Vs. Union of India & Anr  INSC 287
(1 November 1991)
Singh (J) Kuldip Singh (J) Misra, Rangnath (Cj) Kania, M.H.
1991 SCR Supl. (2) 152 1992 SCC Supl. (2) 105 JT 1991 (4) 238 1991 SCALE (2)925
Service-Compositors in printing presses--Promotion --Categorisation of
"highly skilled" and "sis'lied"--Senior- ity
Service--Compositors in printing presses--Promo- tion --Stagnation between
cadres--Removal of--Ratio pre- scribed.
claiming that he and other similarly placed Compositors working in the
Government of India presses all over India were entitled to the status and
salary of Compos- itors, Grade I in the "highly skilled" category
with effect from January 1, 1966 on the ground that the decision of the Himachal
Pradesh High Court in Thakurs case was applicable in principle to all the
Compositors, filed the present petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.
High Court in Thakur's case held that the categori- sation as "highly
skilled" and "skilled" on the basis of seniority alone was
unreasonable and discriminatory. As no special leave petition against the
judgment of the High Court was brought to this Court the judgment became final.
Thakur's case and dismissing the petitions this Court,
pursuit and experience are two primary sources of learning. A Compositor's job
in a printing press is a skilled job requiring special technique. In such a job
it would be reasonable to measure the standards of skill by length of
experience. The High Court fell into error in quashing the classification based
on experience arising out of length of service. [157 B]
"Highly skilled" category was created to handle the nature work which
involved higher skill than the original hand composition. The Compositors with
longer service and who were found fit 153 for promotion were appointed to Grade
I and were categorised as "highly skilled". Experience itself is
merit and can be a valid basis for classification. [157 C-D]
Keeping in view the large number of Compositors all over the country and to
remove stagnation the ratio between the two cadres should be 33 1/3: 66 2/3 %.
respondents are directed to increase the strength of the cadre of Compositor
Grade-I 'highly skilled' to 33-1/3 percent with effect from April 1, 1992. [158 D] Thakur's Case (Writ
petition C.W. No. 61/69) dated 21.5.1971; overruled.
of U.P.v. J.P. Chaurasia,  1 S.C.C. 121; re- ferred
JURISDICTION: Writ Petition (Civil No. 651 of 1986.
Article 32 of the Constitution of India).
Ms. Bina Gupta, Ms. Vandana Saggar and Ms.
Mohil for the Petitioners.
K. Swamy, Ms. A. Subhashini and Ms. Niran- jana Singh for the Respondents.
Judgment of the Court was delivered by KULDIP SINGH, J. This petition under
Article 32 of the Costitution has been filed by Prahalad Singh claiming that he
and other similarly placed Compositors working in the Government of India
Presses all over India are entitled to the status and salary of Compositors,
Grade I in the "highly skilled" category with effect from January 1,
1966, The said relief is claimed on the sole ground that one T.R. Thakur has
already been given Grade I in the "highly skilled" category as a
result of the judgment in his favour given by the Himachal Pradesh High Court.
The writ petition (C.W. 61/69) filed by T.R. Thakur was allowed by the learned
Single Judge of the High Court on May 21,1971 and Letters Patent Appeal against
the said judgment was dismissed on May 9, 1979. The High Court held that the categorisation
as "highly skilled" and "skilled" on the basis of seniority
alone was unreasonable and discriminatory. No special leave 154 petition
against the judgment of the High Court was brought to this Court and as such
the judgment has become final.
Singh and others have claimed that they are entitled to the benefit of the
judgment given by the High Court in Thakur's case. According to them the said judgment
is applicable in principle to all the Compositors whether they were parties
before the High Court or not. This peti- tion came for hearing before a Bench
of this Court consist- ing of R.S. Pathak, CJI, M.N. Venkatachalia, J. The
Bench in its order dated April
28, 1989 observed as under
:-- "The principal objection to the grant of relief to the Petitioner and
those for whom he claims to act is the gross delay with which the writ petition
appears to have been bought in this Court. To surmount that difficulty the
petitioner relies upon the plea that the judgment of the High Court in T.R. Thakur's
case is a judgment operative in principle in favour of all compositors situated
in the circumstances in which T.R. Thakur found himself. There are other pleas which
have been taken by the petitioner, but the substantial one is whether he and
the other compositors can enforce in their favour the benefit grant- ed in T.R.
