1. The 1st Petitioner is the Syndicate Bank Officers' Association represented by its General Secretary and petitioners 2 to 9 are the Officers of the Bank. The Syndicate Bank is a public sector Bank duty constituted under the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of undertakings) Act, 1970. In the year 1979, the Syndicate Bank (Officers') Service Regulations (hereinafter referred to as 'New Regulations') were made by the Board of Directors with effect from 1st July, 1979 altering the conditions of service of officers including emoluments, increments, promotion rules and other conditions of service existing as on 30th June, 1979. Earlier some writ petitions were filed by the officers challenging the new service regulations and during the pendency of the writ petitions, the Bank took up the task of promoting officers to higher scales, A joint consent memo was filed before Court and on that basis an order was passed. Thereafter, the Board of Directors adopted a comprehensive promotion policy for promotion of officers from one grade/scale to another grade/scale in different grades. A circular No. 128/80/BC/PD/34 dated 30th April, 1980 was circulated to all its officers. While matters stood thus, the respondent-bank sent a telex message to the petitioners-association on 4th March, 1980 informing that the Board of Directors had, at its meeting held on 18th February, 1982, modified the points for seniority to be awarded to officers while considering their promotion. The resolution of the Board of Directors changing the system for awarding the points was also communicated. The Syndicate Bank Officers' Association, by its letter dated 6th March, 1982, informed the bank authorities that the modification had adversely affected the promotion chances of 200 officers in scale II. According to the petitioners as a result of the modification of points to be awarded to officers for seniority made by the Bank, the promotion chances of 200 seniormost officers in scale-II including petitioners 2 to 9 have been affected and that the juniors' chances of getting promotion are enhanced and the promotion chances of 113 officers who have completed 9 years of service are also affected. Therefore, according to the petitioners this alteration made by the respondent-bank is illegal and in violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India and is liable to be struck down.
2. To consider the grievance of the petitioners, it is necessary to extract the system of allotting the points as provided by the circular dated 30th April, 1980. Paragraph 4, 1, 2 of the circular provides for allotting the necessary points for seniority. For the present writ petition we are concerned with the officers of the Middle Management Grade Scale-II and paragraph 4, 1, 3 of the circular prescribed the points that are to be awarded for these officers for seniority. To have a better understanding of the plea that the petitioners are affected, it becomes necessary to compare both the systems of awarding the points for seniority in juxtaposition.
CHART I----------------------------------------------------------------------POINTSYears of completed Before Afterservice in Scale-II Modification Modification----------------------------------------------------------------------5 years and over butless than 6 years 0 106 years and over butless than 7 years 10 207 years and over butless than 8 years 20 308 years and over butless than 9 years 30 409 years and over 40 40CHART II--------------------------------------------------------------------POINTSYears of completed Before Afterservice as an officer Modification Modification--------------------------------------------------------------------10 years and over but 0 10less than 11 years11 years and over butless than 12 years 10 2012 years and over butless than 13 years 20 3013 years and over butless than 14 years 30 4014 years and over 40 40
According to the petitioners, the officers who have completed 9 years of service or more in scale II or 14 years of service or more as an officer were entitled for 10 points more than the officers who have completed 8 years in scale II or 13 years of service as an officer. Under the old system officers who have put in 5 years of service and over but less than 6 years were not given any points, but they are given 10 points now and officers who have put in 8 years of service and over but less than 9 years were given 30 points under the old system, but under the modified system, they are given 40 points and thereby they are treated on par with the officers who have put in 9 yeas of service and over. Similarly, officers who have put in 13 years of service and over under the next grade as an officer are given only 30 points under the old system, but under the new system they are given 40 points and are brought on par with the officers who have put in 14 years of service and over. According to the petitioners, this alteration has affected the promotion chances of 200 senior most officers inn scale II and 113 officers who have completed 9 years of service, inasmuch as they are brought on par with the officers who have completed 8 years of service in awarding the points. It is also stated in the affidavit that the officers including petitioners 2 to 9 were not given an opportunity before making this alteration. Questioning this alteration in awarding points for seniority writ petition is filed and pending the disposal of the writ petition stay also was sought.
3. It may however, be mentioned here that the interview letters were issued prior to 25th January, 1982 and all the officers appeared for interview. The results were announced and the petitioners-association however asked the bank to publish the results giving full details such as the points awarded for seniority, performance appraisal and interview. The further grievance is that the bank has not communicated to its officers the point secured by each of the officers.
