagdish  Lal  case  against  the  general  category
candidates. In Ajit Singh (II) case, inter-alia, the following points  arose
for consideration:-
(i).  Can the roster-point promotees count their seniority in  the  promoted
category from the date of their continuous  officiation   vis-à-vis  general
candidates, who were senior to them in the  lower  category   and  who  were
later promoted to the same level?

(ii)  Have Virpal [(1995) 6 SCC 684] and Ajit Singh [(1996) 2 SCC 715]  been
correctly decided and has Jagdish Lal [(1997)  6  SCC  538]  been  correctly

(iii)     Whether the “catch-up” principles are tenable?

17.         The Constitution Bench held that Articles  16(4)  and  (4A)  did
not confer any fundamental right to  reservation  and  that  they  are  only
enabling provisions.  Overruling  the  judgment  in  Jagdish  Lal  case  and
observing that rights of the reserved classes must be balanced  against  the
interests of other segments of society in para  (77),  this  Court  held  as
“77.  We,  therefore,  hold  that  the  roster-point   promotees   (reserved
category) cannot count their seniority in the  promoted  category  from  the
date of their continuous officiation in the promoted post, —  vis-à-vis  the
general candidates who were senior to them in the  lower  category  and  who
were later promoted. On the other hand, the senior general candidate at  the
lower level, if he reaches  the  promotional  level  later  but  before  the
further promotion of the reserved candidate — he will have to be treated  as
senior, at the promotional level, to the  reserved  candidate  even  if  the
reserved candidate was earlier promoted to  that  level.  We  shall  explain
this further under Point 3. We also hold that Virpal, (1995) 6 SCC  684  and
Ajit Singh, (1996) 2 SCC 715 have been correctly decided  and  that  Jagdish
Lal, (1997) 6 SCC 538 is not correctly decided. Points 1 and 2  are  decided

18.         Constitutional validity of Clauses (4A) and (4B) of  Article  16
of the Constitution was challenged in M.  Nagaraj  And  Ors.  vs.  Union  of
India  And  Ors.,  (2006)  8  SCC  212.   The  question  that  came  up  for
consideration was whether by virtue of impugned  constitutional  amendments,
the power of Parliament was so enlarged as to obliterate any or all  of  the
constitutional limitations and requirements upholding the  validity  of  the
said Articles with certain riders.  On the concept of  ‘catch-up  rule’  and
consequential seniority, this Court held as under:-
“79. Reading the above judgments, we are of the view  that  the  concept  of
“catch-up”  rule  and  “consequential  seniority”  are  judicially   evolved
concepts to control the extent of reservation. The source of these  concepts
is in service jurisprudence.  These  concepts  cannot  be  elevated  to  the
status of an axiom like  secularism,  constitutional  sovereignty,  etc.  It
cannot  be  said  that  by  insertion  of  the  concept  of   “consequential
seniority” the structure of Article 16(1) stands destroyed or abrogated.  It
cannot be said that  “equality  code”  under  Articles  14,  15  and  16  is
violated by deletion of the “catch-up” rule. These  concepts  are  based  on
practices. However, such practices cannot be elevated to  the  status  of  a
constitutional  principle  so  as  to  be  beyond  the  amending  power   of
Parliament.  Principles  of  service  jurisprudence   are   different   from
constitutional limitations. Therefore, in our view  neither  the  “catch-up”
rule nor the concept of “consequential seniority”  is  implicit  in  clauses
(1) and (4) of Article 16 as correctly held in Virpal Singh Chauhan,  (1995)
6 SCC 684.”

19.         In Nagaraj case Court further considered  two  questions  viz.:-
(1) Whether there  is  any  upper-limit  beyond  which  reservation  is  not
permissible? (2) Whether there is any limit to which seats can  be  reserved
in a particular year; in other words, the issue is  whether  the  percentage
limit applies only on the total number of posts  in  the  cadre  or  to  the
percentage of posts advertised every  year  as  well?   Answering  the  said
questions in paras (121) and (123), this Court held as under:-
“121. The impugned constitutional amendments by which Articles  16(4-A)  and
16(4-B) have been inserted flow from Article 16(4). They do  not  alter  the
structure of Article 16(4). They  retain  the  controlling  factors  or  the
compelling reasons, namely, backwardness and  inadequacy  of  representation
which enables the States to provide for  reservation  keeping  in  mind  the
overall efficiency of the State  administration  under  Article  335.  These
impugned  amendments  are  confined  only  to  SCs  and  STs.  They  do  not
obliterate any of the constitutional requirements, namely, ceiling limit  of
50% (quantitative limitation), the  concept  of  creamy  layer  (qualitative
exclusion), the sub-classification between OBCs on one hand and SCs and  STs
on the other hand as held in Indra Sawhney, 1992 Suppl.  (3)  SCC  217,  the
concept of post-based roster with inbuilt concept of replacement as held  in
R.K. Sabharwal, (1995) 2 SCC 745.

