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State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and ors. Vs. Prahlad Rai Khemka and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectService
CourtRajasthan High Court
Decided On
Case NumberD.B. Civil Special Appeals Nos. 276 to 279 and 320, 331 and 336 of 1983
Judge
Reported in1985(1)WLN157
AppellantState Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and ors.
RespondentPrahlad Rai Khemka and ors.
Cases ReferredU.S. Rao and Ors. v. State Bank of Hyderabad and Ors. (supra
Excerpt:
constitution of india - articles 14 and 16 and state bank of bikaner & jaipur (officers) service regulations, 1979--waiver involves conscious relinquishment of a known right--petitioners challenging validity of regulations after exercising option--held, there is no conscious relinquishment of right--held further, there can be no waiver of fundamental rights.;it is however, settled law that waiver involves the conscious relinquishment of known right. the petitioners are seeking to challenge the validity of the impugned regulation on the ground that they are violative of the right to equality guaranteed u/articles 14 & 16(1) of the constitution. in the facts and circumstances of the present case we are unable to hold that by exercising the option referred to above the petitioners.....s.c. agrawal, j.1. these specials one directed against the judgement of the learned single judge dated july 19, 1983. by the judgement aforesaid, the learned single judge has disposed of four writ petitions, namely, s.b. civil writ petition no. 925 of 1981 r.p. chhabra v. state bank of bikaner & jaipur, s.b. civil writ petition no. 982 of 1981 nand lal sharma v. state bank of bikaner & jaipur, s.b. civil writ petition no. 1021 of 1981 sbbj officers' organisation v. state bank of bikaner & jaipur and sb civil writ petition no. 509 of 1983 prahlad rai khemka v. state bank of bikaner & jaipur.2. in these writ petitions, the petitioners had challenged the validity of the regulations 6 and 7 of the state bank of bikaner and jaipur (officers) service regulations, 1979 (hereinafter referred to.....
Judgment:

S.C. Agrawal, J.

1. These specials one directed against the judgement of the learned Single Judge dated July 19, 1983. By the judgement aforesaid, the learned Single Judge has disposed of four writ petitions, namely, S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 925 of 1981 R.P. Chhabra v. State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 982 of 1981 Nand Lal Sharma v. State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1021 of 1981 SBBJ Officers' Organisation v. State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur and SB Civil Writ Petition No. 509 of 1983 Prahlad Rai Khemka v. State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur.

2. In these writ petitions, the petitioners had challenged the validity of the Regulations 6 and 7 of the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (Officers) Service Regulations, 1979 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Regulations) as well as the circulars dated 14th August, 1980 and 19th May, 1981 issued by the State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur (hereinafter referred to as 'the Bank'). The learned Single Judge has upheld the validity of the impugned Regulations but has quashed the circulars dated 14th August, 1980 and 19th May, 1981 on the ground that they are violative of the provisions of Articles 14 and 16(1) of the Constitution. Being aggrieved by the aforesaid judgment, the Bank has filed Special Appeals Nos. 276 to 279 of 1983 in the four writ petitions and three of the petitioners in the writ petitions have filed Special Appeals Nos. 320 of 1983, 331 of 1983, 336 of 1983.

3. The Bank is a subsidiary bank of the State Bank of India and is governed by the provisions of the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Bank) Act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'). Since 1st January, 1970 the Bank was having the following grades for its Officers:

Post Pay ScaleGeneral Manager 1800-2200Assistant General Manager 1725-2100Officers 'A' Grade 1200-1950Officers Grade I 500-1350Officers Grade II 500-10303

Promotion from Officers Grade II to Officers Grade I was made on the basis of a written test and interview. In the year 1973 the Government of India appointed a Committee, with Prof. V.R. Pillai, as the Chairman, known as the Pillai Committee, to enquire into and make recommendations, inter alia, on the principles that should govern the structure & pay scales of the Officers of the then 14 nationalised banks and to suggest such changes in the then existing structure as may be necessary to bring about standardisation of organisational structures and pay scales etc. The Pillai Committee found that there was a large diversity in the organisation of 14 nationalised banks and that the grade structure and pay scales showed considerable variance from bank to bank and there were large differences in categorisation of jobs of similar responsibilities. The Pillai Committee, therefore, involved a standardised grade structure passed on the identification of broad levels of responsibilities in the Officer cadres and recommended the following grades and scales for the officers:

Grades ScalesTop Executive VII 3000-125-3500VI 2750-125-3250Senior Management V 2500-100-2700IV 2000-100-2400Middle Management III 1800-75-2250II 1200-70-1550-75-2000Junior Management I 700-40 900-50-1100 EB1200-60-1800

Although the aforesaid recommendations of the Pillai Committee were not applicable to the Bank and other Subsidiary Banks of State Bank of India, but all the subsidiary banks of State Bank of India including the Bank, adopted the said recommendations of the Pillai Committee and in the light of the recommendations of the Pillai Committee, the Central Board of Directors of the State Bank of India, in consultation with the Board of Directors of the Bank, and with the previous approval of the Reserve Bank of India, made the Regulations in exercise of the power conferred by Section 63 of the Act. The Regulations came into force on 1st October, 1979 and they are applicable to all the Officers of the Bank and such other employees of the Bank to whom they may be made applicable by the Board of Directors of the Bank or the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Bank or the competent authority as defined in Regulation 3(e) to the extent and subject to such conditions as it may decide. Regulation 4 provides for following four grades for officers with the scales of pay specified against each of the grades:

(A) Top Executive Grade Scale VII Rs. 3000-125-3500

Scale VI Rs. 2750 155-3250

(B) Senior Management Grade Scale V Rs. 2500-100-2700

Scale IV Rs. 2200-100-2400

(C) Middle Management Grade Scale III Rs. 1800-75 2250

Scale II Rs. 1200-70-1550

75-2000

(D) Junior Management Grade Scale I Rs. 701-40-900-50.