4. In the counter affidavit it is stated that the promotion policy in respect of officers was adopted in terms of Regulation-17 of the Syndicate Bank (Officer's) Service Regulations; that it is also based on the guidelines given by the Government and that the views of the various associations have also been obtained. When a circular announcing the vacancies in scale II, scale III and scale IV was issued on 16th January, 1982 there was a representation that points for seniority be recast in the light of the situation and after a careful study of all aspects of the issue points for seniority was recast not only for movement from Middle Management Grade scale II to Middle Management scale III but also for movement from Junior Management Grade scale I to Middle Management Grade scale II without altering the basic feature of the promotion policy, by the Board in exercise of the powers conferred under clauses 5.8 of the promotion policy. According to the respondent-bank, it is only a minor revision warranted by the reality. It is further stated that this revision in the system of awarding points does not alter the basic feature of the promotion policy and that promotion from Middle Management Grade scale II to Middle Management scale III was based on seniority-cum-merit and not on seniority or merit along. It is further stated in the counter affidavit that this revision benefited 790 officers who gained 10 additional points for seniority, while only 200 officers did not gain any additional point for seniority. It is also stated in the counter affidavit that the same principle was adopted and the revision was effected in awarding points for seniority for movement of officers in Junior Management Grade Scale I to Middle Management Grade Scale II and that the petitioners-association welcomed this revision in toto, but in the same breath protested the movement of officers in Middle Management of Grade Scale II to Middle Management Grade Scale III.
5. The main contention of the petitioners is that this alteration of policy is done in arbitrary manner on the eve of the selection and that their right of promotion, which is a condition of service is affected. For a better a appreciation of the points involved, it becomes necessary to refer to the Syndicate Bank (Officer's) Service Regulations, 1979, and how the system to award points has been evolved. The Syndicate Bank (Officer's) Service Regulations, 1979, were made by the Board of Directors of Syndicate Bank in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India and with the previous sanction of the Central Government, in exercise of the power conferred by S. 19 read with sub-s. (2) of S. 12 of the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings Act, 1970) (Act 5 of 1970). These regulations govern the service conditions of the offices. Regulation-17 lays down that promotions to all grades of officers in the Bank shall be made in accordance with the policy laid down by the Board from time to time having regard to the guidelines of the Government, if any. The Government guidelines in this matter are :
'(1) The Board shall formulate the eligibility criteria and details of process to be employed for promotion of officers from one scale/grade to another, subject to the following provision. This should be done not later than 6 months from the appointed date. Till such time as the new promotion policy is formulated, the bank may subject to the approval of the Board, continue with the existing promotion practices.
(2) Subject to the availability of vacancies all promotions whether from one scale to another or one grade to another shall be on the basis of merit with weightages, if any, for seniority, education/professional qualifications, etc. as may be prescribed by the Board from time to time.
(3) The minimum eligibility in terms of number of years of service for promotion from one officer's scale to another shall generally be as under :
a) From Junior Management Grade to Middle Management Grade Scale II 7 years of satisfactory service.
b) From Middle Management Grade Scale II to Middle Management Grade Scale III-5 years of satisfactory service in Scale II.
c) From Middle Management Scale III to Senior Management Grade Scale IV-5 years of satisfactory service in scale III.
d) No minimum service is prescribed for movement from Scale IV to Scale V.
e) Promotion from Senior Management Grade to Top Executive Grade should be from those officers who have put in not less than 5 years of satisfactory service in the Senior Management Grade i.e. Scale IV and V together.
(4) The above eligibility cirteria may be relaxed suitably in case where the number of eligible officers is less than three times the number of posts available in the next higher scale/grade.'
