Monday, March 4, 2024

Chief Justice bench sets aside arbitrary promotion elligibility rule of the Bihar Subordinate Prohibition Service Rules

In its order dated March 4, 2024, Patna High Court's bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Harish Kumar set aside Rule 11(4) of the Bihar Subordinate Prohibition Service Rules, 2017, which extinguished completely, the avenue of promotion to the post of Sub-Inspector; to non-graduate Assistant Sub-Inspectors. Before the introduction of these Rules of 2017, the Assistant Sub-Inspectors were considered for promotion on the basis of their suitability and seniority without any specification of minimum educational qualification. The Rules of 2017 abruptly changed the criteria and introduced graduation for promotions. The Bihar Subordinate Prohibition Service (Recruitment and Service Conditions) (Amendment) Rules, 2018 rechristened the Rules of 2017 as The Bihar Subordinate Prohibition Service Rules. It further amended sub-rule (4) of Rule 4 making provision for 50% of total sanctioned strength of Sub-Inspectors to be filled by direct recruitment and remaining 50% to be filled up by promotions from amongst Assistant Sub-Inspectors on seniority cum eligibility. 

Dhananjay Kumar, the petitioners' counsel contended that even now the Sub-Inspectors who are not graduates are promoted to the post of Inspectors. The Assistant Sub-Inspectors and the Sub-Inspectors more or less are engaged in the same duties. When the prescription of a minimum eligibility of graduation is not there for promotion from Sub-Inspectors to Inspectors, it is arbitrary to totally obliterate avenues of promotion for the Assistant Sub-Inspectors who have spent a long period in the police service.

P. K Shahi, Advocate General submitted that there were substantial amendments brought to the service rules in the Excise Department, especially in the context of the prohibition introduced in the State. The eligibility for recruitment of Sub-Inspectors was made at par with the eligibility in the police manual. The non-graduate Sub- Inspectors is a dying cadre and hence, they are being considered for promotion to the post of Inspector. The State contended that prohibition was introduced and the eligibility of graduation prescribed for direct recruitment. The necessity to have a commonality of persons in the very same cadre was the ground urged to sustain the amendment. The State admitted that the said commonality is not maintained in the cadre in which the petitioners seek promotion to, and its higher cadre. The cadre of Sub-Inspectors still have non-graduates, who were promoted from the post of Assistant Sub-Inspectors. The Non-graduate Sub-Inspectors also have an avenue of promotion to the post of Inspector; despite the cadre
of Inspector, even in the year 2009, as is revealed from Annexure-1, the Bihar Excise Service  Recruitment and Service Conditions) Rules, 2009 had basic eligibility of a graduate degree, for direct recruitment. Insofar as promotion from the post of Sub-Inspector, Excise and direct recruitment, the eligibility was: (i) satisfactory service in the post of Sub-Inspector, Excise; (ii) passing of required departmental examination in accordance with the rules of Excise Superintendents and Inspectors; (iii) satisfactory character assessment, and (iv) seniority. The said post of Inspector, Prohibition has been removed from a gazetted post and now included as a non-gazetted post under the Rules of 2017.

The Court's judgement reads, "we are of the opinion that the prescription under Rule 11(4) insofar as prescribing an educational qualification for promotion to the post of Excise Sub-Inspector from Assistant Sub-Inspector Excise, to be the same as it is prescribed for direct recruitment to the said post is arbitrary. We hence, set aside Rule 11(4) of the Rules, also noticing the fact that as per Rule 11(1), promotions to the post of Inspector, Prohibition from the Sub-Inspectors, Prohibition is on the basis of seniority-cum- eligibility. We have not been shown any extenuating circumstance requiring a different yardstick to be applied for the purpose of promotion from Assistant Sub-Inspectors to Sub-Inspectors when even the further promotion post is not dependent on a graduate degree."

The judgement was authored by Chief Justice Vinod Chnadran. It concludes, "We set aside Rule 11(4) of the Rules of 2017 and mandate that the promotions from Assistant Sub-Inspectors to Sub-Inspectors in the quota available for such promotions, as per the rules, shall be made on the basis of seniority-cum- eligibility, which is the criteria for promotion to the next higher post."

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