1100 EB 1200-60-1800

Regulation 6 makes provision for categorisation of every post of an Officer in the Bank in any one of the grades or scales mentioned in Regulation 4 and further provides that for the purpose of categorisation every branch or office of the Bank shall be classified as small, medium, large, very large or exceptionally large category. Regulation 7 provides for the placement of the existing officers on the appointed date i. e. on October 1, 1979 in the corresponding grades and scales and prescribes that subject to the provisions of Regulation 6 existing officers serving in the grades and scales of pay mentioned in column 1 of the table given in Schedule I to the Regulations shall be placed as on the appointed date in the grade and scale specified there against in column 2 of the said schedule. Regulation 8 makes provision for fitment of every existing officer placed in any of the new grades and scales of pay in accordance with Regulation 7 at such stage in the new scale of pay corresponding to the existing grade and scale as specified in Schedule II to the Regulations. Regulation 12 gives an option to the existing officers to either continue, even after the appointed date, in the scale of pay applicable to him immediately before the appointed date by communicating to the Bank within 30 days of the receipt of the intimation regarding his fitment in the new scale of pay. Regulation 13 makes provision for an appeal by an officer against fitment accorded to him in the new scales of pay. Regulation 17 provides for promotion to all grades of officers in the Bank in accordance with the policy laid down by the Board or the Executive Committee from time to time having regard to the State Bank's guidelines. Schedule I to the Regulations provides for placement of existing officers in the New Grades and Scales in the following manner:

'SCHEDULE I

(See: Regulation 7)

Placement of Existing Officers in the New Grades and Scales in

the State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur

Grade and Scale immediately Grade and scale in

before the appointed date which placed

(1) General Managers Top Executive Grade

Scale-Rs. 1800-75-2100-2200 Scale VI

Rs. 2750125-3250

(2) Assistant General Managers Senior Management

Scale-Rs. 1725-75-2100 Grade Scale V

Rs. 2500-100-2700

(3) Officers 'A' Grade promoted as Senior Management

such on or before 31st December, Grade Scale IV

1975

Scale-Rs. 1200-60-1500-75-1950 Rs. 2000-100-2400

(4) Other Officers 'A' Grade Middle Management

Grade Scale III

Scale-Rs. 1200-60-1500-75-1950 Rs. 1800-75-2250

(5) Officers Grade I promoted as such Middle Management

from Officers Grade II on or be- Grade Scale II

fore 31st December, 1972 and other

Officers Grade I confirmed as such

on or before 31st December, 1972

Scale-Rs. 500-40 620.45-755-95- Rs. 1200-70-1550-75-

850-50-1550-EB-100-50- 2000

1150-60-1330

(6) Other Officers Grade I and Junior Management

Officers Grade II Scale Grade Scale I

Officers Grade I-Rs. 500-40-620- Rs. 700-40-900-50-

45-755-95-850- 1100-EB-1200-60-1800

50-1050-E-B1100-

1150-60-1330

Officers Grade II Rs. 500-40-62045-

980-50 1030

Explanation: Officers appointed to Special grade as specialists or technical persons, if they are in a scale exactly corresponding to the existing scale covered by the provisions above, will be placed in the corresponding new grade and scale. Other such officers, who are not in a grade or scale of pay exactly corresponding to an existing scale of pay covered above, shall be placed in the new scale of pay in such manner as may be decided by the Executive Committee.

The petitioners in the writ petitions Nos. 509/1983, 925/1981 and 982/1981, namely, Prahlad Rai Khemka, R.P. Chhabra and Nandlal Sharma, were working as officers Grade I on the date of coming into force of the Regulations. R.P. Chhabra and Nand Lal Sharma, petitioners in writ petitions Nos. 925 of 1981 and 982 of 1981 respectively, were promoted as officers grade I on 1st November 1977 (sic) and Prahlad Rai Khemka, petitioner in writ No. 509 of 1983 was promoted as officer grade I on 1st March, 1977. They were all placed in Junior Management Grade Scale I on the appointed date i.e. 1st October, 1979 in accordance with Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations.

4. After the Regulations had been issued, the Bank issued, a circular dated 1st August 14, 1980 whereby it was notified that the Executive Committee, at its meeting held on 16th July, 1980, had decided that all officers Grade I who are promoted/confirmed as such on or before 1st October, 1975 be deemed to have been in the middle management Grade Scale II as from the 1st January, 1980. By another circular dated May 19, 1981 the Bank notified that it was proposed to consider 125 promotions to the Middle Management Grade Scale II on ad hoc basis and that officers in the erstwhile Grade Scale I, as on 31st December, 1978, would be considered for such promotions subject to their being found suitable for the purpose and the eligible officers were called for interview Feeling aggrieved by Regulations 6 and 7 read with Schedule I the Regulations and the circulars dated 14th August, 1980 and 19th May, 1981, the three petitioners referred to above filed the above mentioned writ petitions in this Court. Another writ petition, S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1021 of 1981 was filed by the State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur Officers Organisation representing officers of the Bank working in the Junior Management Grade. In the said writ petition also validity of the aforesaid Regulations as well as Circulars was challenged.

