Rashid Paul

CAT has no jurisdiction over process of appointments in J&K Bank: HC

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Srinagar: In a landmark judgment, the J&K High Court Friday held that the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) does not have the jurisdiction over the process of selection for appointments in J&K Bank and the court continues to have jurisdiction to entertain petitions on the matter.

“The CAT does not have the jurisdiction under Section 14 in relation to the subject matter of controversy in the instant case; and, further, that this court continues to have the jurisdiction in relation thereto to entertain this petition,” Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey said.

The judgment followed a petition that challenged the cancellation of selection process for the posts of probationary officers and banking associates advertised by J&K Bank in 2018.

Advocate General D C Raina, and J&K Bank counsel Sunil Sethi, had pleaded that in view of the application of the Central Administrative Tribunal Act in the post-August 05, 2019 scenario, J&K High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain this writ petition against the J&K Bank.

The duo submitted “after the establishment of the CAT for the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, all the jurisdiction, powers and authority which were exercisable by J&K High Court immediately before establishment of the CAT are now exercisable by it (CAT) as the court of first instance.”

Jehangir Iqbal Ganai, counsel for the aggrieved petitioners submitted “the instant matter does not fall within the purview of sub-section (1) of Section 14, but is covered by sub-section (3) thereof, which exclusively refers to “any local or other authority or corporation or society”.

He also submitted that the provision of sub-section (3) does not have an automatic application to local or other authorities or corporations or societies, but this provision is to be applied by the Central government by notification which has not been issued on the matter.

“Banking service or the posts borne on the bank cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be called as civil service of the Union or civil posts under the Union,” he added.

The court held “clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 14 specifically mentions and relates to recruitment and matters concerning recruitment. But it does not relate to the Banking Services or the posts borne thereon”.

The section, it said specifically enumerates the services to which it is relatable, that is, to any All India Service or to any civil service of the Union or a civil post under the Union or to a post connected with defence or in the defence services, being, in either case, a post filled by a civilian.

“Obviously, the posts borne on the service of the bank in respect of which recruitment is to be made do not constitute All India Service. These posts, or the service of the bank, also do not constitute civil service of the Union or civil posts under the Union or posts connected with defence or defence services filled by civilians,” it said.

The court said that there does not exist a master and servant relationship between the UTs of J&K and Ladakh and the employees on the service of the bank.

The right to select and appoint the holders of the posts borne on the service of the bank is with the bank, Justice Magray held.

The Government order on the matter, he said clearly suggests that the posts are created by the bank itself and recruitments thereto are, or are to be, made by the bank itself.

“It can by no stretch of interpretation of clause (a) of sub-section (1) of section 14 of the CAT Act be said that the service of the bank is, or constitutes, a civil service of the Union or the posts borne on the service of the bank are, or constitute, civil posts under the Union”, he said.

The bench admitted the petition of the aggrieved candidates saying it would proceed to hear the counsel for the parties on the merits of the cancellation of the process of selection and issuance of a fresh advertisement notice by the J&K Bank.

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