All India Federation of Central Excise Vs.
The Union of India & Ors  INSC 1491
(22 November 1996)
K, Venkataswamy, G.B. Pattanaik
22ND DAY OF NOVEMBER, 1996 Present:
Mr. Justice K. Ramaswamy Hon'ble Mr. Justice M. Venkataswami Hon'ble Mr.
Justice G.B. Pattanaik Yogeshwar Prasad, P.P. Malhotra, K. Madhaya Reddy, Sr.
Advs., (K.T. Anantharaman) Adv. for Khaitan & Co., ms. Rachna Gupta, P.K. Bajaj,
(R. Vasudevan) Adv. (NP), A.K. Srivastava, P. Parmeshwaran, V.J. Francis, Ms.
C. Ramamurthy, L.R. Singh, Ms. Anu Mohla, K.K. Mohan, S.K. Mehta, Probir Mitra,
M.A. Krishnamoorthy, V. Balachandran, Advs. with them for the appearing
following Judgment of the Court was delivered:
Group `B' posts in the feeder-cadres (a) and (b) above (i.e. Superintendents of
Central Excise and Superintendents of Customs (P) are filed 100 per cent by
promotion. Those in the feeder-cadre (c) above (i.e. Customs Appraisers) are
filled 50 per cent by direct recruitment consisting of (c)(i) above and 50 per
cent by promotion consisting of (c)(ii) above.
to the coming into force of the 1987 Rules, promotions to Group `A' posts were
given on the basis of the respective cadre strength of feeder categories. This
manner of filling up the vacancies was challenged by a group of officers by
filing Writ Petition (Civil) Nos.4532-33/78 in this Court. Inter alia in the
said Writ Petitions, the petitioner challenged promotions of 174
Superintendents of Central Excise and 10 Superintendents of Customs
(Preventive) on the basis of panel prepared by the DPC held in 1978. One of the
main contentions raised in those Writ Petitions was that for promotion to Group
`A' Service, all eligible officers belonging to three Group `B' feeder categories
should be arranged in one common consideration list based on their continued
length of service in `B' Group. It may be noted that when those Writ Petitions
were pending, statutory rules were under-contemplation and factually were not
there. This Court gave directions in those writ petitions fixing a time for
framing the statutory rules. When this Court was informed about the framing of
the rules, those writ petitions were disposed of on 23.9.1987 observing `the
promotions now in dispute, will also be looked into with reference to the Rules
and re-disposed of in accordance with law`.
petitioners in W.P.(C) No.306 of 1988 were aggrieved by Rule 18 and hence they
have challenged that Rule. Rule 18 is set out below:- "18. Appointment by
promotion to Grade VI of service:- (1) Appointment to the vacancies in Grade VI
of the Service required to be filed by promotion under sub- rule 2(ii) of rules
5 shall be by promotion of the following categories of Group `B' officers in
the Central Excise, Customs and Narcotics department who have completed three
years regular service in the Group `B' posts of –
superintendents of Central Excise in the Central Excise.
and District Opium Officer of Intelligence Officers of Superintendents
(Executive) in the Narcotics Department.
Appraisers of Customs in the Customs Department.
Superintendents of Customs (Preventive) in the Customs Department.
(a) The vacancies to be filled by promotion shall be filled in accordance with
the common seniority list of the three Group `B' categories of the Officers
mentioned in sub-rule (1) above.
The seniority of the officers in Group `B' feeder categories of service for
eligibility for promotion to Group `A' shall be determined on the basis of
their regular length of service in their respective group `B' categories,
subject to the condition that the inter se seniority in each feeder category
service shall be maintained.
The promotion shall be made on the principle of selection on merit basis.
