All India Station Masters &
Assistant Station Master' Vs. General Manager, Central Railways & Ors
 INSC 138 (20 November 1959)
20/11/1959 GUPTA, K.C. DAS GUPTA, K.C. DAS
SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.(CJ) GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B.
CITATION: 1960 AIR 384 1960 SCR (2) 311
CITATOR INFO :
D 1963 SC 913 (37,38) F 1967 SC 839 (12) R
1968 SC 81 (6) R 1969 SC 212 (8) D 1976 SC 490 (30,57,58,108) R 1978 SC 327 (6)
R 1981 SC1829 (29) R 1984 SC1683 (11) D 1985 SC1495 (133)
State Employment-Equality of opportunity in
matters of promotion-Concept and meaning of-Constitution of India, Art. 16(1).
The Roadside Station Masters of the Central
Railway challenged the constitutionality of promotion for guards to higher
grade station masters' posts. The petitioners contended that the channel of
promotions amounted to a denial of equal opportunity as between Roadside
Station Masters and Guards in the matter of promotion and thus contravened the
provisions of Art. 16(1) of the Constitution, as taking advantage of this
channel of promotions, guards become station masters at a very much younger age
than Roadside Station Masters and thus block the chances of higher promotion to
Roadside Station Masters who reach the scale when they are much older.
The appellant contended that Roadside Station
Masters and Guards really formed one and the same class of employees.
Held, that the Roadside Station Masters
belong to a wholly distinct and separate class from Guards and so there can be
no question of equality of opportunity in matter of promotion as between the
Roadside Station Masters and Guards.
The question of denial of equal opportunity
requires serious consideration only as between the members of the same class.
The concept of equal opportunity in matters
of employment, does not apply to variations in provisions as between members of
different classes of employees under the State.
Equality of opportunity in matters of
employment can be predicated only 312 between persons who are either seeking the
same employment, or have obtained the same employment. Equality of opportunity
in matters of promotion, must mean equality as between members of the same
class of employee and not equality between members of separate, independent
The fact that the qualifications necessary
for recruitment of one post and another are approximately or even wholly the
same can in no way affect the question whether they form one and the same
class, or form different classes.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Petition No. 126 of
Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution
of India, for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
N. C. Chatterjee and B. V. S. Mani, for the
B. Sen and R. H. Dhebar, for the respondent.
1959. November 20. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by DAS GUPTA J.-The petitioners who describe themselves as Road-side
Station Masters challenge in this petition under Art. 32 of the Constitution
the constitutionality of the channel of promotion for Guards to higher grade
Station Masters' posts as notified in the issue of the Central Railway 'Weekly
Gazette No. 3 dated November 23, 1951.
Under this Notification Guards have two lines
of promotion open to them. One is that by promotion, C grade Guards may become
B grade Guards on Rs. 100-185 and thereafter by further promotion A grade
Guaids on Rs. 150-225. The second line of promotion open to them is that by an
examination described curiously enough as Slip 45 examination C grade Guards
are eligible for promotion to posts of Station Masters on RS. 150-225 scale and
thereafter to all the further promotions that are open to the Station Masters,
viz., higher ,cales of Rs. 200 to Rs. 300, Rs. 260 to Rs. 350, Rs. 300 to Rs.
400 and finally Rs. 360 to Rs. 500; B grade Guards and A grade Guards are also
on passing Slip 45 examination eligible for promotion to posts of Station
Masters on Rs. 200-300 pay scale and thereafter to further promotions to the
higher scales in the Station Masters' line. The Road side Station Masters on
pay scale of Rs. 80 to Rs. 170 313 (the scale was formerly Rs. 64-170) can also
reach by promotion the grade of Rs. 150-225 but only after going through an
intermediate stage of Rs. 100-185. Similarly Station Masters on Rs. 100-185
scale may also reach the stage of Rs. 200-300 but only after passing through
the intermediate stage of Rs. 150-225. Obviously the provisions enabling Guards
to become Station Masters on the pay scale of Rs. 150-225 places the Station
Masters of Rs. 80-170 scale at a disadvantage as against Guards on that pay
scale and also puts the Road-side Station Masters on the pay of Rs. 100-185 pay
scale at a disadvantage as against Guards on that scale of pay.