123. However, in this case, as stated above, the  main  issue  concerns  the
“extent of reservation”. In this regard the State  concerned  will  have  to
show  in  each  case  the  existence  of  the  compelling  reasons,  namely,
backwardness,  inadequacy  of  representation  and  overall   administrative
efficiency before making provision for reservation.  As  stated  above,  the
impugned provision is an enabling provision. The State is not bound to  make
reservation for SCs/STs in matters of promotions. However, if they  wish  to
exercise their discretion and make such provision, the State has to  collect
quantifiable data showing  backwardness  of  the  class  and  inadequacy  of
representation of that class in public employment in addition to  compliance
with Article 335. It is made clear that even if  the  State  has  compelling
reasons, as stated above, the State will have to see  that  its  reservation
provision does not lead to excessiveness so as to breach the  ceiling  limit
of  50%  or  obliterate  the  creamy  layer  or   extend   the   reservation

The  Constitution Bench judgment in Nagaraj case  (supra)  was  subsequently
followed in Shiv Nath Prasad vs. Saran  Pal  Jeet  Singh  Tulsi  And   Ors.,
(2008) 3 SCC 80 and Chairman And Managing Director, Central  Bank  of  India
And Ors. vs. Central Bank of India SC/ST Employees Welfare  Association  And
Ors., 2015 (1) SCALE 169.
20.         While  considering  the  validity  of  Section  3(7)  of   Uttar
Pradesh Public Services (Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled  Tribes
and Other Backward Classes) Act,  1994,  and  Rule  8A  of  U.P.  Government
Servants Seniority Rules, 1991 which provided  for  consequential  seniority
in promotions given to SCs/STs by virtue of rule of  reservation/roster  and
holding that Section 3(7) of the 1994 Act and Rule  8A  of  1991  Rules  are
ultra vires as they run counter to the dictum in M. Nagaraj’s case in  Uttar
Pradesh Power Corporation Limited vs. Rajesh Kumar And Ors.,  (2012)  7  SCC
1, in paragraph (81), this Court summarized the principles as under:
“(i) Vesting of the power by an enabling provision may  be  constitutionally
valid and yet “exercise of power” by the  State  in  a  given  case  may  be
arbitrary, particularly, if the State fails  to  identify  and  measure  the
backwardness and inadequacy keeping in mind the  efficiency  of  service  as
required under Article 335.
(ii) Article 16(4) which protects the interests of certain sections  of  the
society has  to  be  balanced  against  Article  16(1)  which  protects  the
interests of every citizen of the entire society. They should be  harmonized
because they are restatements of the principle  of  equality  under  Article
(iii) Each post gets marked for the particular category of candidates to  be
appointed against it and any subsequent vacancy has to  be  filled  by  that
category candidate.
(iv) The appropriate Government has to apply the cadre strength  as  a  unit
in the operation of the  roster  in  order  to  ascertain  whether  a  given
class/group is adequately represented in the service. The cadre strength  as
a unit also ensures that the upper ceiling limit of  50%  is  not  violated.
Further, roster has to be post-specific and not vacancy based.
(v) The State has to form its opinion on  the  quantifiable  data  regarding
adequacy of representation. Clause  (4-A)  of  Article  16  is  an  enabling
provision. It gives freedom to the  State  to  provide  for  reservation  in
matters of promotion. Clause (4-A) of Article 16 applies  only  to  SCs  and
STs. The said clause is carved out of Article 16(4-A). Therefore, clause (4-
A) will  be  governed  by  the  two  compelling  reasons-“backwardness”  and
“inadequacy of representation”, as mentioned in Article 16(4). If  the  said
two reasons do not exist, then the enabling provision cannot be enforced.
(vi) If the ceiling limit  on  the  carry  over  of  unfilled  vacancies  is
removed, the other alternative time factor comes in and in that  event,  the
timescale has to be imposed in the interest of efficiency in  administration
as mandated by Article 335. If the timescale is not kept,  then  posts  will
continue to remain vacant for  years  which  would  be  detrimental  to  the
administration. Therefore, in each case,  the  appropriate  Government  will
now have to introduce the duration depending upon the fact situation.
(vii) If the appropriate Government enacts a law providing  for  reservation
without keeping in mind the parameters in Article  16(4)  and  Article  335,
then this Court will certainly set aside and strike down such legislation.
(viii) The constitutional limitation under Article 335 is  relaxed  and  not
obliterated.  As  stated   above,   be   it   reservation   or   evaluation,
excessiveness in either would result  in  violation  of  the  constitutional
mandate. This exercise, however, will depend on the facts of each case.
(ix)  The  concepts  of   efficiency,   backwardness   and   inadequacy   of
representation are required to be identified  and  measured.  That  exercise
depends on the availability of  data.  That  exercise  depends  on  numerous
factors. It is for this reason that the enabling provisions are required  to
be made because each competing claim seeks to  achieve  certain  goals.  How
best one should optimize these conflicting claims can only be  done  by  the
administration in the context  of  local  prevailing  conditions  in  public
(x) Article 16(4), therefore, creates a  field  which  enables  a  State  to
provide for reservation provided there exists backwardness of  a  class  and
inadequacy of representation in employment. These  are  compelling  reasons.
They do not exist in Article 16(1).  It  is  only  when  these  reasons  are
satisfied that a State gets the power to  provide  for  reservation  in  the
matter of employment.”

