The Supreme Court, while adjudicating upon whether the inter­se seniority of the Munsiffs appointed through direct recruitment on the recommendations of the State Public Service Commission should be fixed/ determined on the basis of the roster points or in terms of the order of their inter­se merit at the time of their selection, held that the roster system is only to ensure that the quantum of the reservation is reflected in the recruitment process.

"...the roster points do not determine the seniority of the appointees who gain simultaneous appointments; that is to say, those who are appointed collectively on the same date or are deemed to be appointed on the same date, irrespective when they joined their posts", the Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice J.B. Pardiwala observed while upholding the order of the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court.

The petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the order of the J&K&L High Court which had held that the seniority should be fixed in accordance with the merit determined by the Public Service Commission and not in accordance with the roster points.

Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar appearing for the petitioners vehemently submitted that it cannot be argued as an absolute proposition of law that for fixing seniority only merit had to be considered and not the roster points.

He submitted that the High Court had committed a serious error in applying the Jammu & Kashmir Reservation Rules 2005 which in turn came to be framed under the Jammu & Kashmir Reservation Act 2004 and notified in October 2005 for the purpose of fixation of the inter­se seniority.

He further argued that if the seniority was fixed in accordance with the merit of the appointees of the batch of 2003 and not on the basis of the roster points then many of the petitioners would have no chances of any further promotion.

On the other hand, the counsel for private respondents-High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and also the State of Jammu & Kashmir, submitted that no error was committed by the High Court in taking the view that the seniority should be fixed in accordance with the merit determined by the Public Service Commission.

The Court observed thus "…in the case of direct recruitment, the preparation of inter se merit list of the selected candidates is inevitable, even in the absence of an explicit provision in the rule or policy, the recruitment authority cannot place the candidates inter se in the select list under the rule of thumb or by adopting the methodology which is inconsistent with the spirit of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution."

The Court placed reliance on a catena of its judgments and held "the principle of law discernible from all the aforesaid decisions of this Court is that the roster system is only for the purpose of ensuring that the quantum of reservation is reflected in the recruitment process. It has nothing to do with the inter­se seniority among those recruited."

The Court held that the High Court rightly applied the principle of law explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Bimlesh Tanwar v. State of Haryana, (2003).

In the case of Bimlesh Tanwar it was observed that "An affirmative action in terms of Article 16(4) of the Constitution is meant for providing a representation of a class of citizenry who are socially or economically backward. Article 16 of the Constitution of India is applicable in the case of an appointment. It does not speak of fixation of seniority. Seniority is, thus, not to be fixed in terms of the roster points. If that is done, the rule of affirmative action would be extended which would strictly not be in consonance of the constitutional schemes."

The Court held that there was no jurisdictional infirmity or any other infirmity in the impugned judgment passed by the High Court. Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition.

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