The Kerala High Court has held that the Government has the right to decide the applicable rule for promotion, and if it decides to fill vacancies that arose before amendment of the rule according to the unamended rules, the Court cannot overturn ‘the wisdom of the Government.

A Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Shoba Annamma Eapen observed “The right of employees for promotion is based on extant rule as on the date of consideration for promotion. The Government has every right to take a decision as to the applicability of the rule which would govern the promotion. If the Government takes a conscious decision that the vacancies which arose prior to the amended rules will have to be filled in accordance with the unamended rules, the Court cannot sit on judicial review to overturn the wisdom of the Government.

Advocate Thulasi K. Raj appeared for the petitioners while Sr. Govt. Pleader Adv. Vinitha B appeared for the respondents.

Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) had dismissed a petition challenging the change in promotion ratio for the post of Overseer/Draftsman (Mechanical Grade-II) in the Water Resources Department. The promotion ratio transitioned from a 3:1 ratio favouring direct recruitees to an equalised 1:1 ratio following an amendment on September 24, 2010, with a total cadre strength of 20 positions.

The Government's order dated January 6, 2011, indicated a decision to fill vacancies arising before the amended rules based on the unamended rules. The petitioners who were working in the feeder category sought a declaration that vacancies should be filled based on the amended rules rather than the unamended ones.

The Tribunal, relying on the Judgment in Mohanan v. Director of Homoeopathy [2006 (3) KLT 641 (FB)], held that vacancies during the currency of unamended rules should be filled as per the relevant rules and dismissed the challenge.

In their challenge against the decision of the Tribunal, the petitioners argued that the Tribunal erred in relying on the Mohanan's Case, which in turn relies upon the Supreme Court's decision in Y.V. Rangaiah v. J. Sreenivasa Rao [(1983) 3 SCC 284]. Petitioners cited a recent three-bench judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Himachal Pradesh and Others v. Raj Kumar and Others [(2023) 3 SCC 773], which overruled the earlier decision in Y.V. Rangaiah Case.

Even though the Court agreed with the arguments presented by the petitioners, the Court observed that the Government is entitled to a conscious policy decision on filling vacancies provided such decisions are fair and reasonable under Article 14 of the Constitution as per the ratio in the Rajkumar Case.

Accordingly, the High Court did not interfere with the Government's decision and dismissed the original petition.

Cause Title: Ranjith Kumar K.V & Ors. v. State of Kerala & Ors.

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