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SERVICE MATTERS = AUTOMATIC SELECTION GRADE PROMOTIONS=APEX COURT DIRECTIONS = (i) The Appellant-State would not be entitled to recover financial benefits already extended to the employees, pursuant to the first office order issued by Appellant on 25.01.1992. (ii) The Appellant would not also be entitled to recover any amount which might have been paid to the employees even after issuance of the second clarificatory office Order/ letter dated 24.07.1995 as according to us, recovery of such amount would cause great hardships to the employees. (iii)The employees who have earned censure in the past years for their service record will not be entitled to be granted `Selection Grade’ alongwith those who have a clean and unblemished record. They would be granted `Selection Grade’ only one year thereafter.

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 1

 REPORTABLE 

 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8404 of 2011

 [Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.30570 of 2010]

 State of Rajasthan & Ors. ...Appellants

 Versus

 Shankar Lal Parmar ...Respondent

 W I T H

C.A.No.8405/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) No.9847 of 2011];

C.A.No.8406/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) No.17093 of 2011];

C.A.No.8414/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) No.14480 of 2011];

C.A.No.8407/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) No.14789 of 2011];

C.A.No.8408/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) No.14951 of 2011];

C.A.No.8409/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) No.20326 of 2011];

 A N D

C.A.Nos.8410-8411/2011[Arising out of SLP(C) Nos.22755-22756

of 2011].

 J U D G M E N T

Deepak Verma, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. The solitary question that arises for our consideration 

 in the instant and the connected appeals is whether an 

 2

 employee would be entitled for the grant of 'Selection 

 Grade', automatically, at the first instance, after the 

 completion of 9 years, at the second instance, after the 

 completion of 18 years and at the third and last 

 instance, after the completion of 27 years of service, 

 even when he has earned censure in the past years of 

 service. 

3. In fact, on the strength of an Order pronounced by 

Division Bench on 12.12.2003 in the matter of Devi Singh 

Vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors. [reported in 2004 (2) CDR-925 

(Raj)], several matters came to be filed in the High Court 

of Judicature of Rajasthan both at the Principal Bench at 

Jodhpur and at the Bench at Jaipur claiming entitlement for 

the Selection Grade. Unfortunately, the learned Judges, 

either sitting in Single Bench hearing Writ Petitions of 

the employees or in Division Bench, hearing Writ Appeals of 

the State, without properly appreciating or adverting to 

the ratio decidendi of the case, in a stereotype manner, 

went on allowing the Writ Petitions filed by the employees 

and dismissing the appeals preferred by the State. The 

approach adopted by the High Court in all such cases would 

 3

reflect that the judgment in Devi Singh's case has not only 

been misread but has also been misinterpreted by them. In 

fact, it was the duty of the learned Advocate for the 

Appellants, who had appeared in the High Court to have 

pointed out the distinction, but apparently it appears that 

he failed to do so which has led to erroneous judgments. 

The controversy has been pending before this Court for 

quite some time, therefore, we deem it fit to decide it, by 

a reasoned judgment to iron out the creases and clear the 

clouds. 

4. It is relevant to mention here that a Special Leave 

Petition filed by the State, against one Bheem Singh was 

dismissed by this Court on 06.01.2010 on the ground of 

delay. The Order reads as under:

 "Heard learned Counsel for the 

 Petitioners.

 The Special Leave Petition is dismissed 

 on the ground of delay as also on merits.

 However, the question of law is kept open 

 to be decided in an appropriate case."

 Since the Special Leave Petition was dismissed on the 

ground of delay and the question of law was clearly left 

 4

open, thus there is no difficulty in deciding these appeals 

on merits, because the said Special Leave petition was not 

decided on merit.

5. Brief facts material for deciding the instant case are 

given hereinbelow:

 With a view to provide relief to employees, Class IV, 

Ministerial Subordinate Services and those holding isolated 

posts, Selection Grades were prescribed for the lowest 

posts in these services, so as to resolve the problem of 

stagnation. With this intention, first Office Order was 

issued by the State of Rajasthan on 25.01.1992. The 

salient and important features of the said Order, relevant 

for the purpose of these appeals are reproduced 

hereinbelow:

 "2.(i) The first selection Grade shall be 

 granted from the day on which one 

 completes service of nine years, provided 

 that the employee has not got one 

 promotion earlier as is available in his 

 existing cadre.

