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A norm that led to loss of seniority forever

Can you imagine a situation wherein an assistant engineer will be working under his batchmate who has gone on to become a chief engineer in a government department?

lucknow Updated: Sep 06, 2012 11:25 IST
Brajendra K Parashar

Can you imagine a situation wherein an assistant engineer will be working under his batchmate who has gone on to become a chief engineer in a government department?

At the outset, this question may appear to be hypothetical. But there are numerous examples of senior general and backward class officers working under scheduled caste officers who are their juniors by several years.

For example, AK Singh, a 1988-batch assistant engineer, was forced to work under Yogesh Kumar, his batchmate, who was promoted as chief engineer, in Ghaziabad a year ago.

AP Mishra, the present UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) managing director (a 1977-batch engineer) once worked as an executive engineer under his 10 years’ junior superintending engineer Shakti Singh who later rose to be the Lucknow Electricity Supply Administration (LESA) boss. While there are many such cases in the UPPCL, all other departments and services are equally affected. For instance, general and backward class regional transport officers (RTOs) of the 1984-batch continue of be RTOs while the scheduled caste RTOs of a one-year junior batch were promoted to the rank of deputy transport commissioner (DTC).

Thanks to reservation in promotion with the principle of consequential seniority added by the Mayawati government, it became the norm for the officers of senior batches to be working under bosses many years their junior in government departments and corporations during the previous rule. “A scheduled caste assistant engineer in the UPPCL was becoming an executive engineer in seven years, superintending engineer in 13 years, and chief engineer in 17 years against a general or backward class who did not get the first promotion as an executive engineer even in 20 years,” Shailendra Dubey, convener, UP Sarvjan Hitaya Sanrakshan Samiti, pointed out. “This,” added OP Pandey (Dubey’s colleague), “was having a demoralising effect on the general and backward class officers in all the departments, adversely affecting their productivity, besides reinforcing caste feelings.”

In UP, reservation in promotions had, any way, been in effect for four decades. “But it is the benefit of consequential seniority given by the BSP government to SC-ST employees, that actually worsened the situation,” Pandey said, explaining, “Earlier, what happened was that a general or backward class employee used to regain his seniority when promoted even if this happened after his junior SC-ST colleague moved up. But had the consequential seniority principle remained in effect, it would have made a general or backward class employee junior forever and all the HoDs would have SC-ST officers in time to come,” Pandey said.

Now, the UPA’s move to amend the Constitution to nullify the Supreme Court’s order in the UP Power Corporation vs Rajesh Kumar and others case, in which the court quashed the BSP government’s order on consequential seniority and reservation in promotion, has again raised many an eyebrow. Not only do general class employees see the attempt as unconstitutional, but some scheduled caste officers also describe the move as uncalled-for.

“The answer to the question whether reservation in promotion be given or not is there in the Supreme Court order itself,” Sriram Saroj, a scheduled caste officer and president of the UP Commercial Tax Officers Association, said. “The Supreme Court has not banned reservation in promotion, but has only asked the state government to come out with data on backwardness of SC employees, to justify the reservation in promotion and I see nothing wrong with it,” he added.

Constitutional experts, however, feel that any law to be enacted to make reservation in promotions a perpetual affair would fall flat on judicial scrutiny. “The SC has long held that the basic structure of the constitution cannot be amended. So the attempt to amend Article 16, which comprises the basic structure, may not succeed,” BC Shukla, a constitutional expert, said.