The very promotion policy, which we find in the circular dated 30th April, 1980, contains several features. Paragraph 5.8 of the circular lays down that the Board may review the policy after a period of two years. Therefore, the Board has the power to review this policy periodically. In this circular we also find that for the first time in the year 1970 the Bank had adopted a formal promotion policy and after nationalisation, the pay scales and promotion policies had to be reviewed as recommended by the Pillai Committee and that the guidelines given due consideration while awarding the promotion policy. The circular dated 30th April, 1980, for some reason or the other could not be implemented because of pendency of several writ petitions and objections. It is contended by the respondent-bank that the new policy is the result of a Board Meeting held on 18th February, 1982. This aspect becomes important. The extracts from the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors held on 18th February, 1982 are found in one of the documents issued by the Bank Ref. No. BD-1/70/70/82/SEC dated 5th March, 1982. With regards the promotion policy, it is mentioned therein that the 'Board Note' dated 16th February, 1982 on the marginally noted subject of the Personnel Department was perused and there is also reference to the telex message from the General Secretary of the Syndicate Bank Officer's Association and after discussion, it was resolved that the Department may proceed with promotions of officers from scale I to II and scale II to III as suggested by them subject to the points for seniority and the revision also was sought to be adopted. A circular dated 27th February, 1980 contains the minutes of the 17th Joint Meeting held between the representatives of the Syndicate Bank Officers' Association and the representatives of the Management of the Syndicate Bank on 22nd and 23rd of February, 1980 and keeping in view the suggestions made by the representatives of the association, the policy of promotion amongst offices was evolved and weightages were given as under :
----------------------------------------------------------------------FOR PROMOTIONFROMFACTORS Scale I Scale IIto II to III----------------------------------------------------------------------Seniority 50 40EducationalQualifications 10Performance 25 30Interview 15 30----------------------------------------------------------------------
From this it can be seen that for promotion from scale II to III the points awarded for seniority are only 40 and this has not been altered by the revised policy. It is only after this meeting, the Bank issued circular dated 30th April, 1980 and that principle has not been affected even now under the revised policy in as much as the points awarded for seniority are only 40. The only change brought out is that officers who have put in 8 years of service and officers who have put in 9 years of service are treated equally and are given equal points. By this revision as many as 990 officers got the benefit.
6. As mentioned above, the Board of Directors which met on 18th February, 1982 also perused the Board Note dated 16th February, 1982. Now, in the said Board Note, a copy of which was placed before me, it is mentioned that the promotion policy was formulated in the year 1980 on the basis of the guidelines given by the Government. The policy was implemented for effecting the promotion to top Executives (Scale 6 and Scale 7) and senior Management Grade (Scale IV and Scale V) and the policy has not been invoked so far for promotions of Middle Management Grades (Scale II and Scale III). It is further noted that the promotion policy stipulates that the eligibility criteria shall be suitably relaxed if the number of eligible officers is less than three times the number of vacancies. Therefore, in respect of movement from Junior Management Grade I to Middle Management Grade II, 1800 officers are to be considered relaxing the eligibility criteria. Reviewing the promotion policy, it is also noted in this Board Note that the policy does not provide points for seniority in respect of officers, who have completed the minimum length of service and therefore it is proposed to modity the procedure for awarding points for seniority in respect of Middle Management Grade Scale II to Middle Management Grade Scale III. In the proposed policy it is also mentioned that officers, who are in the scale for 8 years and 9 years are also given 40 points. Similarly, officers who are in the scale for 13 years and over, but less than 14 years, are also given 40 points. At this juncture it must be noted that in the circular issued on 27th February, 1980 there is no decision taken as to how the points have to be split-up in respect of the officers who have put in 8 years of service and over or 9 years of service. The circular dated 27th February, 1980 which contains the minutes of 17th Joint Meeting also mentions that points for seniority will be awarded at the rate of 10 points for every year of service beyond the prescribed eligible length of service. Now the revised policy awarding 10 points for people who have put in 5 years of service, 20 points for 6 years of service, 30 points for 7 years of service 40 points for 8 years of service, is in conformity with this agreement which was arrived at in the joint meeting between the representatives of Syndicate Bank Officer's Association and the representatives of the management of the Syndicate Bank.
7. It is also stated in the counter affidavit that when a circular announcing the vacancies in scale II, scale III and scale IV was issued on 16th January, 1982 there was a representation that points for seniority be recast in the light of the situation, that was not anticipated at the time of formulating policy. It can, therefore, be seen that the revision is not made in arbitrary manner and on the other hand it is in accordance with the joint agreement as well as the guidelines given by the Government.
The learned Advocate General however contended that the chances of promotion are affected, but in the revised policy, efficiency also is taken into consideration along with other qualifications. The Bank has reiterated in its circular dated 16th January, 1982 that performance appraisal constitutes a vital link in the promotion process.
8. The petitioner's plea is that had the circular dated 30th April, 1980 been continued, they would have naturally better chances for promotion. What we have to see is whether the revision itself is bad because such chances of promotion of some personnel are affected. The State of Mysore v. G. N. Purohit S.L.R.-753 1967(1), is a case where the district-wise recruitment system was changed to state-wise. Considering the contention that this system has affected the chances of promotion, their Lordships held that the chances of promotion are not conditions of service. In this connection their Lordship also referred to the judgment in State of Orissa v. Durga Charan Dass [1967-I L.L.J. 394] in which the same principle was laid down.