5. In so far as the Regulations are concerned, their validity has been challenged on the ground that before the Regulations came into force all Grade ) Officers of the Bank constituted one class and that after the coming into force of the Regulations. Grade I officers have been arbitrarily divided into two categories, and those officers Grade I who were promoted or confirmed as officers grade I before 31st December, 1972 were placed in middle management Grade Scale II and the remaining officers Grade I were placed in junior management Grade Scale I and that the aforesaid classification between Officers Grade I on the basis of the date of their promotion or confirmation, i.e. 31st December, 1972, was arbitrary and violative of the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. With regard to the circular dated 14th August, 1980, the case of the petitioners was hat the said circular also arbitrarily picks out officers Grade I who had been promoted/ confirmed on or before 1st October, 1975 for discriminatory treatment and places them in middle management grade Scale II with effect from 1st January, 1980 whereas other officers Grade I have been denied such placement and that the said circular was, therefore, violative of the provisions of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution. With regard to the circular dated 19th May, 1981, the case of the petitioners was that it arbitrarily discriminates between officers Grade I in as much as officers Grade I who were promoted or confirmed as officers Grade I before 1st October, 19 75 were placed in middle management Grade Scale II without being required to face a selection through the process of interview, while other officers grade I even though similarly situated were being required to undergo a process of selection through interview for the purpose of promotion to middle management Grade Scale II. The writ petitions aforesaid were contested by the Bank and in the reply filed on behalf of the Bank certain preliminary objections were raised with regard to maintainability of the writ petitions. As regards the merits it was submitted on behalf of the Bank that the date, 31st December, 1972, fixed in Schedule I to the Regulations and the date, 1st October. 1975, fixed in the circular dated 14th August, 1980 were not arbitrary and were based on reasonable classification keeping in view the needs of the Bank and that the Regulations as well as circular dated 14th August. 1980 could not be held to be violative of the provisions of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution. With regard to the circular date i 19th May, 1981, it was submitted that the said circular was issued after having discussions with the Associate Bank Officer Association and that the petitioner could not have any grievance against the interviews which were being held.

6. The learned Single Judge rejected the preliminary objections raised on behalf of the Bank with regard to the maintainability of the writ petitions, namely, that the petitioners had an alternative remedy and that the petitioners, were guilty of laches. With regard to the merits, the learned Single Judge held that the existing officers in Grade I were placed in the new grades, namely, Middle Management Grade Scale II & the Junior Management Grade Scale I after taking into account the required strength of the new cadres and having regard to the responsibilities and functions exercisable at various levels. According the learned Single Judge, the placement of officers Grade I in Middle Management Grade Scale II on the basis of promotion/confirmation on or before 31st December, 1972 and the placement of the rest of the officers grade I in Junior Management Grade Scale I appears to have been made by the Bank after approximately assessing the number of posts required in Middle Management Grade Scale II. The learned Single Judge further observed that the Bank could very well specify the number of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II and could make initial appointment or fitment into these posts of officers in the erstwhile Grade 1 strictly in accordance with the cardinal principle of seniority and that if the Bank had done so, there could have been no discrimination amongst the officers of grade I and that if instead of doing so, the Bank decided to place officers grade I promoted or confirmed as such on or before 31st December, 1972 in Middle Management Grade Scale II and to fit other officers Grade I, who were appointed and confirmed after Dec, 1972 in Junior Middle Management grade Scale I, such a decision was neither discriminatory nor violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. The learned Single Judge was of the view that the officers grade I, including the petitioners, who have been promoted as such after 31st December, 1972 could not complain that they have been subjected to discrimination, especially when the placement and fitment of officers grade I into Middle Management Grade Scale II and Junior Management Grade Scale I was done strictly according to the seniority and approximately assessing the required number of officers for Middle Management Grade Scale II. With regard to the circulars dated 14th August, 1980 and 19th May, 1981 the learned Single Judge held that as between officers Grade I who were promoted or confirmed, as such, after 31st October, 1972 and placed in Junior Management grade scale I along with officers Grade II, there can be no discrimination in matter relating to promotion to the higher Middle Management Grade Scale II, because once they having been included into a single grade or unit of employment, it was not permissible for the Bank to provide a differential treatment between personnel of the same grade and that the subsequent differentiation amongst the officers of the same grade or unit on the basis of their being promoted or confirmed as such on or before a particular date i.e. 1st October, 1975 in the matter of promotion to the higher grade violated Article 16(1) of the Constitution. The learned Single Judge, therefore, while upholding the validity of Regulations, quashed the circulars dated 14th Aug., 1980 and 19th May, 1981 on the ground that the same were discriminatory and violative of the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Feeling aggrieved by the aforesaid order of the learned Single Judge, the Bank as well as the petitioners R.P. Chhabra, P.R. Khemka and the SBBJ Officers Organisation have filed these special appeals.

7. We have heard Shri G.C. Kasliwal and Shri D.K. Soral, the learned Counsel for the Bank and Shri G.S. Singhvi, Shri MR. Calla, Shri S.R. Surana, the learned Counsel for the petitioners in the writ petitions.

