Rashid Paul

HC rejects KAS officers’ petition challenging SRO 198

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Srinagar, Sep 17: The High Court on Monday rejected a writ petition by a group of Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officers challenging a government scheme that granted monetary benefits to some senior officers affected by litigation on account of an official seniority list.

“Having regard to the well-settled position of law on the subject, I am of the considered opinion that the challenge thrown to the policy decision of the Government, as notified vide SRO 198 of 2018 dated 25th of April, 2018, herein this petition, is untenable and, as such, liable to be rejected,” ordered Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey.

“Consequently, the petition of the petitioners is dismissed. Interim directions, if any, in force as on date, shall stand vacated,” he directed.

The judge made it clear that today’s order shall have no effect on the claim of the petitioners for their promotion pending before the court.

The petitioners pleaded that they had been appointed to KAS in 2005 and 2008, respectively. The final seniority list of officers was notified on 24th of June, 2011.

The order, however, became the subject matter of the writ petitions and is subjudice in J&K High Court.

On account of the pendency of these writ petitions and the orders passed by court, the officers could not be placed in the special scale.

However, the government took a policy decision and notified the Non-Functional (Monetary) Scheme in terms of notification bearing SRO 198 of 2018 dated 25th of April, 2015, to be operative from 1st of January, 2015.

The petitioners stated that by notifying the effective date of application of the scheme, the government has lost sight of the fact that the petitioners have also suffered on account of the dispute with regard to their seniority.

The petitioners said that although, they have the eligibility, as prescribed in the Rules of 2008, yet, they have not been placed in the Selection Grade.

The beneficiaries of the scheme and the petitioners, under law, constitute a single class as all the KAS Officers have faced stagnation due to the pending seniority dispute, they pleaded.

It is mentionable that a motion hearing, in terms of order dated 24th of July, 2018, a co-ordinate bench of High Court, stayed the operation of the scheme, notified vide SRO 198 of 2018.

The scheme, in respect of the officers of KAS was to address the de-motivation as well as the stagnation which has crept in the service at various levels due to inordinate delay in the promotions on account of seniority dispute which is pending adjudication before the court, retorted the official lawyer.

The sole objective of the scheme was only to provide monitory benefit to the officers of the service so as to keep them energized, motivated and to boost their morale for better service delivery, he said.

The court finally admitted that the cut-off date, in respect of a policy decision is fixed by the executive authority keeping in view the economic conditions, financial constraints and many other administrative/other attending circumstances.

The fixing of cut-off date is well within the domain of the executive authority and the courts, ordinarily, do not interfere with it unless such order appears to be, on the face of it, blatantly discriminatory and arbitrary, said the court.

The cut-off date has been fixed on a very valid ground, it added.

The contention of the petitioners that fixing of the cut-off date was arbitrary, irrational or had no rational basis or that it offends Article 14, is liable to be rejected, it observed.

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