21.         In the light of the above, we shall consider the factual  matrix
and the rival contentions urged and the purport of Rule  12  of  Tamil  Nadu
Highways Engineering Service Rules.
22.         Dr. Rajiv Dhawan, learned  Senior  Counsel  for  the  appellants
submitted that while it is well-settled law followed  by  this  Court  in  a
catena of cases M. Nagaraj And Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors., (2006) 8  SCC
212 that Article 16  (4A)  is  only  an  enabling  provision  and  does  not
automatically confer right on the reserved categories  and  when  no  policy
decision was taken by the State, Article 16 (4A) does not per se  applicable
to  Tamil  Nadu  Highways  Engineering  Service   conferring   consequential
seniority to the Junior Engineers  who  obtained  accelerated  promotion  by
following rule of reservation.   It  was  further  submitted  that  post  of
Assistant  Engineers to be promoted as ADEs constitute more than 75% of  the
cadre strength and by not applying the ‘catch up rule’ among  the  Assistant
Divisional Engineers promoted from Junior Engineers  by  following  rule  of
reservation  would  result  in  patent  discrimination  creating  disharmony
amongst the cadre.  Onbehalf of  the  appellants,  it  was  urged  that  the
implementation of the impugned judgment of the Division Bench  of  the  High
Court would result in conferring seniority to  a  less  qualified  and  less
experienced Assistant Divisional Engineer  appointed  from  Junior  Engineer
belonging to SC/ST category and who  stand  on  a  higher  footing  both  on
education and experience than the Assistant Divisional  Engineers  belonging
to general category would offend the rule of equality.
23.         Per contra, learned Senior Counsel Mr. R.  Thiagarajan  and  Ms.
Kiran Suri appearing for the respondents contended that there is  no  common
list of seniority of the appellants who are  the  direct  recruit  Assistant
Engineers and the respondents who are in the cadre of Junior Engineers  and,
therefore, the services of the appellants  and  the  respondents  cannot  be
compared and the ‘catch up rule’ is  not  applicable.   The  learned  Senior
Counsel further contended that promotion given to the respondents  were  not
accelerated promotion but  promotion  on  account  of  rule  of  reservation
following Rule 12 of Tamil Nadu  Highways  Engineering  Service  Rules.  The
respondents contended that Article 16 (4A)  of  the  Constitution  has  been
added to protect the consequential  seniority  arising  out  of  accelerated
promotions and when such amendment is held to be  valid and not ultra  vires
the Constitution by this Court in M. Nagaraj case (supra), the Single  Judge
ought not to have allowed the writ petitions and the Division Bench  rightly
set aside the  order of the Single Judge.
24.          Article  16(4A)  of  the  Constitution  is  only  an   enabling
provision which specifically provides that the concerned State may make  any
provision for providing reservation of appointments or posts  in  favour  of
any backward class citizens which  is  not  adequately  represented  in  the
services under the State.  Articles 16(4) and 16(4A) have to  be  read  with
Article 335 of the Constitution which deal with norms  of  Scheduled  Castes
and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts and lay down that the  claims  of
the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be  taken
into consideration  consistently  with  the  maintenance  of  efficiency  of
administration, in the making of  appointments  to  services  and  posts  in
connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.  In the  absence  of
any  policy  decision  taken  by  the  State  of  Tamil  Nadu,  Eighty-fifth
Amendment per se will not protect the  consequential  seniority  granted  to
the respondents who were  promoted  to  the  post  of  Assistant  Divisional
Engineers following the rule of reservation.
25.         The respondents placed  heavy  reliance  upon  Rule  12  of  the
Special Rules Tamil  Nadu  Engineering  Service  and  contended  that  their
consequential seniority is protected in terms of Rule 12 and  under  Article
16 (4A) of the Constitution of India.  Rule 12 reads as under:-
“Rule  12:  Reservation  of  appointments:  The  rule  of   reservation   of
appointments (General Rule 22) shall apply to the appointment  of  Assistant
Divisional Engineers by  direct  recruitment  and  recruitment  by  transfer
separately  and  the  appointment   of   Assistant   Engineers   by   direct