8. We will first take up the question as to the validity of the Regulations read with Schedule I to the Regulations. But before we do so, it will be necessary to deal with the objection that has been raised by Shri Kasliwal on behalf of the Bank that the petitioners, in view of their having opted for the new grades as prescribed in the Regulations, are precluded from challenging the validity of the Regulations. In our opinion the aforesaid objection raised by Shri Kasliwal is without any substance. The aforesaid objection is based on the principle that the petitioners by exercising their option in favour of the new grades under the Regulations, have waived their right to challenge the validity of the Regulation. It is, however, settled law that waiver involves the conscious relinquishment of a known right. The petitioners are seeking to challenge the validity of the impugned Regulations on the ground that they are violative of the right to equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 16(1) of the Constitution. In the facts and circumstances of the present case we are unable to hold that by exercising the option referred to above the petitioners had consciously relinquished their fights under Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Moreover, in so far as the right of equality guaranteed under Articles 14 and 16 is concerned, the law is well settled that the aforesaid fundamental right cannot be waived (See: Basheshar Nath v. Commissioner of Income-tax Delhi and Rajasthan and Anr. : [1959]35ITR190(SC) . In the circumstances the fact that the petitioners had exercised their option in favour of the new grades as prescribed in the Regulations would not preclude them from challenging the validity of the Regulations on the ground that they are violative of right of equality guaranteed to them under Articles 14 and 16(1) of the Constitution. We may in this connection refer to the decision of the Allahabad High Court in Chief Justice of the High Court of Allahabad and Ors. v. Abdul Wahid Khan and Ors. 1971 Lab. & Ind. Cases 773, wherein it has been laid down that employees who have opted to the new pay scales are not precluded from questioning the validity of requirements fixed in order of new pay scales on the ground that the same were violative of the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

9. We may now come to the merits of the challenge to the validity of Regulation 7 read with Schedule I. As noticed earlier, Regulation 7 provides for placement of existing officers on the appointed date in corresponding grades and scales with reference to Schedule I to the Regulations wherein placement has been made of existing officers in the new grades and scale. In this connection it may be pointed out that placement under Regulation 7 has to be distinguished from promotion which is governed by Regulation 17. Placement means placing of officers working with the Bank on the date of coming into force of the Regulations, in the various management scales created under Regulation 4. In other words placement implies that all the posts falling in the various management scales, as on the date of the coming into force of the Regulations, will be filled by Officers working with the Bank on the date of the coming into force of the Regulations. Placement must, therefore, take effect from the date of the coming into force of the Regulations. Promotion, on the other hand postulates the appointment of an Officer working on one of the management scales referred to in Regulation 4 to a higher management scales referred to in the said Regulation. Promotion is a stage which follows placement and must take effect from a date subsequent to the coming into force of the Regulations; categorisation of posts, as contemplated by Regulation 6, is a step in the aid of placement because without categorisation of various posts of Officers which existed on the date of coming into force of the Regulation into the various management scales created by Regulation 4 it would not be possible to ascertain the number of posts in the new management scale on which placement is to be made.

10. In the present case we are concerned 'with Officers Grade I. According to Schedule I, Officers Grade I who had been promoted, as such from Officers Grade II on or before 31st December, 1972 and other Officers Grade I confirmed as such on or about 31st December, 1972 have been placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II and other Officers of grade I along with Officers Grade II have been placed in Junior Management Grade Scale I. The case of the petitioners is that all Officers who were in Grade I on 1st October, 1979, constituted one class and under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations the said Officers Grade I have been arbitrarily classified into two categories for the purpose of placement and Officers Grade I who were promoted as such from Officers Grade II on or before 31st December. 1972 and other Officers Grade I who were confirmed as such on or before 31st December. 1972 have been placed in the higher Middle Management Grade Scale II and the other Officers Grade I have been placed in the Junior Management Grade Scale I. The submission of the learned Counsel for the petitioners is that the aforesaid classification based on the date of promotion or confirmation in Officers Grade I is arbitrary in as much as the said date 31st December, 1972 has no rational basis what-so ever. The case of the Bank is that having regard to their functions and responsibilities the erstwhile Grade I posts in the Bank could have fallen within the category of Junior Management Grade Scale I while a few posts could have fallen in the Middle Management Grade Scale II and that all Officers in the erstwhile Grade I could not be fitted in Middle Management Grade Scale II and that date 31st December, 1972 that has been fixed in Schedule I to the Regulation was so fixed having regard to the rough estimated vacancies that may arise in the Middle Management Grade Scale II as a result of initial categorisation pending completion of categorisation of various posts at Heidi Office and its branches as contemplated in Regulation 6. In this regard the case of the Bank is further Officers Grade I who have been placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II under the impugned Regulation 7 are all senior to the petitioners and the petitioners could have no grievance. The Bank has also placed reliance on the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in U.S. Rao and Ors. v. State Bank of Hyderabad and Ors. decided on 7th December, 1982 and the decision of the Karnataka High Court in Achytanatha Swamy and Ors. v. State Bank of Mysore and Ors. decided on 25th August, 1982, wherein similar provisions contained in the Regulations framed by the State Bank of Hyderabad and the State Bank of Mysore have been upheld on the view that the date 31st December, 1972 was fixed by the management after assessing the required number of Officers.

