U.L. Bhat, C.J.
1. The petitioners herein, four in number, joined the services of the first respondent, Central Bank of India in 1974 in the agricultural wing of the bank as Assistant Agricultural Finance Officers. In 1978 they were promoted as Agricultural Finance Officers. In 1977, they were taken into the mainstream on their option and on their application, put through theselection process and promoted to the cadre of Branch Manager Scale I in which they are now working. They have filed the writ petition challenging Clauses 5.1, 15.2 and 15.3 of the Promotion policy and claiming other appropriate reliefs. On behalf of the respondents, return has been filed rebutting the challenge justifying the various clauses of the Promotion policy.
2. Annexure A is a copy of the Promotion policy. Paragraph 15 deals specifically with the Promotion policy for officers in the specialist category. Specialist Category takes in Financial Analysts, Agricultural Officers, Law Officers, Technical Officers, Income-tax Experts, Economists, Architects, Engineers, Training Officers, Management Experts, Security Officers, Publicity Experts and Hindi Officers. We are concerned in this case with the Agricultural Officers who have their own avenue of promotion in their own line outside the mainstream of management grades. Clauses 15.2 and 15.3 are intended to provide them additional promotional avenues after bringing them to the mainstream. According to Clause 15.3, Agricultural Officers with three years service will be eligible to be placed as Small Branch Managers if found suitable as set out in Paragraph 6.1 (Note 2) on their selection will join the mainstream. According to Clause 15.4, those who do not join the mainstream will have promotional avenues in the respective field of specialisation and promotion should be effected following the principles laid down for promotion in the mainstream. Clause 15.2 provides yet another promotional avenue for those working in specialised category. They are eligible to join the mainstream on completion of five years service. On becoming eligible, they may apply to the bank for joining the mainstream. The bank will take a decision after a committee interviews the candidates, the decision being on merits. It is made clear that there is no vested right in a specialised officer for joining the mainstream. Those who are selected will be fitted in such scale and at such stage in the scale as the management may in its discretion decide. The selection process contemplated in Clauses 15.2 are challenged as unconstitutional.
3. The writ petition does not contain any specific grounds for challenge of the selectionprocess contained in the aforesaid clauses. Learned counsel for the petitioners contended that there is marked reluctance in inducting specialist officers in the mainstream. There is no such specified case set out in the petition nor has specific examples been given therein. By 'mainstream' is meant the main channel of employment in the managerial cadre. The bank employment consists of specialist category also. There is marked difference between the functions of the two categories of officers. Those in the managerial cadre are responsible for the entire management including the work of the officers of the specialist category. Officers of specialist category function only in the respective (sic.) field of specialisation and are subject to control of the managerial cadre. As noted in Clause 15.4 of the Promotion policy, the persons of the specialist category have their own avenue for promotion. The purpose of Clauses 15.4 and 15.2 is to provide further promotional avenues to the specialists. Naturally, care must be taken to ensure that those in the mainstream are not unduly prejudiced on account of the additional avenues being opened up for specialists. The second consideration which is also important is the prevention of dilution of the managerial cadre by indiscriminate induction of specialist without experience of work in the mainstream. These two considerations fully justify the provision for a selection process in inducting Agricultural Finance Officers as Small Branch Managers under Clause 15.3 and induction of the specialists into the mainstream under Clause 15.2. We fail to find anything arbitrary or unreasonable in the requirement of selection process.
4. Clause 3.1 deals with promotion from Junior Management Scale I to Middle Management Grade Scale II. This is first avenue of promotion at the level of the officers.An officer should have seven years service in a rural branch. It also indicates that specialist officers will take the requisite rural branch experience as and when he switches over to the mainstream of banking. Clause 5.1 prescribes the weightages for various factors for each movement in the channel of promotion. Weightage is provided for seniority for service in the scale, seniority for service as Branch Managers/Accountants, Educational/ Professional qualification and performance, on appraisal and potential. For the promotion of the level of officers, namely from Junior Management Scale I to Middle Management Scale n maximum often marks are provided as weightage for seniority for service in the scale and maximum of 20 marks are provided for seniority for service as Bank Managers/ Accountants. This is the maximum prescribed for the award of marks as contemplated in Clause 6.1. According to Clause 6.1, two marks will be awarded for every completed year of service in the respective scale subject to a maximum of 10 marks. In addition, 4 marks will be given for each year of completed service in the respective scale as Branch Manager in a rural area and 3 marks for services as a Branch Manager or Accountant in other than rural areas subject to a maximum of 20 marks.
5. It has to be seen that weightage for seniority is available on the basis of completed years of service beyond the minimum for officers in the mainstream as well as for specialist officers. For officers in the mainstream those who worked as Branch Manager or Accountant, additional marks are liable to be awarded on the basis of seniority, subject to a maximum of 20 marks. According to the petitioners, the provisions for award of marks for service as Branch Manager/ Accountants is unreasonable and arbitrary in as much as it treats equals unequally.
6. we have already explained the rationale behind the classification of specialist officers on the one hand and officers in the mainstream on the other. The classification is inherent and arises from the nature of their functions and duties. There are two different lines of employment in the bank. According to the bank, at a certain level specialists can be allowed to enter the mainstream as provided in Clauses 15.3 and 15.2. Once they entered the mainstream, they are also entitled to the benefit of marks of service as Bank Managers. Till then, of course, they will not have this advantage. A post in the middle management and the higher posts are all in the managerial cadre in the mainstream. For promotion in the managerial cadre experience and expertise in the work is necessary. The specialist officers will be wholly lacking in such expertise. Therefore, it is not possible to agree that specialist officers and officers in the mainstream are equals and they are being treated unequally. On the other hand, they are unequals and to treat them equally may possibly offend the equality clause. As we have indicated, the bank has taken care to see that the additional avenues of promotion provided for specialist officers do not unduly prejudice the interest of the officers in the mainstream. The additional marks awarded on the basis of experience as Branch Manager are intended to reflect their qualification for such promotion in comparison to those who lack in such experience. The classification is certainly reasonable and has direct nexus with the object sought to be achieved, namely, promote the most suitable among the competing officers.
7. The challenge fails and the petition is dismissed, but without costs. Security deposit, if any, shall be refunded to the petitioner.