As per Rule 12, reserved  category  Assistant  Engineers  and  the  reserved
category  Junior  Engineers  secured  promotion  as   Assistant   Divisional
Engineers much earlier to  the  general  category  Assistant  Engineers  and
Junior  Engineers  respectively  because  of  their  accelerated   promotion
following   rule of reservation.
26.         The true  legislative  intent  under  Article  16  (4A)  of  the
Constitution is to enable the State to make provision or frame rules  giving
consequential seniority for the accelerated promotion gained  based  on  the
rule  of  reservation.   Rule  12  evidently  does  not  provide   for   the
consequential seniority for reserved category  promotees  at  any  point  of
time. The consequential seniority for such reserved category  promotees  can
be fixed only if there is  express  provision  for  such  reserved  category
promotees in the State rules. In the absence of any  specific  provision  or
policy decision taken by the State Government  for  consequential  seniority
for reserved  category  accelerated  promotees,  there  is  no  question  of
automatic application of Article 16 (4A) of the Constitution.
27.         Respondents contended that in about  eight  departments  of  the
State, rule of reservation is followed and one  among  them  is  Tamil  Nadu
Highways Engineering Service and in terms of Rule 12 practice  of  following
rule of reservation in promotion is in existence for more than  sixty  years
and therefore the Division  Bench  rightly  extended  the  protection  under
Article 16(4A) to accelerated promotees.  We  are  not  impressed  with  the
above submission. In terms of Rule 12,  reservation  is  followed  only  for
promotion of AEs/JEs as Assistant Divisional Engineers and Rule 12 does  not
protect the consequential seniority to ADEs who were promoted following  the
rule. The appellants belonging to the general category are  not  questioning
the  accelerated  promotion  granted  to  the   Junior   Engineers/Assistant
Engineers by following  rule  of  reservation  but  are  only  seeking  fair
application of the ‘catch up rule’ in the  fixation  of  seniority   in  the
category of ADEs.
28.         Protection of  the  consequential  seniority  conferred  on  the
Assistant Engineers appointed as Assistant  Divisional  Engineers  following
rule of reservation during the year 1994 was held to be unconstitutional  in
the earlier round of litigation in Original Application  No.2186/1996  dated
29.11.1996 before the Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal and  the  same  was
confirmed by this Court in  Special  Leave  Petition  (Civil)  No.24455/1996
titled Tr. J. Sabapathy And Ors.  vs.  D.  Rajendran  And  Ors.  decided  on
18.12.1996.  Pursuant to the  same  seniority  of  the  Assistant  Engineers
promoted as ADEs following rule of reservation had  been  lowered  following
‘catch up rule’.
29.         Now let us consider the crux of the  dispute.  While  publishing
the impugned seniority list  dated  29.04.2004,  the  ‘catch  up  rule’  was
applied among the Assistant Divisional Engineers  appointed  from  Assistant
Engineers and consequential seniority  was  not  given  to  SC/ST  Assistant
Divisional Engineers appointed from Assistant Engineers; but the  ‘catch  up
rule’ was not applied to the Assistant Divisional  Engineers  promoted  from
Junior Engineers and thus consequential seniority was  given  to  the  SC/ST
Assistant Divisional  Engineers-accelerated  promotees.   According  to  the
State, ‘catch-up rule’ was applied to  the  Assistant  Divisional  Engineers
promoted  from  Assistant  Engineers,  since,   Assistant   Engineers   were
recruited by Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission and at the time  of  their
initial  recruitment  as  Assistant  Engineers,  rule  of  reservation   was
strictly followed by Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission.  In  the  counter