11. As mentioned earlier in the present case also the learned Single Judge has upheld the validity of the impugned Regulation on the view that in fixing the date, 31st Decembei, 1972 in Schedule I to the Regulations, the Bank has taken into account the required strength of new cadres after approximately assessing the number of posts required in the Middle Management Grade Scale II. The aforesaid finding recorded by the learned Single Judge has, however, been assailed by Shri Singhvi and Shri Surana, the learned Counsel for the petitioners before us and our attention has been invited to paragraph 3 of the rejoinder that has been filed in S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 509 of 1983 where in, on the basis of the circulars of the Bank dated 2nd July, 1982 and 18th December, 1982, it has been stated that the number of vacancies in the Middle Management Grade Scale II on 1st October, 1979 was 291 and that on the basis of the placement made in Schedule I to the Regulations, the number of Officers who had been promoted/confirmed on or before 31st December, 1972 and who were placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II was 154 only In the aforesaid paragraph of the rejoinder it has also been mentioned that even after taking into account the Officers who were promoted/confirmed, on or before 1st December, 1975 only 237 officers could be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II. The case of the Bank is that the number of posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II were lesser in number than the Officers who were working as Officers Grade I on 1st October, 1979, the date on which the Regulations came into force and that all Officers Grade I could not be placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II. This position has not been disputed by the petitioners. Since all the Officers who were in the erstwhile Grade I could not be accommodated in the Middle Management Grade Scale II and only a limited number of such Officers could be placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II in the light of the number of posts that were available in the Middle Management Grade Scale II, the case of the Bank is that by providing in Schedule I to the Regulations the Officers Grade I who had been promoted or confirmed as such on or before 31st December, 1972 would be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II, the Bank has adopted the principle of seniority in the matter of placement of Officers Grade I in the Middle Management Gride Scale II. Seniority could afford a proper basis for placement of Officers who were in the erstwhile Grade I in the Middle Management Grade Scale II. The learned Counsel for the petitioners also do not dispute the correctness of this proposition. Their submission is that while adopting this criterion of seniority in the matter of placement of Officers Grade I in the Middle Management Grade Scale II, the Regulations have prescribed an arbitrary date by providing in Schedule I that Officer Grade I who were promoted/confirmed as such on or before 31st December, 1972, shall be placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II. The question which, therefore, arises for consideration is as to whether the date 31st December, 1972, mentioned in Schedule I to the Regulations can, be said to have been fixed arbitrarily.

12. It is no doubt permissible to classify persons or subjects on the basis of a particular date. Such a classification will satisfy the requirements of Article 14 if the choice of the date is not arbitrary and capricious and is not wholly unrelated to the object sought to be achieved by the impugned action. If the choice of date is found to be arbitrary or capricious and unrelated to the object sought to be achieved by the impugned action, it cannot be upheld and must be struck down on the ground of violation of the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14. The choice of date was held to be a reasonable basis for classification in Union of India v. Parmeswaran Mathu Works : 1978(2)ELT436(SC) , and D.C.Ghosh v. State of Kerala : [1980]1SCR804 . The choice of date was held to be arbitrary and, therefore, violation of Article 14 of the Constitution in D.R. Nima v. Union of India : (1968)ILLJ264SC , Jaila Singh v. State of Rajasthan : AIR1975SC1436 and D.S. Nakara v. Union of India : (1983)ILLJ104SC .

13. In the present case the date 31st December, 1972 that has been fixed in Schedule I to (he Regulations, has been sought to be justified by the Bank on he ground that it was fixed after taking into account the number of posts which would fall in Middle Management Grade Scale II and that the number of officers who had been promoted or confirmed in Grade I upto that date were roughly equal to the number of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II. The learned Single Judge has accepted the aforesaid explanation of the Bank. In this regard it may be mentioned that the same date i.e. 31st December, 1972, is found in similar Regulations framed by the subsidiary Banks of the State Bank of India, including the State Bank of Hyderabad and the State Bank of Mysore and from the decisions of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in U.S. Rao and Ors. v. State Bank of Hyderabad and Ors. (supra), it appears that the choice of the said date was justified by those Banks also on the same ground and the said explanation was accepted by the learned Judges in these cases. We are, however, unable to accept the aforesaid explanation offered by the Bank for the choice of the date. To our mind it would be a strange coincidence that in the subsidiary Banks of the State Bank of India the number of posts in the Middle Mangement Grade Scale II would roughly by equal to the Officers Grade I promoted/ confirmed on or before 31st December, 1972. The untenability of this explanation in so far as the Bank is concerned is amply demonstrated by the figures as given in paragraph 3 of the rejoinder filed in S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 509 of 1983. The correctness of these figures has not been disputed by the Bank. From the figures as given in paragraph 3 of the rejoinder filed in S.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 509 of 1983, we find that the number of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II on 1st October, 1979 was 291 and according to the rate, 31st December, 1972 fixed in Schedule I to the Regulations, only 154 officers could be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II and that even if the date of promotion/confirmation as Officer Grade I had been fixed as 1st October, 1975, the number of such Officers would have been only 237 which figure is also much below the total number of 291 posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II on 1st October, 1979. In the circumstances it must be held that the date, 31st December, 1972, which has been fixed in Schedule I to the Regulations was fixed arbitrarily and bears no real relationship with the number of posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II on 1st October, 1979. If the date 3lst December, 1972 provided in Schedule I to the Regulations is held to be arbitrary, Regulation 7 read with Schedule I would be violative of provisions of Articles 14 and 16(1) of the Constitution for the reason that it discriminates between Officers Grade I in the matter of placement in Middle Management Grade Scale II and arbitrarily picks out only those Officers who had been promoted/confirmed on or before 31st December, 1972 for such placement. Normally this would have necessitated the quashing of Regulation 7 and Schedule I to the Regulation. Such a consequence would be avoided if it is held that the placement which has been done under Regulation 7 is not the final placement but is only in the nature of initial placement and that the said placement which has been made under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations is to be followed by a final placement to be made in the light of the categorisation to be made under Regulation 6 after the coming into force of the Regulations. In this context it may be mentioned that Regulation 6 provides that having regard to the responsibilities and functions exercisable every post of an officer in the Bank shall be categorised by the Central Board or the Executive Committee or the competent authority. The said Regulation also prescribes the time limit of two years for the completion of the categorisation of the posts in existence on the appointed date. The said Regulation further provides that for the purposes of categorisation of posts every branch or office of the Bank shall be classified by the Bank in accordance with the criteria to be approved by the Board or the Executive Committee as small, medium, large, very large or exceptionally large category. Regulation 6 thus postulates that the process of categorisation of the various posts of Officers in the Bank would be undertaken after coming into force the Regulations. Regulation 7 starts with the words, 'subject to the provisions of regulation 6', meaning thereby that the placement of existing officers which has been made under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations is subject to the categorisation which will be made under Regulation 6 and the aforesaid placement which has been done under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I will be modified in the light of the categorisation that is made under Regulation 6. This would mean that the placement which has been done under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations is not a final placement and the date 31st December, 1972 which has been fixed in the Schedule I of the Regulations is only in the nature of tentative date based on a conservative estimate of the number of vacancies in the Middle Management Grade Scale II and the said placement would be subject to the categorisation of the posts made under Regulation 6 and that if, as a result of the categorisation under Regulation 6, the number of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II, as on 1st October, 1979, are found to be more than the number of Officers who have been placed in that grade under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations, then an additional number of Officers Grade I would be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II in the light of the additional posts of the Middle Management Grade Scale II as per categorisation under Regulation 6. If Regulation 7 read with Schedule I is construed thus it would not suffer from the vice of discrimination pointed out above and it would not be open to challenge on the ground of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