 (ii) The Second Selection Grade shall be 

 granted from the day following the day 

 on which one completes service of 

 eighteen years, provided that the 

 employee has not got two promotions 

 earlier as might be available on his 

 existing cadre an the first selections 

 5

 grade granted to him was lower than the 

 pay scale of Rs. 2200-4000.

 (iii) The third Selection Grade shall be 

 granted from the day on which one 

 completes service of twenty seven years, 

 provided that the employee has not got 

 three promotions earlier as first or the 

 second Selection Grade granted to him, as 

 the case may be was lower that the pay 

 scale of Rs.2200-4000.

6. Another important and relevant Clause in the said Order 

for our perusal is 7, which is also reproduced hereinbelow:

 "7. Selection Grades in terms of this 

 Order shall be granted only to those 

 employees whose record service is 

 satisfactory. The record of service 

 which makes one eligible for promotion on 

 the basis of seniority shall be 

 considered to be satisfactory for the 

 purpose of grant of the Selection Grade."

7. Clause 7 makes it clear that only those employees would 

be entitled for grant of Selection Grades, whose service 

record has been satisfactory and is otherwise eligible for 

promotion on the basis of seniority but is not able to get 

the same as there might not be any channel of promotion or 

for want of sanctioned posts in the cadre.

8. Another Department of the Appellant-State, Office of 

Director General of Police (Rajasthan) in its wisdom, 

 6

deemed it fit to further clarify the position and issued 

another Circular dated 23.07.1992. The relevant portion of 

the said circular is reproduced hereinbelow:

 "As far as there is question of 

 censure, it shall be not taken into 

 account as unsatisfactory service record 

 for the purpose of grant of selection pay 

 scale, and it shall not be obstructive in 

 grant of selection pay-scale. The period 

 of last seven years shall be counted from 

 the year, for which he is to be given 

 promotion."

 On account of the first Office Order dated 25.01.1992 

and the subsequent Circular dated 23.07.1992, as reproduced 

hereinabove, State started granting Selection Grades to all 

those employees, who had completed requisite number of 

years in service, even if they had earned censure in 

previous years but had not been promoted.

9. To remove the doubts which cropped up on account of the 

 Circular dated 23.07.1992, which created confusion and 

 doubts in the mind of the Heads of Department, as to 

 whether an employee would be automatically entitled to 

 receive the Selection Grades, after completion of 9 

 years, 18 years and 27 years of service, irrespective of 

 his earning censure or other such remarks, another Office 

 7

 Order/letter dated 24.07.1995 was sent, by the Finance 

 Department (Rules Division) to the Director General of 

 Police, Rajasthan. The relevant portion thereof is 

 reproduced hereinbelow:

 "I am directed to refer to your letter 

 No.F.15(10) P.F./Kani/90 dated 24.04.1995 

 on the above noted subject and to say 

 that one of the conditions for grant of 

 selection grade is that the service 

 record of that employee should be 

 satisfactory for the purpose of grant of 

 Selection grade. The promotion of 

 Government Servants, who have been 

 awarded the penalty of censure, is 

 postponed by one year. Since, penalty of 

 censure effects promotion by one year, it 

 effects grant of Selection Grade also by 

 one year. In the second para of your 

 Circular No. F.15 (10) 

 P.Force/Const./90/3439 dated 23.07.1992 

 it has been clarified that penalty of 

 censure shall have no effect for granting 

 of selection grade. This is not in 

 accordance with the rules/order."

 This office order/ letter made it clear that if an 

employee has earned censure during his service, then his 

grant of Selection Grade would be deferred by one year. But 

this clarification was issued by the State after expiry of 

almost more than 3 years from the date of issuance of the 

first office order on 25.01.1992.