The petitioners contend that the channel of
promotion in so far as it enables Guards to be promoted as Station Masters in
addition to the other line of promotion open to them as Guards amounts to a
denial of equal opportunity as between Road-side Station Masters and Guards in
the matter of promotion and thus contravenes the provisions of Art. 16(1) of
It was further alleged in the petition that
taking advantage of this channel of promotion, Guards become Station Masters on
Rs. 150-225 at a very much younger age than Road-side Station Masters and thus
block the chances of higher promotion to Road-side Station Masters who reach
150-225 scale when they are much older. As
instances of how the impugned provisions in the channel of promotion are
harmful to the Road-side Station Masters, the petitioners state: that while the
petitioner No. 2 even after completing 32 years of service has remained in the
grade of Rs. 100-185 as Station Master, Guards of equal status and standing
have reached gazetted rank within the same period of service;
that whereas the petitioner No, 3 has come by
promotion to the grade of Rs. 150225 after putting in 21 years of service,
Guards of his standing have risen to the grade of Rs. 360-500 by virtue of the
impugned channel of promotion and several of his juniors who entered the
Railway service long after him as Guards have superseded him and are working in
the grade of Rs. 360-500; that while the 314 petitioner No. 4 having entered
into service as Telegraph Candidate and having passed all the requisite
examinations prescribed for the higher grade of Station Master within a period
of 2 1/2 years after putting in 6 1/2 years of service is still in the grade of
Rs. 80-170, Guards of his length of service and departmental qualification are
entitled for promotion as an Assistant Station Master in the grade of Rs. 150-225
within about the same length of service.
The respondents-the General Manager, Central
Railways, Bombay, V.T., the Chairman Railway Board, New Delhi and the Union of
India,-who contest the application contend that the channel of promotion
providing these opportunities to Guards does not in any way contravene the
provisions of Art. 16(1) of the Constitution. They also deny the correctness of
the allegation that as a result of these opportunities Guards become Station
Masters on Rs. 150-225 pay scale at a Younger age than Road-side Station
Masters. On the material before us it is not possible to come to a firm
conclusion as regards the relative age at which Guards or Road-side Station
Masters ordinarily reach the pay scale of Rs. 150-225. Assuming, however, the
position to be as stated in the petition, that may only evoke some sympathy for
the Road-side Station Masters, but does not in any way affect the decision of
the question whether Art. 16(1) of the Constitution is contravened by this
channel of promotion.
Art. 16(1) of the Constitution is in these
words: There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters
relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State'." The
impugned provisions of the channel of promotion are in respect of promotion of
persons already employed under the State and not in respect of the first
employment under the State. If the "equality of opportunity "
guaranteed to all citizens by Art. 16(1) does not extend to matters of
promotion the petitioners' contention that the provisions are void must fail at
once. If, however, matters of promotion are 315 also " matters relating to
employment" within the meaning of Art. 16(1) of the Constitution, the next
question we have to consider is whether the impugned provisions amount to
denial of equality of opportunity within the meaning of that Article.
We propose to consider the second question
first, on the assumption that matters of promotion are Cc matters relating to
employment ". So multifarious are the activities of the State that
employment of men for the purpose of these activities has by the very nature of
things to be in different departments of the State and inside each department,
in many different classes. For each such class there are separate rules fixing
the number of personnel of each class, posts to which the men in that class
will be appointed, questions of seniority, pay of different posts, the manner
in which promotion will be, effected from the lower grades of pay to the higher
grades, e.g., whether on the result of periodical examination or 'by seniority,
or by selection or on some other basis-and other cognate matters.
Each such class can be reasonably considered
to be a separate and in many matters independent entity with its own rules of
recruitment, pay and prospects and other conditions of service which may vary
considerably between one class and another. A member joins a particular class
he leaves the class on retirement or death or
dismissal, discharge, resignation or other modes of termination of service, or
by joining another class of employees whether by promotion thereto or direct
recruitment thereto on passing some examination or by selection in some other
It is clear that as between the members of
the same class the question whether conditions of service are the same or not
may well arise. If they are not, the question of denial of equal opportunity
will require serious consideration in such cases. Does the concept of equal
opportunity in matters of employment apply, however, to variations in
provisions as between members of different classes of employees under the
State? In our opinion, the answer must be in the 316 negative. The concept of
equality can have no existence except with reference to matters which are
common as between individuals, between whom equality is predicated. Equality of
opportunity in matters of employment can be predicated only as between persons,
who are either seeking the same employment, or have obtained the same
employment. It will, for example, plainly make no sense to say that because for
employment as professors of colleges, a higher University degree is required
than for employment as teachers of schools, equality of opportunity is being
denied. Similarly it is meaningless to say that unless persons who have
obtained employment as school teachers, have the same chances of promotion as
persons who have obtained employment as teachers in colleges, equality of
opportunity is denied.