14. It may be mentioned that the learned Counsel appearing for the Bank did not support the aforesaid interpretation of Regulations 6 & 7. They have submitted that the placement done under Regulation 7 read with Sch. I to the Regulations is the final placement and that categorisation of post under Regulation 6 will have no bearing on the placement of Officers under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I. The submission of the learned Counsel for the Bank was that if additional posts became available in the Middle Management Grade Scale II as a result of categorisation under Regulation 6, the said post will have to be filled by promotion from Officers in Junior Management Grade Scale I and not by placement of erstwhile Officers Grade I. The aforesaid contention of the learned Counsel for the Bank is not, however, in accordance with the stand taken by the Bank in its reply to the writ petition. In the reply that has been filed on behalf of the Bank, after referring to Regulation 6, it has been stated that: 'Having brought about this new organisational structure, the existing officers of the Bank have to be placed in any one of the new grades and scales. For this purpose a tentative review of the various posts of Officers in the Bank was undertaken and the number of posts that would be available in each of the grades and scales, as categorised under the new organisational structure on the basis of the guidelines provided by the Government, was ascertained. These new posts in the new dispensation had to be filled by the existing Officers by means of appropriate placement'. In the said reply it has been further stated: 'The dates were fixed having regard to the rough estimated vacancies that may arise in the Middle Management Scale II as a result of initial categorisation pending completion of categorisational of various posts at Head Office and its Branches as contemplated in Regulation 6 of the SBBJ (Officer's) Service Regulations, 1979 and as it is likely to take some time for this exercise.'

15. In our opinion the aforesaid stand taken by the Bank in its reply to the writ petition is based upon a correct interpretation of the provisions of Regulations 6 and 7 of the Regulations and the oral submissions, to the category, made by the learned Counsel for the Bank, cannot be accepted, On a proper consideration of Regulations 6 and 7 of the Regulations, the placement that has been made under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I, can only be held in the nature of initial placement which is subject to categorisation of posts of Officers in the Bank under Regulation 6 and if, as a result of categorisation under Regulation 6, the number of posts of Middle Management Grade Scale II on 1st October, 1979 is found to be more than the number of Officers who have been placed on the said posts under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I, the remaining posts should be filled by placement of officers Grade I with effect from 1st October, 1979. the date on which the Regulations came into force. If Regulations 6 and 7 are thus construed, Regulation 7 read with Schedule I cannot be said to be violative of provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution in as much as it would enable all posts of Middle Management Grade Scale II, as on 1st October, 1979 being filled by Officers Grade I on the basis of seniority. In this context it would be pertinent to note that it is a settled rule of statutory interpretation that if a particular enactment can be given two possible constructions, the construction which would make it constitutional must be preferred over the construction which would render it unconstitutional. In the present case we find that the construction placed on Regulations 6 and 7 by the learned Counsel for the Bank during the course of oral submissions before us would render the provisions of Regulation 7 read with Schedule I as unconstitutional as being violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. The said Regulation would not suffer from this vice of unconstitutionality if Regulations 6 and 7 are construed in the manner as suggested in the reply filed by the Bank to the writ petition, to mean that the placement done under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I is in the nature of initial placement only and the final placement is to be made on the basis of the categorisation of posts under Regulation 6. In the circumstances the latter construction must be preferred and it must be held that in view of the construction placed by us on Regulations 6 and 7, namely, that the placement done under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I is in the nature of initial placement and that the final placement, of erstwhile. Officers Gride I in the Middle Management Grade Scale II will have to be done on the basis of categorisation of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II under Regulation 6, the above provision of Regulation 7 read with Schedule I cannot be said to be violative of the provisions of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

