Reversion/reduction — of direct recruit

Reduction in rank of an employee initially recruited to a higher time-scale, grade or service or post to a lower time-scale, grade, service or post, not permissible. It tantamounts to removal from the post against which he was initially recruited and substitution of his recruitment to a lower post. Power to reduce in rank by way of penalty can only be exercised in respect of those employees who were appointed by promotion to a higher post, service, grade, time-scale.

Nyadar Singh vs. Union of India,
N.J. Ninama vs. Post Master General, Gujarat,
1988(4) SLR SC 271

The judgment covers a special leave petition and an appeal by 2 Central Government servants. In the Special Leave Petition, Nyadar Singh was imposed a penalty of reduction in rank, reducing him from the post of Assistant Locust Warning Officer to which he was recruited directly on 31-10-60 and confirmed on 27-12-71 to that of Junior Technical Assistant pursuant to certain disciplinary proceedings held against him. In the Civil Appeal, M.J. Ninama, an Upper Division Clerk in the Post and Telegraph Circle Office, Ahmedabad, was imposed a penalty of reduction in rank to the post of Lower Division Clerk from the post of Upper Division Clerk, to which he was directly recruited in the office of the Post Master General, Gujarat Circle, Ahmedabad.

The point for consideration is whether a disciplinary authority can, under sub-rule (vi) of rule 11 of the Central Civil Services (CCA) Rules, 1965, impose the penalty of reduction on a Government servant recruited directly to a particular post to a post lower than to which he was so recruited and if such a reduction is permissible, whether the reduction could only be to a post from which under the relevant Recruitment Rules promotion to the one to which the Government servant was directly recruited is permissible. There is a divergence of judicial opinion amongst the High Courts on the point.

The Division Benches of Orissa and Karnataka High Courts have held that such a reduction in rank is not possible while the Madras, Andhra Pradesh and Allahabad High Courts and the Central Administrative Tribunal, Madras have held that there is no limitation on the power to impose such a penalty. There is yet a third view held by Karnataka High Court in P.V. Srinivasa Sastry vs. Comptroller and Auditor General of India: 1979(3) SLR 509 and the Central Administrative Tribunal, Delhi that such a reduction in rank is permissible provided that promotion from the post to which the Government servant is reduced to the post from which he was so reduced is permissible, or as it has been put, the post to which the Government servant is reduced is in the line of promotion and is a feeder-service.

The Supreme Court observed that as to whether a person initially recruited to a higher time-scale, grade, service or post can be reduced by way of punishment, to a post in a lower time-scale, grade, service or post which he never held before, the statutorylanguage authorises the imposition of penalty does not, it is true, by itself impose any limitations. The question is whether the interpretative factors, relevant to the provision impart any such limitation and on a consideration of the relevant factors, the Supreme Court observed that they must hold that they do. Though the idea of reduction may not be fully equivalent with reversion, there are certain assumptions basic to service law which bring in the limitations of the latter on the former. The penalty of reduction in rank of a Government servant initially recruited to a higher time-scale, grade, service or post to a lower time-scale, grade, service or post virtually amounts to his removal from the higher post and the substitution of his recruitment to the lower post, affecting the policy of recruitment itself. There are certain considerations of policy that might militate against a wide meaning to be given to the power. In conceivable cases, the Government servant may not have the qualifications requisite for the post which may require and involve different, though not necessarily higher, skills and attainments. Here enter considerations of the recruitment policy. The rule must be read in consonance with the general principle and so construed the expression ‘reduction’ in it would not admit of a wider connotation. The power should, of course, be available to reduce a civil servant to any lower time-scale, grade, service or post from which he had subsequently earned his promotion. The argument that the rule enables a reduction in rank to a post lower than the one to which the civil servant was initially recruited for a specified period and also enables restoration of the Government servant to the original post, with the restoration of seniority as well, and that, therefore, there is nothing anomalous about the matter, does not wholly answer the problem. It is at best one of the criteria supporting a plausible view of the matter. The rule also enables an order without the stipulation of such restoration. The other implications of the effect of the reduction as a fresh induction into a lower grade, service or post not at any time earlier held by the Government servant remain unanswered. Then again, there is an inherent anomaly of a person recruited to the higher grade or class or post being asked to work in a lower grade which in certain conceivable cases might require different qualifications. It might be contended that these anomolies could well be avoided by a judicious choice of the penalty in a given factsituation, and that these considerations are more matters to be taken into account in tailoring out the penalty than those limiting the scope of the punitive power itself. But, an over-all view of the balance of the relevant criteria indicates that it is reasonable to assume that the rule making authority did not intend to clothe the disciplinary authority with the power which would produce such anomalous and unreasonable situations. The contrary view taken by the High Courts in the several decisions cannot be taken to have laid down the principle correctly.

The Supreme Court held that the penalties of reduction to posts lower than those to which the appellants were initially directly recruited cannot be sustained.