Commission shall be consulted for making promotions to Grade VI.
of the petitioners in W.P.(C) No.306 and 1200/83 is that having regard to their
cadre strength and the time taken by them to reach Group `B' status, they may
not get their due share if Rule 18(2) is allowed to Hold and field.
petitioners in W.P.(C) Nos.4532-33/78, moved this court again by filing
application for contempt for not complying with the order of this Court in not
preparing a seniority list within the stipulated time. This Court extended the
time and thereafter a common seniority list was prepared. Challenging that, W.P.(C)
No.1200/83 came to be filed.
certain directions were given pending disposal of these writ petitions. The
petitioners in W.P.(C) No.1093/90 felt that unless they move this court and
project their point of view, their interests may be jeopardised.
they have filed W.P.(C) No.1093/90.
have heard counsel on both sides. The question of determination of seniority of
Group `B' Officers of the different feeder cadres in their quota of promotion
to the entry grade of Assistant Collector/Senior Superintendent in the Indian
Customs and Central Excise Service Group `A' has been the subject matter of
dispute for quite sometime. As noticed above, apart from moving this Court, a
number of cases were pending before various High Courts and Central
Administrative Tribunals. Fortunately, one aspect of the dispute was given a quietous
by this Court recently by a judgment dated 8.5.1996 in Gaya Baksh Yadav vs.
Union of India and Others (JT (1996) 5 SC 118). That was a dispute between
directly recruited Appraisers of Customs and promotees belonging to that
speaking, the cause for all these litigations appears to be that an impression
has gained ground, unfortunately, both among the Customs Officers and Central
Excise Officers of the feeder cadre that the other side is encroaching upon its
legitimate chances of promotion to Group `A' posts. In other words, a feeling
has come to stay that the other side is trying to benefit at its cost. This
feeling, in the absence of statutory rules, has got complicated on account of
the claims and counter-claims on both sides and also on account of its having
been unresolved for quite a number of years. In this background unless there
exists a spirit of accommodation and goodwill on the part of all concerned
coupled with a sense of appreciation of the other party's point of view a
solution to satisfactory settlement of disputes may not be possible.
obvious that these matters are pending in this Court since 1988. When we heard
the matter on the last occasion, learned counsel appearing for the Union of
India placed before us a communication from the Government of India, Ministry
of Finance, Department of Revenue dated 8.6.1989 addressed to the first
petitioner in W.P.(C) No.306/88 in his capacity as Secretary to the Federation
and copies were marked to other similar Federations/Associations of concerned
officers. Enclosed with the said communication, we find certain proposals for
resolving the disputes pending for a long time suggested by the Central Board
the proposal, they have taken into account various aspects including the long pendency
of the cases at various levels. The proposal, according to them, is equitable
and fair and it takes care of legitimate interest of officers of all the three
have gone through the above-mentioned proposal carefully and applied our mind
and we find that the said proposal is fair, just and equitable in the facts and
circumstances of the case. We also find that well-founded reasons are given for
the ultimate solution given in the proposal. In order to further
justify/strengthen the proposal and the ultimate ratio suggested, we make the
chart given at the time of hearing by the learned counsel for the petitioners
in W.P. (C) No.306/88 as an annexure to this judgment. A look at the chart will
give a panoramic view of both the streams and would help for easy understanding
of the issues. None of the learned counsel appearing for the respondents in
W.P. (C) No.306/88 pointed out any mistake in the chart. We, therefor, accept
the said proposal.
seen from the communication dated 8.6.1989 that the proposal was forwarded to
Federations/Associations concerned in order to enable them to arrive at a
consensus and on arriving at such a consensus to report to this Court for
disposal of these matters on that basis. Unfortunately, even after lapse of
seven years, the parties could not arrive at a consensus and consequently, we
have to step in to settle the issue. We may also point out that when the
learned counsel for the Union of India handed over the proposal, none of the
counsel appearing for the parties seriously objected to the terms of the
relevant portions of the proposal are set out below :- "2.2 The seniority
list of each of the above three feder-cadres is local and is maintained by each
Collectorate/Custom House-wise. The All-India lists of the first two feeder
cadres are prepared on the basis of continuous length of regular service in the
grade, subject to maintenance of inter se seniority of each local cadre. The
inter se ranking in the 3rd feeder- cadre (that is, Customs Appraisers) was as
per the General principles of determining seniority of various categories of
persons employed in Central Service (generally known as quota-rota principles)
stipulated in the Ministry of Home Affairs O.M. No.9/11/55-RPS dated 22.12.1959
(which were modified by the Department of Personnel and Training O.M.