16. We may now take up the questions as to the validity of the circulars dated 14th August, 1980 and 19th May, 1981. Before we proceed to deal with the said questions, we may refer to the objections that have been raised by Shri G.C. Kasliwal, the learned Counsel for the Bank. The first objection that was raised by Shri Kasliwal was that the averments in the writ petitions with regard to the invalidity of the circulars are not specific and they should be ignored. In our opinion there is no substance in the said objection. The writ petitions contain specific averments to the effect that the circular dated 14th August,1980 is violative of the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution for the person that the date 1st October, 1975 has been fixed arbitrarily and that there was not justification for treating Officers Grade I appointed prior to 1st October, 1975 differently from those who were appointed subsequent to 1st October, 1975. Similarly with regard to the circular date 19th May, 1981 it has been specifically asserted in the writ petition that the said circular is violative of the provision of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution for the reason that it.^equates erstwhile Officers Grade I with Officers Grade I and arbitrarily discriminates against the petitioners in subjecting them to interview for the purpose;of promotion to Middle Management Grade Scale II whereas other Officers Grade I were placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II automatically without an interview.

17. Another objection that was raised by Shri Kasliwal that the impugned circulars only give effect to the decision of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Bank and that no effective relief can be granted to the petitioners without quashing the resolutions of the Executive Committee referred to in the impugned circulars and that the petitioners having not asked for the production of the said resolutions of the, Executive Committee, cannot seek quashing of the circulars. In our opinion this objection is also without any substance. It is true that the impugned, circulars are based upon the decisions of the, Executive Committee referred to in the circulars. But in so far as the petitioners are concerned, they are adversely affected to the circulars which give effect to the decisions of the Executive Committee and, therefore, they are entitled to challenge the validity of these circulars, In our view it was not necessary for the petitioners to ask for the production of the resolutions of the Executive Committee which form the basis of the impugned circulars and the fact that they have not asked for the production of the resolution of the Executive Committee referred to in the impugned circulars, cannot be ground to deny relief to the petitioners.

18. Taking up the circular dated 14th August, 1980, we may observe that the said circular provides that all Officers Grade I who were promoted/ confirmed as such on or before 1st October, )975 shall be deemed to have been in the Middle. Management Grade Scale II as from 1st January, 1980. According to the reply filed on behalf of the Bank in the writ petition, this circular is also for the placement of the erstwhile Grade I Officers in the Middle Management Grade Scale I[. From the reply filed on behalf of the Bank it does not however appear that at the time when the said circular was issued, the process of categorisation of the posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II under Regulation 6 had been completed and the date 1st October, 1975 that was fixed in the said circular for the purpose of placement of erstwhile Grade I Officers in Middle Management Grade Scale II was fixed on (hat basis. On the other hand, it appears that the said date was also fixed on the basis of a rough estimate only. This is borne out by the figures as contained in para 3 of the rejoinder in the writ petition No. 509 of 1983 which show that even on the basis of the aforesaid date 1st October, 1975, the number of erstwhile Grade I Officers promoted/confirmed on 1st October, 1975, was 237 whereas the number of posts of Middle Management Grade Scales II as on 1st October, 1979 was much more, i.e. 291. The aforesaid circular suffers from one further infirmity inasmuch as it provides that officers covered by the circular would be given Middle Management Grade Scale I[ with effect from 1st January, 1980 and not from 1st October, 1979, If the said circular was issued with a view to make provision for placement of erstwhile Grade I Officers on the basis of the vacancies in the Middle Management Grade Scale II as on 1st October, 1979 then the Officers covered by the said circular should have been given the benefit of placement in the Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st October, 1979 the date on which the Regulations came into force and such Officers have been wrongly denied the said benefit. The intention of the Regulations is that placement is to be done with effect from 1st October, 1979, the date on which the Regulations come into force and subsequent to 1st October, 1979 an Officer can be given Middle Management Grade Scale II only by way of promotion under Regulation 17. In our opinion, therefore, the circular dated 14th August, 1980 cannot be upheld in so far as it arbitrarily confines its benefit to Officers erstwhile Grade I Officers who were promoted/confirmed on or before 1st October, 1975 and in so far as it places the erstwhile Grade I officers in Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st January, 1980 instead of 1st October, 1979.