affidavit filed before the High Court, the State has taken  the  stand  that
the ‘catch up rule’ was not applied in the case of JEs promoted as  ADEs  or
regarding their inter se seniority of Assistant  Engineers  and  the  Junior
Engineers since rule of reservation was not followed at the  time  of  their
appointment as Junior Engineers.
30.         Mr.  Thiagarajan,  learned  Senior  Counsel  appearing  for  the
private respondents submitted that  under  the  Right  to  Information  Act,
information was  sought  for  onbehalf  of  respondent  U.  Palaniappan  and
Government furnished the Government Orders for  temporary  panel  of  Junior
Engineers for promotion as  Assistant  Divisional  Engineers  and  the  said
Government Orders furnished would clearly  show  that  there  is  inadequate
representation of Scheduled Caste candidates in various  category  of  Tamil
Nadu Highways Engineering Service.  It was further submitted that there  are
only two persons belonging to Scheduled Caste community  promoted  from  the
rank of Junior Engineer after 17.06.1995 to the  higher  post  of  Assistant
Divisional Engineer and Divisional Engineer and of  these  two  persons  one
has been promoted to the  post  of  Superintending  Engineer  and  no  other
person  is  available  in  the  entire  department  and  the  inadequacy  of
representation was rightly taken into consideration by the Government  while
implementing the rule of reservation and consequential seniority.
31.           The   respondents’   submission   regarding   inadequacy    of
representation of  Scheduled  Castes/Scheduled  Tribes  in  the  Tamil  Nadu
Highways Engineering Service by itself  is  not  sufficient  to  uphold  the
inadequacy of representation of SCs/STs in  the  said  service.  Even  after
Eighty-fifth Amendment, the State is duty bound to collect  data  so  as  to
assess the adequacy of representation of the Scheduled Caste  candidates  in
the service and based on the same the State should frame a policy/rules  for
consequential seniority. No material is placed on record that the  State  of
Tamil Nadu has ever undertaken such exercise of collecting data of  adequacy
of representation of  the  SC/ST  candidates  in  the  Tamil  Nadu  Highways
Engineering Service.  In the absence of any rule  conferring   consequential
seniority in the State of Tamil Nadu  ‘catch up rule’  is  applicable   even
amongst Junior Engineers promoted as ADEs following rule of reservation  and
also for their inter-se seniority amongst  AEs  promoted  as  ADEs  and  JEs
promoted as ADEs following rule of reservation.
32.         Respondents placed reliance on Rule 35 (aa) of Tamil Nadu  State
and Subordinate Service Rules (General  Rules)  to  contend  that  they  are
entitled to consequential seniority in promotional position.  Rule  35  (aa)
relied on by the respondents reads as under:-
“*(aa).  The seniority of a person in a service, class,  category  or  grade
shall where the  normal  method  of  recruitment  to  that  service,  class,
category or grade is by more than one  method  of  recruitment,  unless  the
individual has been reduced to a lower rank as a  punishment  be  determined
with reference to the date on which he is appointed to the  service,  class,
category or grade.
Provided  that  where  the  junior  appointed  by  a  particular  method  or
recruitment happens to be appointed to a service, class, category  or  grade
earlier than the senior appointed by the same  method  of  recruitment,  the
senior shall be deemed  to  have  been  appointed  to  the  service,  class,
category or grade on the same day on which the junior was so appointed:
Provided further that the benefit of the above proviso  shall  be  available
to the senior only for  the  purpose  of  fixing  inter-se  seniority….”  (*
Substituted in G.O. Ms. No.523, P & AR, dated 4.06.1982, w.e.f. 13.07.78)