No.35014/2/80- Estt.(D) dated 7.9.1986) prior to the framing of the Indian
Customs and Central Excise Service Group A Rules, 1987, in these Rules of 1987.
It has been provided vide sub-rule (2) of Rule 18 that - (a) The vacancies to
be filled by promotion shall be filled in accordance with the common seniority
list of the three Group `B' categories of the officers mentioned in sub-rule
The seniority of the officers in Group `B' feeder categories of service for
eligibility for promotion to Group `A' shall be determined on the basis of
their regular length of service in their respective Group `B' categories,
subject to the condition that the inter se seniority in each feeder category of
service shall be maintained.
The question of determining the seniority of the Group `B' Officers of the
different feeder-cadres in the quota for promotion to the grade of Assistant
Collector/Senior Superintendent Group `A' has been the subject matter of
dispute in a number of cases, and thus, unfortunately, remained unresolved so
far. There have been claims and counter-claims by the officers of the different
feeder-cadres. Even at present, this dispute is the subject matter of a number
of writ petitions, inter alia before the Hon,ble Supreme Court.
Careful thought has once again been given to find a just a fair solution with a
view to resolving this long outstanding dispute taking into account the
reasonable prospects of promotion of officers of different feeder-cadres. it is
expected and hoped that, given the goodwill and a sense of reason on the part
of all the concerned parties, it should be possible to find a solution which is
just and fair to find a solution from both the streams - namely Customs and
With this object in view, the Board have taken stock of the nature of Group `A'
entry grade posts (Senior Superintendents/Assistant Collectors) which are the
subject matter of dispute. For this purpose, the total number of posts in the
entry grade of Group `A' Service have been divided as (i) Central Excise posts
and (ii) Customs posts, on the basis of functions which each post is required
to perform. Posts required to perform wholly or predominantly functions under
the Central Excise posts. Similarly posts required to perform wholly or
predominantly functions under the Customs Act have been treated as Customs
ratio so arrived at has been applied for dividing the common posts in the
Directorates and CEGAT. This calculation gives the ratio of 65:36 as between
Central Excise and Customs posts. Since the posts and persons manning them
cannot be divided into fractions, the figures have been rounded to 67:33 so as
to give the workable ratio of 2:1.
The proposal is that the promotee quota vacancies in the Group `A' grade of
Senior Superintendent/Assistant Collector may be filled from Central Excise and
Customs Group `B' Officers in the ratio of 2:1, the number of vacancies falling
to the share of Customs Group `B' Officers being further apportioned between
the two feeder cadres of customs - namely, Customs Appraisers and Customs
(Preventive) Superintendents in the ratio of their respective sanctioned
strength (which, rounded off to workable ratio, comes to 2:1).
The need to further sub-divide the number of vacancies in the share of the
Customs Group `B' Officers between the Customs Appraisers and Customs (P)
Superintendents arises because: (a) the two feeder cadres of Customs Appraiser
and Customs (P) Superintendents are different and separate, (b) their seniority
lists are separate, (c) whereas recruitment to Customs (P) Superintendents'
Grade is 100% by promotion, in the case of Customs Appraisers, it is 50% direct
recruitment and 50% by promotion, and (d) in terms of the General Principles
governing determination of seniority laid down by the M.H.A./DOP&T, where
there are more than one feeder cadres, the inter se seniority of each feeder
cadre is required to be maintained while preparing the seniority list in the
higher grade to which promotions are to be made, which is also the promotion in
the 1987 Recruitment Rules of IC & CES Group `A'.