19. The circular dated 19th May, 1981, provides that pursuant to the discussions held with the representatives of the Associate Bank's Officers Association at the Central officer of the State Bank of India on 18th March, 1981, it was agreed to consider 125 promotions to Middle Management Grade Scale II on ad hoc basis & that Officers in the erstwhile Grade Scale I as on 3lst December, 1978 would be considered for such promotions subject to their being found suitable for the purpose. By the said circular the Officers in the eastwhile Grade I as on 31st December, 1978 have been called for interview for the purpose of considering their suitability for promotion to the Middle Management Grade Scale II on ad hoc basis. The said circular has been challenged by the petitioners on the ground that it seeks to discriminate between Officers Grade I and that Officers Grade I not covered by Regulation 7 read with Schedule I and the circular dated 14th August, 1980 are being subjected to an interview for the purpose of adjudging their suitability for the Middle Management Grade Scale II whereas other erstwhile Grade I Officers who have been placed in Middle Management Grade II under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I and under circular dated 14th August, 1980 were not required to face such an interview and were automatically placed in Middle Mgnagement Grade II. According to the petitioners all erstwhile Officers Grade I were similarly situated having been promoted as Officers Grade I after passing a written test and facing an interview and the mere fact that the number of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II were lesser than the number of erstwhile Grade I Officers, would not justify the remaining erstwhile Grade I Officers, who could not be accommodated in Middle Management Grade Scale II on the date of coming into force of Regulations, being required to undergo a mere onerous requirements of Selection by interview before being placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II. In view of our findings with regard to the constitutional validity of Regulation 7 read with Schedule I and the circular dated 14th August, 1980, we are of the opinion that the circular dated 19th May, 1981 cannot be upheld and must be quashed, because the Bank must first complete the process of placement of erstwhile Grade I officers in the Middle Management Grade Scale If on the basis of the categorisation which is made under Regulation 6 and after having placed erstwhile Grade I Officer on the posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II as on 1-10-1997>>, the remaining erstwhile Grade I Officers can be considered for promotion to Middle Management Grade Scale II on the posts which fall vacant after 1st October, 1979. We are further of the opinion that in the matter of promotion to those posts also, no discrimination can be made between erstwhile Grade I Officers who were placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st October, 1979 and the other erstwhile Grade I Officers and the erstwhile Grade I Officers who could not be placed in the Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st October, 1979, cannot be required to face a further interview for the purpose of promotion to the Middle Management Grade Scale II. On the date of coming into force of the Regulations, all Officers Grade I constituted one class and out of those Grade I Officers, some Officers on the basis of seniority were placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II and other Officers Grade I could not be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II on account of non-availability of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II. The aforesaid fortutious circumstance of non-availability of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II would not justify the said erstwhile Grade I Officers, who could not be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II on 1st October, 1979 and were placed in Junior Management Grade I on 1st October, being required to face or interview for the purpose of promotion to Middle Management Grade I while other erstwhile Grade I Officers who were placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II as on 1st October, 1979 were so placed automatically without facing an interview.

20. The aforesaid discussion leads to the following conclusions:

(i) The placement which has been done under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations, of the erstwhile Officers Grade I in the Middle Management Grade Scale II, is in the nature of initial placement made on the basis of a tentative estimate of the number of posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II and the said placement is subject to modification after categorisation of posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II has been made under Regulation 6.

(ii) Since the placement that has been done under Regulation 7 read with Schedule I is only in the nature of initial placement and not a final placement, the provisions of Regulation 7 read with Schedule I to the Regulations cannot be held to be violative of the provisions of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution on the ground that under the said Regulations all erstwhile Officers Grade I have been arbitrarily classified into two categories on the basis of promotion/confirmation on or before an arbitrary date, i.e. 31st December, 1972.

(iii) The additional number of posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II which became available on the basis of categorisation made under Regulation 6, should be filled by placement of erstwhile Officers Grade I in Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st October, 1979.

(iv) The circular dated 14th August, 1980 is liable to be quashed as being yiolative of Articles 14 & 16 of the Constitution in as much as it picks out for placement in Middle Management Grade Scale II certain erstwhile Grade I officers arbitrarily on the basis of their promotion/confirmation on or before 1st October, 1975 and further it places them in Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st January, 1980 and not with effect from 1st' October, 1979.

(v) All erstwhile Grade I Officers who could not be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st October, 1979 are entitled to be promoted to Middle Management Grade Scale II against the vacancies which occurred after 1st Ocotober, 1979 and for the purpose of the said promotion, they cannot be required to face an interview and the circular dated 19th May, 1981 which required such Officers to face an interview is liable to be quashed being violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

21. We may also mention here that in the writ petition No. 509 of 1983 filed by Shri P.R. Khemka, the case of the said petitioner is further that he had passed both parts of C.A.I.I.B. examination and had 7 years, experience in line assignment and that on 1st March, 1982 he had become eligible for promotion to Officers Grade 'A' which is equivalent to Middle Management Grade Scale III and Senior Management Grade Scale IV and that he is senior and better qualified in comparison to the persons who have been placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II and who do not posses the qualification of CAIIB. In the writ petition he had prayed for a stay of promotion to the Middle Management Grade Scale HI and the Supreme Court by its order dated 6th May, 1983 in Special Appeal No. 5420 of 1983, has directed that one post in the Middle Management Grade Scale III may be kept, vacant, till the disposal of the writ petition filed by him in this Court and that if he succeeds in the writ petition, the question of seniority can be determined by this Court. In the fight of the conclusions referred to above, the case of the aforesaid petitioner will first have to be considered for the purpose of placement/promotion in Middle Management Grade Scale II. If he is found entitled to be placed in Middle Management Grade Scale II with effect from 1st October, 1979, or to be promoted to the Middle Management Grade Scale II and he is found eligible for promotion to the Middle Management Grade Scale HI on the date when the interview for filling the post in Middle Management Grade Scale III were held during the pendency of, the writ petition, the case of the said petitioner would be considered for promotion to the Middle Management Grade Scale III by the Bank against one of the posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale III.

22. In the result Special appeals Nos. 276 to 279 of 1983 filed by the Bank are dismissed. Special appeals Nos. 320 of 1983, 331 and 336 of 1983 are partly allowed and the circulars dated 14th August, 1980 and 19th May, 1981 are quashed. The Bank is directed to place with effect from 1st October, 1979 the erstwhile Grade I Officers who were promoted/confirmed after 31st December, 1972 in the Middle Management Grade Scale II on the basis of seniority on the posts in the Middle Management Grade Scale II as determined on the basis of categorisation of posts made under Regulation 6 of the Regulations and as against posts in Middle Management Grade Scale II which are created or fall vacant after 1st October, 1979 the remaining erstwhile Grade I Officers shall be promoted on the basis of seniority without they being required to face an interview. There will be no order as to costs in these appeals.


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