PGI Chandigarh directed to restore seniority of Opthalmology Professor
Chandigarh: The Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh has recently directed Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI Chandigarh) to restore the seniority of Opthalmology Professor- Dr Arun K Jain, over Dr Surinder Singh Pandav, in the seniority list dated September 2018, with all the consequential benefits.
The case concerned two professors- Dr Jain and Dr Pandav, both appointed in the Opthalmology Department of PGI Chandigarh, wherein, Dr Pandav was placed ahead of Dr Jain in the seniority list for more than twenty years. This was noted after the release of the Seniority list in September 2018.
In 1994, 2 posts of Assistant Professors (Ophthalmology) was advertised. Both the doctors appeared for this and were selected. In merit, Dr Pandav's name was above Dr Jain. Both of them joined the PGI Chandigarh in February 1995. Dr Jain was however placed above Dr Pandav as he was older in age. In 2017, Dr Pandav submitted a representation for correction of seniority list which was examined and his claim was accepted by the administration.
In response, Dr Jain sought restoration of his original seniority. However, he soon moved the tribunal when no response was furnished by the administration.
The tribunal heard the contentions made by the counsel of Dr Jain as;
"..for over two decades, Dr Jain has been shown as senior to Dr Pandav, in the seniority lists issued in the years 2001 (Associate Professors), 2006 (Additional Professors), 2007 (Additional Professors) and 2015 (Professors), and even in the seniority list dated 31.01.2018, he has been shown at Sr. No. 43 whereas Respondent No. 4 is at Sr. No. 44. Respondent No. 4, for the first time, after about 23 years of service, has submitted representations dated 25.11.2017 and 28.03.2018 (Annexure A-10) which could not be accepted by the respondent PGIMER, after such a huge delay."
The counsel further added that Dr Pandav submitted belated representations while mentioning about a previous case of similar nature, wherein, the official respondents were directed to re-cast the seniority list.
The counsel noted;
"The PGIMER, accepted belated representations of Dr Pandav, ignoring the rules and law, and has tinkered with the well-settled seniority for all these long years, and as such impugned order dated 12.04.2019 is nonest in the eyes of law."
On the contrary, the PGI Chandigarh's counsel supported the impugned order and submitted that;
"since there was an error, so the authorities were well within their power and authority to correct such error and take remedial measures so as to [O.A.NO.060/00412/2019] justice is done with Dr Pandav." Adding that "there is no limitation for the authorities to take corrective measures. The delay may bar a remedy through a court of law but there is no estoppel against the authorities for entertaining a belated claim more so when no final seniority list was ever issued and the indicated seniority lists remained as provisional/tentative only."
The tribunal after hearing both the parties observed that "PGIMER itself had opposed the claim of Prof. Arunanshu Behera (supra) in this Tribunal on the ground that his claim was barred by the law of limitation but that plea did not find favour with this Tribunal. However, such a plea was accepted in judicial review by the High Court and the claim was rejected being barred by law of limitation. In one case, in similar circumstances, the respondent PGIMER says that same is barred by limitation [O.A.NO.060/00412/2019] and in another case, it revives a belated claim, without any logic or reason and ignoring the settled sit-back principle."
"In this case, admittedly the seniority lists were issued from time to time starting from 2001, on the basis of promotions have also taken place, but those events were allowed to be settled by Dr Pandav as he never challenged those things at relevant point of time and once a right has been created in applicant of being senior to Dr Pandav, then he (Dr Pandav) cannot be allowed to turn around after two decades and claim that he was senior to applicant at the time of initial appointment. Such a claim, to say the least, would be barred by the principle of estoppel."
The Honourable Supreme Court in one case underlined the importance of seniority and the consequences of unsettling the seniority and has held as under:-
"...Seniority is a civil right which has an important and vital role to play in ones service career. Future promotion of a government servant depends either on strict seniority or on the basis of seniority-cum-merit or merit-cum-seniority, etc. Seniority once settled is decisive in the upward march in ones chosen work or calling and gives certainty and assurance and boosts the morale to do quality work..."
In the wake of the aforesaid discussion, Sanjeev Kaushik, Member, CAT quashed the impugned order dated 12.4.2019 and subsequently held;
"..the official respondents are directed to restore the seniority of Dr Jain over Dr Pandav, in seniority list dated 25.9.2018 (Annexure A-12), with all the consequential benefits, if any. The connected M.As, if any, also stand disposed of. The parties are, however, left to bear their own costs."