Thakur's case although they were not parties to that proceeding. At first blush
it would seem that the High Court considered the particular facts of T.R. Thakur,
the petitioner before it, and while granting relief it appears, in terms, to
have confined it to T.R. Thakur. It is an important point whether, as the
petitioner now contends before us, the direction issued by the High Court can
be regarded as a direction operative in re- spect of all compositors employed
in the Government of India Presses all over India, The point is important since
the objection on the plea of laches seems to be a substantial one in view of
the several compositors who have over the years been promoted to the category
of "highly skilled" compositors, and interfering with their status
now could mate- rially prejudice them. At the same time, it cannot be doubted
that there can be cases where although the facts of a particular petitioner
have been taken into consideration what the Court indents, when it adjudicates
on the claim, is to lay down the law to be ap- plied by the respondents to all
similar situa- tions. There are other cases where relief may be granted or
refused upon the consideration of a question involved --the question being one
which affects several persons of the category to which the petitioner belongs
-- and the grant or refusal of the relief may turn on 155 the particular facts
of that case. Various possible categories of cases can be conceived in this
context. We think it desirable that in cases such as this the Court should
formulate a set of appropriate guidelines indicating when directions rendered
by the Court in one particular case can be regarded as operative in other
cases. As the matter will be governed both by principle and by the practice of
the Court, it is appropriate that this case be referred to a larger Bench for
consideration on this and the other points arising in it." This is how the
writ petition has come before us for final heating. It is not necessary to go
into the merits of the question posed by the Two Judges Bench of this court
because we are of the view that the High Court judgment in Thakur's case does
not lay-down the correct law.
facts which led 'to the filing of the writ petition by Thakur are as under:
to January 1, 1966, there was one grade of Compos- itors
(Rs. 110-Rs. 180) in the Government of India Presses.
year 1963 a committee called "The Committee for Categorisation of the
Government of India Press Workers" was constituted to review the
classification of posts of indus- trial workers in the Government of India
said Committee, inter alia, made the following recommen- dations :--
"There was an equally persistent and wide spread demand from the workers
that the cate- gory of Compositors should be treated as highly skilled instead
of skilled as at present. We have very carefully examined this case as well and
were unable to subscribe to this demand. Hand composing in the Govt. of India
presses is essentially a skilled job.
Managers were, however, of the opinion that 10-15% of the Compositors are
frequently expected to handle composition work of mathe- matical or scientific
discourses. For this, a knowledge application of diacritical marks superior and
inferior letters/figures, scien- tific signs/symbols etc. are essential. This
work, admittedly, involved much higher skill than originally hand composition.
The Commit- tee,therefore, recommend that a suitable percentage of compositors
should be upgraded to the highly skilled category with pay scale of Rs. 175-
205. This category should be given an appropriate designation to distinguish it
from the ordinary grade of Compositors who should still be in the skilled
group." 156 Accepting the above recommendations, the Government of India,
by an order dated March 14, 1966, divided the exist- ing cadre of Compositors Compositors
Grade-I (Rs. 150- Rs. 206) and Compositors Grade-II (Rs. 11 O- 180). It was
further decided that the Compositors Grade-I would be classified as
"highly skilled" and Compositors Grade-II as "skilled". The
ratio of Grade-I to Grade II was fixed as 20: 80. The initial constitution of
the cadre of Compositors Grade-I was done by appointing 20% of the Compositors
on the basis of seniority-cure-fitness but trade test was made obligatory for
future promotions to Grade-I.