Rule 35 (aa) of Tamil Nadu State and  Subordinate  Service  (General)  Rules
relied  upon  by  the  3rd  respondent  is  applicable   only   for   normal
appointments to any service, class,  category  or  grade  and  not  reserved
category promotions.   Rule  35  (aa)  does  not  specifically  provide  for
consequential seniority to  the  accelerated  promotees  who  were  promoted
following the rule of reservation and Rule 35 (aa) is of  no  assistance  to
the contesting respondents.
33.         As noticed earlier, by application of Rule  12,  it  is  evident
that the Assistant Engineers and Junior Engineers of reserved  category  got
promotion to the post of Assistant Divisional Engineer much earlier  to  the
general category candidates.   At  this  juncture,  we  may  refer  to   the
comparative table of service particulars of some of the appellants  promoted
as ADEs from Assistant Engineers/Junior Engineers  and  the  respondents  in
the post of Assistant Engineer and Junior Engineer  and  their  position  in
the  cadre  of  Assistant  Divisional  Engineer  to  appreciate  the  patent
discrimination as under:-
|Name and   |Education|Date of     |Date of  |Sl. No. in|Date of       |Sl. No. |
|status in  |al       |appointment |completio|the       |appointment   |in ADE  |
|W.P.s., and|Qualifica|as A.E./J.E.|n of     |classified|and service as|as on   |
|Community  |tion     |and the name|probation|list of   |ADE           |01.04.20|
|           |         |of the      |         |A.E./J.E. |              |04      |
|           |         |service to  |         |as on     |              |        |
|           |         |which the   |         |01.01.93  |              |        |
|           |         |appointments|         |          |              |        |
|           |         |initially   |         |          |              |        |
|           |         |made        |         |          |              |        |
|S.         |B.E., (C)|07/05/1980  |13.11.198|1180      |11/02/2002    |201     |
|Paneer-Selv|         |*           |4 A.N.   |          |              |        |
|am,        |         |T.N.H.E.S.  |         |          |              |        |
|(Petitioner|         |(* Tamil    |         |          |              |        |
|No. 1 in   |         |Nadu        |         |          |              |        |
|W.P. 33735 |         |Highways    |         |          |              |        |
|& 34077) - |         |Engineering |         |          |              |        |
|MBC        |         |Service)    |         |          |              |        |
|T.G.       |B.E.,    |10/11/1978  |09.11.198|1159      |09/09/1999    |183     |
|Raja-sekara|(C)      |T.N.H.E.S.  |1 F.N.   |          |              |        |
|n          |         |            |         |          |              |        |
|(Petitioner|         |            |         |          |              |        |
|No. 2 in   |         |            |         |          |              |        |
|W.P. 33735 |         |            |         |          |              |        |
|&          |         |            |         |          |              |        |
|34077)-MBC |         |            |         |          |              |        |
| V.        |B.E.     |30/04/1985  |         |1666      |16/06/1998 (By|119     |
|Vivekananda|         |T.N.H.E.S.S.|---------|(19)      |recruitment by|        |
|n          |         |            |-        |          |transfer by   |        |
|(Respondent|         |            |         |          |applying Rule |        |
|No. 3 in   |         |            |         |          |12 of the     |        |
|W.P. 34077)|         |            |         |          |Tamil Nadu    |        |
|-S.C.      |         |            |         |          |Highways      |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Engineering   |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Service)      |        |
|V.         |D.C.E.   |29/04/1985  |         |1666      |              |120     |
|Appadurai  |         |T.N.H.E.S.S.|---------|(22)      |29/04/1998    |        |
|(Respondent|         |            |         |          |(By           |        |
|No. 4 in   |         |            |         |          |recruitment by|        |
|W.P. 34077)|         |            |         |          |transfer by   |        |
|–S.C.      |         |            |         |          |applying Rule |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |12 of the     |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Tamil Nadu    |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Highways      |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Engineering   |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Service)      |        |
|U.Palaniapp|D.C.E    |13/04/1987  |14.06.198|1477      |12/05/1999    |150     |
|an         |         |T.N.H.E.S.S |9        |          |(By           |        |
|(Respondent|         |            |         |          |recruitment by|        |
|No. 3 in   |         |            |         |          |transfer by   |        |
|W.P. 33735 |         |            |         |          |applying Rule |        |
|& 39142)   |         |            |         |          |12 of the     |        |
|–S.C.      |         |            |         |          |Tamil Nadu    |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Highways      |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Engineering   |        |
|           |         |            |         |          |Service)      |        |