There is, in our opinion, no escape from the
conclusion that equality of opportunity in matters of promotion, must mean
equality as between members of the same class of employees, and not equality
between members of separate, independent classes.
The Petitioners' Counsel did not seriously
challenge the correctness of the above proposition. They contended however that
Road-side Station Masters and Guards really form one and the same class of
employees. In our opinion, there is no substance in this contention. It has to
be noticed first that Appendix 11 of the Indian Railway Establishment Code
(Vol. 1) which prescribe rules for the recruitment and training of subordinate
staff of Indian Railways classify the subordinate staff governed by the rules
into 7 branches: (1) Transportation (Traffic); (2) Commercial; (3)
Transportation (Power); (4) Civil Engineering ; (5) Store department Staff; (6)
Office clerks and (7) Medical. Each branch again has been divided into groups.
The first branch, i.e., the Transportation (Traffic) is shown as having 3
groups: (i) Station Masters, (ii) Guards, (iii) Outdoor Clerical Staff. Rule 2,
the definition section defines a " group " to mean a series of
classes which form a normal channel of promotion. Rule 8 shows the classes of
posts 317 included in the Station Masters' group and the normal channels of
their promotion which are as follows:
Signaller Assist. Head Signallers Assist.
Station Masters (lower grade) Head Signallers Station Masters (lower grade)
Telegraph Inspectors Assist. controllers Assist. Yard Foreman Station Masters
Controllers Yard Foremen Transportation Inspectors Rule 9 lays down the
qualifications necessary for the recruitment to this "group". Rule 10
says that the recruitment will be initially made as students and further
provides that the recruits may be (a) persons to be trained in telegraphy in
railway telegraph training schools and (b) persons who have completed a
training in telegraphy in recognized private telegraph training schools. Note 2
of this Rule provides that recruits in either, category will on the satisfactory
completion of their training, be eligible for appointment as signallers and
will remain on probation for one year after such appointment. -Provisions for
training appear in Rule 11. Rule 12 provides for Refresher and Promotion
Courses. Rules 13 to 17 are in respect of Guards. Rule 13 states the classes
included in this group and the normal channels of their promotion thus Probationary
Guards Goods or passengers guards Assistant Station Masters (higher grades)
Assistant controllers Assist. Yard Foremen Station Masters Controllers Yard
Foremen Transportation Inspectors Rule 14 lays down the qualifications
necessary for recruitment in this line. Rule 15 provides that the 41 318
recruitment will normally be to the lower grade of Guards.
Rule 16 provides that during the one year
period of probation recruits will undergo training for a period to be fixed by
the administration. Rule 17 provides for the periodical refresher courses at
stated intervals and promotion courses as necessary may be prescribed.
In deciding the question whether Road-side
Station Masters and Guards belong to one and the same class of employees or
not, we must not be misled by the words " groups " or " classes
of posts " used in the above rules... The crux of the question is the nature
of the differentiation between Road-side Station Masters and Guards in
recruitment, prospects and promotion. We find that Road-side Station Masters
and Guards are recruited separately, trained separately and the several classes
of posts which are ordinarily open to them are also distinct and separate. The
only point of contact between them is provided by the rule that Guards may
become Station Masters by passing the Slip 45 examination. If after becoming
Station Masters these Guards could continue also as Guards there might be some
scope for suggesting that the two classes have coalesced.
It is not disputed however that Guards once
they become Station Masters cease to be Guards and continue as Station Masters.
The fact that the qualifications necessary for recruitment as Guards or Station
Masters are approximately or even wholly the same can in no way affect the
question whether they form one and the same class, or form different classes.
As on the admitted facts the Roadside Station Masters and Guards are, as
already stated, recruited separately and trained separately and have separate
avenues of promotion, the conclusion is irresistible that they form two
distinct and separate classes as between whom there is no scope for predicating
equality or inequality of opportunity in matters of promotion.
In view of this conclusion it is unnecessary
for the purpose of the present case to decide the other question: whether
matters of promotion are included in the words " matters relating to
employment in 319 Article 16(1) of the Constitution. For even assuming that
they are so included, the present application must be rejected on the simple
ground that the petitioners belong to a wholly distinct. and separate class
from Guards and so there can be no question of equality of opportunity in
matters of promotion as between the petitioners and Guards.
The learned Counsel for the petitioners
stated before us that this channel of promotion for Guards is peculiar to the
Central Railways, and is not now to be found in the other Zones of Indian
Railways. If that be the position, the matter may well deserve the attention of
the Government; but this has nothing to do with the merits of the petition
For the reasons mentioned above, we dismiss
the application, but in view of all the circumstances, we order that parties
will bear their own costs.