implementing the above said decision of the Gov- ernment of India, 18
Compositors who were senior to Thakur were given the pay scale of Compositor
Grade-I. Thakur challenged the denial of higher pay scale of Compositor Grade-I
to him on the ground that he and the 18 Compositors who were promoted were
performing the same duties and were holding similar posts which were
inter-changeable. According to him all of them were performing the duties of
"highly skilled" Compositors and as such the higher grade could not
have been denied to him. The learned Single Judge allowed the writ petition and
held that the categorisation of the senior-most persons as "highly
skilled" was arbitrary and discriminatory. The learned Judge issued the
following directions:-- "In the light of the above I am of the view that
the petitioner is entitled to the relief prayed for and direction is issued to
the respondents not to enforce the revised scale of pay in such a manner as to
subject the petitioner to a lower scale of pay than the one allowed to the
compositors who have been so fixed in the scale laid down for the highly skill
compositors." The Letters Patent Appeal filed by the Union of India
against the judgment of the learned Single Judge was dis- missed by the
Division Bench of the High Court on the fol- lowing reasoning:-- "The contention
of the appellants, as raised by them in paragraph 5 of their return. that by
length of service a person acquires more and more skill and, therefore, the
test of seniority for the purpose of putting a person in the higher category of
Grade I was justi- fied, not acceptable because it is very well- known that a
mere length of service does not always result in more skill in the working of
the person concerned. Seniority would have of course relevance in a situation
where two persons having equal skill are to be consid- ered. But unless such a
situation arose it is very much evident that initial placing of the 157 present
incumbents on the post of Compositor in the higher category of Grade I could
not have been done in total disregard of the degree of skill which each of
these incumbents possessed." Academic pursuit and experience are two
primary sources of learning. A Compositor's job in a printing press is a
skilled job requiring special technique. In such a job it would be reasonable
to measure the standards of skill by length of experience. The High Court, in
our view, fell into error in quash- ing the classification based on experience
arising out of length of service.
obvious from the recommendations of the Committee quoted above that
"highly skilled" category was created to handle the nature of work
which involved higher skill than the original hand composition. The Com- positors
with longer service and who were found fit for promotion were appointed to
Grade I and were categorised as "highly skilled". Experience itself
is merit and can be a valid basis for classification. This Court in State of U. P. v. j.P. Chaurasaia,  1 S.C.C.
121 has upheld the classifica- tion based on experience as reasonable classi- fication.
Jagannatha Shetty, J. speaking for this Court observed:
14 permits reasonable classification founded on different bases. It is now well
established that the classification can be based on some qualities or
characteristics of persons grouped together and not in others who are left out.
Those qualities or characteris- tics must, of course, have a reasonable rela- tion
to the object sought to be achieved. In service matters, merit or experience
could be the proper basis for classification to promote efficiency in administration.
He or she learns also by experience as much as by other means.
cannot be denied that the quality of work performed by persons of longer
experience is superior than the work of newcomers. Even in Randhir Singh case,
this principle has been recognised. O. Chinnappa Reddy, J. observed that the
classification of officers into two grades with different scales of pay based
either on academic qualification or experience or length of service is
sustainable. Apart from that, higher pay scale to avoid stagna- tion or
resultant frustration for lack of promotional avenues is very common in career
service. There is selection grade for District Judges. 'there is senior time
scale in Indian Administrative Service. There is supertime scale in other like
services. The entitlement to these higher pay scales depends upon sen- iority-
158 cure-merit or merit-cure-seniority. The dif- ferentiation so made in the
same cadre will not amount to discrimination. The classifica- tion based on
experience is a reasonable classification. It has a rational nexus with the
object thereof. To hold otherwise, it would be detrimental to the interest of
the service itself." We, therefore, hold that the judgment of the Himachal
Pradesh High Court in T.R. Thakur's case does not lay-down correct law and is
overruled. The only ground on which this petition is based, having become
non-existent, the petition- ers are not entitled to the relief claimed by them
and the writ petition is liable to be dismissed.
are, however, of the view that the cadre of Composi- tors Grade-I 'highly
skilled' should be enlarged. The Com- positors are persistently demanding the
upgrading of the whole of the cadre. The "Committee" also recommended
that suitable percentage be upgraded. The Government created the higher grade
for 20% of them. Keeping in view the large number of Compositors all over the
country and to remove stagnation we are of the opinion that the ratio between
the two cadres should be 33-1/3: 66-2/3%. We, therefore, commend to the
respondents to increase the strength of the cadre of Compositor Grade-I 'highly
skilled' to 33-1/3 per cent with effect from April 1, 1992.
writ petitions is disposed of in the above terms with no order as 0 costs.