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The Supreme Court will hear on Friday the Centre’s plea challenging the Delhi High Court  May 3 order quashing the cadre allocation of IAS and IPS officers of 2018 batch. The HC had asked the Centre to go through the fresh cadre allocation.

The matter came up for urgent listing before a bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna. It was put to the bench by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who told the bench that those selected in 2018 batch have undergone training and were supposed to start joining their respective cadres from May 10. The Delhi High Court had quashed the Centre’s cadre allocations  with a bench accepted the submission of the officers who had approached the court challenging the process, that cadre allocation is a matter which would affect their careers for all times to come. It noted that re-allocation of cadres by the authorities should not take much time as it is done electronically, that is through computer programme or software, and the authorities already possess the requisite data in this regard.

It said the court was inclined to grant relief to the petitioners considering that they have approached the court at the very earliest and at a stage when neither the IAS officers nor the IPS officers of the 2018 batch have commenced their on-site training which are cadre specific.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had amended the earlier roster-based system of cadre allocation policy in 2017 to make it a zone-based policy. According to the government, the move was to ensure that they do not turn into regional services because an increasing number of officers were opting for cadres in their home states or neighboring states. The Delhi HC order   said that cadres for IAS and IPS officers of the 2018 batch should be re-allocated based on merit and preferences highlighted by them. If the SC stays the HC order, the training and preparation schedule of 2018 batch officers would continue.

Well placed sources told India Legal that the problem had arisen only because of a handful of officers were unhappy with the cadres allotted to them and were determined to throw a spanner that will disrupt the careers of hundred of officers. At present, the training of 2018 batch officers is already on and afterwards they will further undergo a training in one of the districts of the state that they have been allocated. Post that, they will go through second phase of the training. The entire training period is around two years.

The Delhi HC verdict came on four petitions filed by various officers challenging the notification of Central government allocating cadres to candidates of Indian Police Service (IPS) on the basis of results of the Civil Services Examination (CSE), 2017.

The petitioners said in the plea that the interpretation and implementation of the Cadre Allocation Policy-2017 is unreasonable as the more meritorious candidates have been denied the allocation of cadre.

Delhi HC had agreed to the petitioners’ contentions that the Cadre Allocation Policy-2017 was unreasonable and needed resurrection.

The HC observed in the judgment: “We agree with the petitioners that the interpretation and implementation of the Cadre Allocation Policy – 2017 resorted to by the respondents (Centre) is unreasonable and arbitrary since the more meritorious candidates have been denied the cadres to which they were otherwise entitled to according to their preference, and the same have been allocated to the less meritorious candidates… We, therefore, direct the respondents (Centre) to undertake fresh cadre allocation of the successful candidates allocated to the IAS and IPS, according to their merit and by taking into consideration the preferences given by the candidate.”

The petitioners had moved the court against the interpretation of Cadre Allocation Policy-2017 which according to then was wrongly done by DoPT while allocating cadres as per CSE exam held in 2017. The said policy was being implemented for the very first time. The grievance of petitioners was against the interpretation of the policy while no questions were raised on the policy itself. The Centre argued for understanding the intentions behind the policy while deciding on the matter. The HC rejected this contention stating that that the intention of policy has to be considered while deciding on the case.

HC said: “This principle cannot be invoked in the present fact situation when, firstly, the respondents — apart from coming out with their policy with regard to the cadre allocation vide OM dated 05.09.2017, did not publicly come out with its interpretation of the manner in which the same would be applicable.

“Thus, the Principle of Contemporary Expositio cannot be invoked by the respondents against the petitioners who had no clue in advance of their filling up of online preferences for cadre allocation, about the manner in which the cadre allocation policy contained in the OM dated 05.09.2017 has been interpreted and worked by the respondents.”

The question of reallocation due to administrative inconvenience of shifting all affected candidates was also looked into by the HC. It said, “We do not agree with this submission for two reasons. Firstly, when the fundamental rights of the citizens are pitted against some administrative inconvenience that the respondents may suffer in case relief were to be granted to the aggrieved petitioners, the so-called administrative inconvenience has to give way to the fundamental rights of the citizens.”

In spite of an elaborate judgment and directions by the HC of Delhi, states like Bihar, Tripura and Assam-Meghalaya have continued to operate on the basis of the quashed cadre allocation. The Failure of DoPT to communicate further directions to states is in violation of the order of HC.

“The litigant inertia of state is amply visible in this case also. After having out all the points and follow up with detailed deliberation by the HC, DoPT has gone to Supreme Court with similar arguments. This also negates the quick judgment by the Delhi HC where urgency related to the case has been explicitly mentioned. As per documents accessed, IAS officer trainees are supposed to report to their respective cadres by 20.05.2019. this despite having the cadre list quashed shows reluctance on part of DoPT to implement the said order,” HC noted.

In spite of a standing judgment by HC. It leaves many questions unanswered, such as why is there no action on basis of Delhi HC judgment. Who should be held for this delay? Should the court initiate contempt proceedings against erring officials? Whatever may be the answers, there is no denial that this attitude of government has left officers of the 2018 batch a confused lot.

See important documents related to the case below:

Petition: https://drive.google.com/open?id=101JfnZuZwSVNzY6O_If1vMpQO470MHwG

Cadre allocation rejoinder filed on March 2: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1lL5fcdFmw7xrRYfxnnMNP6yY3NOPhTIp

Delhi HC order: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hTuh-bMtnAcAi09b5CfbwCEoFYz7KrvP/view

—India Legal Bureau

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