9. In V. T. Khanzode v. Reserve Bank of India [1982-I L.L.J. 465] it is held that the Reserve Bank of India is competent to frame service regulations for the bank. The Supreme Court, while considering the claims of the officers of the Reserve Bank of India, held that these regulations cannot be struck down on the ground that the chances of promotion of some may be affected in this case, it is also held :
'It is clear from this narration of historical events that the various Departments of the Reserve Bank were grouped and regrouped from time to time. Such adjustments in the administrative affairs of the bank are a necessary sequel to the growing demands of new situations which are bound to arise in any developing economy. The group system has never been a closed or static chapter and it is wrong to think that the officers of the various groups were kept, as it were, kin quarantine. The group system has been a continuous process of trial and error and the impugned scheme of inter group mobility has emerged as the best solution out of experience of the past. Combined seniority has been recommended by two special committees, whose reports reflect the expertise and objectivity which was brought to bear on their sensitive task. It is clear that inter-group mobility and common seniority are a safe and sound solution to the conflicting demands of officers belonging to group I on one hand and those of groups II and III on the other. Private interest of employees of public undertakings cannot override public interest and an effort has to be made to harmonize the two considerations. No scheme governing service matters can be fool-proof and some section or the other of employees is bound to feel aggrieved on the score of its expectations being falsified or remaining to be fulfilled.'
In R. S. Deodhar v. State of Maharashtra [1974-I L.L.J. 221] it is held :
'It is now well settled by the decision of this court in State of Mysore v. G. N. Purohit, C.A. No. 2281 of 1965, dated 25th January, 1967 (S.C.) that though a aright to be considered for promotion is a service mere chances of promotion are not. A rule which merely affects chances of promotion cannot be regarded as varying a condition of service.'
10. As observed by the Supreme Court, some adjustments in the administrative affairs of the bank are a necessary sequel to the growing demands of new situations which are bound to arise in any developing economy. As already mentioned, in the revised policy they wanted to have more senior officers and, as a matter of fact, 790 officers have got the benefit in this process. Even in the circular dated 30th April, 1980, which contains the promotion policy, in para 5, 4 it is made clear that vacancies in the various scales will be declared every year. Therefore, having regard to the vacancies, the policy, particularly from the point of view of performance appraisal, can be changed.
11. In A. S. Sangwan v. Union of India : AIR1981SC1545 , it is held that a policy once formulated with regard to promotion of employees is not good for ever and the State may stick to the earlier policy or give it up, but if it does change its policy it must do so fairly and should not give the impression that it is acting by any ulterior criteria or arbitrarily. In this context it must also be noted that the selection committee consists of one General Manager of Corporation Bank, the Chairman of Karnataka Bank and one officer of the Reserve Bank of India and therefore, the selections must have been done in a fair and impartial manner.
12. The learned Advocate-General, however, in his reply submitted that one of guidelines given by the Government is that subject to the availability of vacancies all promotions from one scale to another or one grade to another shall be on the basis of merit with weightages, if any, for seniority, educational, professional qualifications etc. as may be prescribed by the Board from time to time, and that allotting these 10 points is not in accordance with the guidelines. This aspect has also been considered and the guidelines given by the Government are that the maximum should be 40 points. As a matter of fact, even in the circular dated 30th April, 1979 it is mentioned in para 4.1, which deals with seniority, that 10 points will be awarded for every completed year of service over the minimum length of service subject to maximum points provided for this factor in the policy. The policy to which we have also referred lays down that the maximum marks should be 40 and 10 points will be awarded for every completed year of service. The revised policy is also in confirmity with the same and in accordance with the policy issued by the Board.
13. The learned Advocate-General also relied on a decision of the Supreme Court in State of Kerala v. N. M. Thomas [1976-I L.L.J. 376], and contended that with regard to promotion the normal principles are either merit-cum-seniority or seniority-cum-merit and that seniority-cum-merit means giving necessary merit relaxation for being in administration, the senior, though less meritorious, shall have priority. It is stated in the counter affidavit as well as in the additional counter affidavit that the promotions are done only on the basis of seniority-cum-merit, and there cannot be a real, controversy about the same.
14. With regards the submission that each officer has not been supplied with the marks, it must be held that it is not necessary to disclose such marks as already mentioned. The selection committee consists of very responsible persons drawn from different banks. It is stated in the counter affidavit that making this assessment known to various officers will affect the relationship among the officers who have been interviewed. However, I have asked the learned counsel for the respondent-bank to produce the necessary papers containing the marks awarded to respective candidates. I have persued the same and I am satisfied that the selection has been done on seniority-cum-merit basis and there was no arbitrariness in awarding the marks.
15. For all the aforesaid reasons, the Writ petition fails and is dismissed, but in the circumstances, no costs.