is noticed that Central Excise Group `B' officers get their promotion to Group
`B' after having put in, by and large, very long years of service in Group `C'
and, consequently, they are of much older age-group as compared to Customs
Appraisers. Therefore, placing the Superintendents of Central Excise first and
placing Customs officers thereafter, in the promotion panel would not present
any material disadvantage to Customs Officers. The age-group of Superintendents
of Central Excise is, by and large, such that they would retire before their
turn for next promotion to the grade of Deputy Collector comes. As of now,
there is hardly any Deputy Collector of Central Excise anywhere in India who is
a promote from Group `B' in the Central Excise; Central Excise officers would
generally retire as Assistant Collectors, thereby increasing the chances of
Officers of younger age- group from the Customs stream for their next promotion
to the grade of Deputy Collector.
and large, similar position would be there in the case of Customs (P)
Superintendents vis-a- vis Directed recruit Customs Appraisers. Therefore, a
reasonable placement in the combined all-India seniority list way be in the
following order :- i) Superintendents of Central Excise, Group `B' ii)
Superintendents of Customs (P) Group `B' iii) Customs Appraisers.
sum up, according to the above formula, each bunch of 9 vacancies in the
promotion quota for Group `B' feeder-cadres will be apportioned in the ratio
6:1:2 consisting of Central Excise Superintendents, Customs (P) Superintendents
and Customs Appraisers respectively. To illustrate, if 9 vacancies exist for
the promotee quota in Group `A' entry point, the first six vacancies would go
to Superintendents of Central Excise, the seventh vacancy to Customs (P)
Superintendent and the eighth and ninth to Appraisers; further vacancies to be
filled up on the basis of a cycle in the above order.
the purpose of making promotions to Group `A' separate consideration lists of
Superintendents of Central Excise on the one hand, and Appraisers (both direct
recruits and promotees) and Preventive Superintendents of Customs on the other
hand, would be drawn up first on all-India basis. While Group `B' officers of
the two feeder-cadres - namely, Superintendents of Central Excise and
Superintendents of Customs (P) - may be placed in their respective
consideration lists on the basis of their continuous length of service in Group
`B', the Group `B' officers of the feeder-cadre of Appraisers may be placed in
their list on the basis of the principles laid down from time to time in the
instructions of MHA/DOP&T applicable to all the Services under the Union of
India, circulated on 22.12.1959 and 7.2.1986" So far as inter se seniority
between direct recruit Appraisers and promotees is concerned, that should be finalised
in the light of judgment of this Court in Gaya Baksh Yadav's case (supra). To
that extent, last portion in para 7 (underlined portion) in the above proposal
stated above, we find that the above modified proposal is just, fair and
equitable and accordingly we direct the Union of India to amend the impugned
Rules so far as Group `A' Service is concerned. Review all post-1979 ad hoc
promotions to the post of Senior Superintendent/Assistant Collector in the promotee
quota in the light of the present proposal, redetermine the respective
placement of the promotee officers in the combined Group `A' seniority list and
regularise accordingly the posts of ad hoc promotions.
Group `A' Service of the Customs and Excise Department, 50% of the cadre
strength are filled by direct recruitment through Union Public Service
Commission and the balance 50% are filled through promotion from Group `B'
cadres. Group `B' officers when promoted to Group `A' Service, obviously have
no right to occupy more than 50% of their prescribed quota. It would,
therefore, be incumbent upon the Government to re-arrange or regularise the
seniority list in Group `A' Service keeping the inter se quota of the direct
recruits and promotees intact and should not allow either to get any promotion
in excess of their quota. The ad hoc promotions given to Group `B' officers in
Group `A' Service, pursuant to interim orders of this Court, would not,
therefore, have any effect or prejudice the interests or rights of the direct
recruits of Group `A' Service while re-arranging the seniority in Group `A'
Service as indicated in the judgment. It would, therefore, be of necessity that
the Government should re-arrange their inter-se seniority and promotions of the
respective direct recruits and promotees within their quota and consequential
promotions in further higher services. Their seniority arranged accordingly.
Writ Petitions are accordingly disposed of.
view of the disposal of main Writ Petitions, no further orders are necessary in
the Interlocutory Applications including the Contempt Petition and they stand
disposed of accordingly. There will be no order as to costs.