                          (As extracted in the judgment of the Single Judge)

If we look at the above comparative table of the service particulars of  the
appellants and the respondents, it is seen that the  contesting  respondents
U. Palaniappan joined the service almost seven years after  the  appellants,
his seniority is automatically accelerated at an unprecedented rate  and  as
on 01.04.2004 his seniority rank  as  ADE  is  150  and  seniority  of    V.
Appadurai is 120.  The appellants who are qualified  and  seniors  than  the
contesting respondents are placed much below in rank in  comparison  to  the
person  belonging  to  the  reserved  class  promotees  who  were   promoted
following the rule of reservation. It  is  to  be  noted  that  the  private
respondents in the present case have been promoted  temporarily  under  Rule
39 (a) and Rule 10 (a) (i) of the General  Rules  with  the  condition  that
their inclusion in the promotional order shall not confer on them any  right
whatsoever in the service. Determination of seniority is a vital  aspect  in
the service career of an employee and his future promotion is  dependent  on
this.   Therefore,  determination  of  seniority  must  be  based  on   some
principles which are just and fair. In the absence of  any  policy  decision
taken or rules framed by  the  State  of  Tami  Nadu  regarding  Tamil  Nadu
Highways  Engineering  Service,   accelerated   promotion   given   to   the
respondents following rule of reservation in terms of Rule 12 will not  give
them consequential accelerated seniority.
34.         Appellants  were  appointed  as  Assistant  Engineers  directly,
while the respondents were initially appointed as Junior  Engineers.   Hence
according to the respondents, there was  no  common  seniority  between  the
Assistant Engineers belonging  to  general  category  and  Junior  Engineers
belonging   to reserved  class  and  therefore  promotion  of  JEs  as  ADEs
applying Rule 12 is of no relevance to the appellants. This contention  does
not merit acceptance.  Both  the  Assistant  Engineers  in  the  Tamil  Nadu
Engineering Service and the Junior Engineers in the Tamil  Nadu  Engineering
Subordinate Service are feeder categories for filling up higher post of  the
Assistant Divisional Engineer in the ratio of 3:1 between  them.   Although,
Assistant  Engineers  and  Junior  Engineers  are  presently  two   distinct
categories, prior to 1993, both Assistant  Engineers  and  Junior  Engineers
were in one category of service-Tamil Nadu Highways Engineering  Subordinate
Service. Only  after  G.O.Ms.No.807,  Public  Works  (HK)  Department  dated
24.05.1993, the post of Assistant Engineer was raised to the level  gazetted
status and they  were  brought  in  to  State  Service/Tamil  Nadu  Highways
Engineering Service. For  promotion,  even  though  two  separate  seniority
lists are prepared for each category, they are actually of  the  same  cadre
and the respondents cannot contend that if Junior Engineers are promoted  as
ADEs following rule of reservation applying Rule 12, it does not affect  the
services of the Assistant Engineers.
35.         In the absence  of any  provision  for  consequential  seniority
in the rules, the ‘catch up rule’ will be applicable  and  the  roster-point
reserved category promotees cannot count their  seniority  in  the  promoted
category from the date of their promotion and the senior general  candidates
if  later reach the promotional level, general candidates will regain  their
seniority.  The Division Bench appears to have  proceeded  on  an  erroneous
footing that Article 16 (4A) of  the  Constitution  of  India  automatically
gives the consequential seniority in addition to  accelerated  promotion  to
the roster-point promotees and the judgment of the Division Bench cannot  be
36.         In the result, the impugned judgment  is  set  aside  and  these
appeals are allowed.  State Government-respondent Nos. 1 and 2 are  directed
to revise the seniority list of Assistant Divisional Engineers applying  the
‘catch up rule’ within four months.  Pursuant to the  impugned  judgment  of
the Division Bench of Madras High Court, if any further promotion  had  been
granted to the Assistant Divisional Engineers  promoted  from  the  rank  of
Junior  Engineers  following  rule   of   reservation   with   consequential
seniority, the same  shall  be  reversed.  Further  promotion  of  Assistant
Divisional Engineers shall be  as  per  the  revised  seniority  list.   The
parties shall bear their own costs.


New Delhi;
August 27, 2015

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