V T KHANZODE Vs. RESERVE BANK OF INDIA
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
RESERVE BANK OF INDIA
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(1.) These are 25 petitions under Art. 32 of the Constitution of India challenging the decision of the Reserve Bank of India as regards the introduction of common seniority and inter-group mobility amongst different, grades of officers belonging to Group I (Section A), Group II and Group III, with retrospective effect from May 22, 1974. That decision or order is contained in Administration Circular No. 8. dated January 7. 1978 as also in office Order No. 679 dated April 27, 1978 and has been acted upon in the draft combined seniority list of officers in Grade 'B' (appointed as such prior to Jan. 1, 1970) and in Grades 'C' 'D' 'E' and 'F.' The contention of the petitioners is that the aforesaid circular, office order and combined seniority list are violative of their fundamental rights under Arts. 14 and 16 of the Constitution. and are also ultra vires the power jurisdiction and competence of the Reserve Bank of India, being without the authority of law and in contravention of the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
(2.) The facts leading up to the impugned decision dated Jan. 7. 1978, the office order dated April 27. 1978 and the draft combined seniority list are as follows: The Reserve Bank of India (Respondent No. 1) was established under the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, hereinafter referred to as "the Act." Under the Reserve Bank of India (Staff) Regulations, 1948 framed under Sec. 58 of the Act, the terms and conditions of service of the staff (including officers) of the respondent Bank were revised and regulated. These Regulations were amended from time to time. Provisions regarding record of service seniority and promotion are contained in Regulations 27 to 30 (Chapter III), which read thus:-
"27. Record of Service : A record of service shall be maintained by the Bank in respect of each employee at such place or places and shall be kept in such form and shall contain such information as may be specified from time to time by the Chief Manager.
28. Seniority: An employee confirmed in the Bank's service shall ordinarily rank for seniority in his grade according to his date of confirmation in the grade and an employee on probation shall ordinarily rank for seniority among the employees selected along with him in the same batch according to the ranking assigned to him at the time of selection.
29. Promotion : All appointments and Promotions shall be made at the discretion of the Bank and notwithstanding his seniority in a grade, no employee shall have a right to be appointed or promoted to any particular post or grade.
30. (1). An employee transferred from one appointment to another or confirmed in a grade or appointment higher than his substantive grade or appointment, shall be liable to be reverted without notice at any time within one year of such transfer or confirmation.
(2) An. employee who has been appointed to officiate in a higher grade or appointment, or whose confirmation in a higher grade or appointment is subject to his undergoing probation for any specified period or otherwise shall be liable to be reverted without notice at any time when he is so officiating or undergoing probation.
(3) Nothing in sub-regulations (1) and (2) shall affect the provisions of Regulation 47."
(3.) Ever since the date of the Staff Regulations of 1948 and even prior thereto there were "'groups" constituted for the different departments of the Reserve Bank, and officers were required to exercise irrevocable options for service in any particular Group. Those who had opted for a service in a particular Group were to be normally eligible for promotion in that Group only. The grouping was revised with effect from April, 1951 when employees were asked to exercise their option with regard to the Group of their choice. In 1951, the various departments of the Bank were re-classified into three Groups, Group I, Group II and Group III. This system of grouping continued. until 1955. in which year the Bank found it necessary to reorganise the Agricultural Credit Department. Accordingly, the staff attached to the various departments were regrouped into Groups I, II, III and IV. with effect from April 1. 1957. In each of these Groups. there are six grades of officers based on pay scales, namely, Grades A, B, C, D, E and F. the lowest being Grade A and the highest being Grade F. Each Group had its own seniority List, that is to say, there were four separate seniority lists, one for each group. The latest such lists. prior to the impugned combined, seniority lists, is dated July 1, 1976.;
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