 8

10. However, during the interregnum period between 

25.01.1992 to 24.07.1995, certain employees were granted the 

benefit of the Selection Grades, despite having earned 

censure. But after issuance of the subsequent Office 

Order/ letter dated 24.07.1995, Appellant-State started the 

recovery of the amounts from those employees who were 

granted Selection Grades even though they had earned 

censure. This led to filing of several Writ Petitions in 

the High Court, the 1st being Devi Singh's case (supra) 

referred hereinabove. All the subsequent line of cases 

followed the same process. 

11. To further clarify the Circular dated 23.07.1992 issued 

by Director General of Police, Rajasthan, relevant portion, 

reproduced at Para 8 hereinabove, another clarificatory 

Circular dated 24.08.1995 was issued. Thus, vide this 

subsequent Circular, the last paragraph containing the 

following words "as far as there is question of punishment 

of censure, it shall not be considered in service record as 

unsatisfactory in grant of selection grade and shall not be 

impediment in grant of selection grade" mentioned in last 

paragraphs of Circular No. V. 15(10)P.Force/Const./90/3439 

 9

dated 23.07.1992 issued by this office, being contrary to 

Rules, was withdrawn with immediate effect. This Circular 

alongwith the office order/letter of Finance Department 

(Rules Division) dated 24.07.1995, clearly stipulates that 

for the purposes of grant of Selection Grade, in cases where 

an employee has earned a censure, the censure should not be 

treated either as an impediment or obstruction for 

consideration of his promotion but his case for such a grant 

would be deferred by one year.

12. This earning of censure would be a bar for the employee 

to be granted Selection Grade for one year only. This is 

how it should have been interpreted, and the first office 

Order dated 25.01.1992 was to be understood. However, with 

regard to issuance of Office Orders from time to time and 

clarificatory Circular issued by the State, the things 

became much more complicated and confusing, leading to 

filing of many Writ Petitions and passing of several orders 

by Single Benches and Division Benches of the High Court. 

We are thus called upon to set the controversy at rest.

13. In the light of the aforesaid, we have heard Dr. Manish 

Singhvi, learned AAG and Mr. V.N. Raghupathy, Advocates for 

 10

the Appellants and Mr. Puneet Jain, Mr. H.D. Thanvi, Dr. 

Monika Gusain and Mr. Rishabh Sancheti, Advocates for the 

Respondents at length and have also perused the records.

14. As mentioned hereinabove, the first judgment that came 

for the benefit of the Respondent-employee was rendered on 

12.12.2003, i.e., Devi Singh's case (supra). However, in the 

said case, what has been decided was that an employee who 

has already been granted the benefit of Selection Grade, 

such benefits could not be taken back by the Appellant-

State, without issuance of a Show Cause Notice to him in 

this regard. Thus, primarily and basically, it was decided 

in favour of Devi Singh on the ground of violation of 

Principles of Natural Justice. However, the cases filed 

subsequently either before the Single Bench or Division 

Bench were not same, but on account of casual and general 

approach of learned counsel appearing on behalf of the 

parties who argued and showed that the matters were squarely 

covered by Devi Singh's case and hence prayed that these 

matters were to be disposed of accordingly, the courts in 

their wisdom proceeded to do so. It is relevant to further 

mention that the said case of Devi Singh was also followed 

 11

in the matter of Bheem Singh Versus State of Rajasthan 

(SBCWP No.3284/2005) decided on 17.01.2007.

15. There is no doubt that an employee, who has completed 9 

years of service, would be entitled for the grant of first 

Selection Grade and would further be entitled for the grant 

of second Selection Grade after the completion of 18 years 

of service and third Selection Grade would be granted to him 

after completion of 27 years of service, provided that 

during the interregnum period, he has not earned promotion 

as may be available in his existing cadre and has also not 

earned censure in the past years. This appears to be the 

main theme and the purpose for which the first office order 

was issued.

16. Clause 7 further makes it clear that only those/such 

employees would be entitled to be granted Selection Grade 

whose service record has been satisfactory. This implicitly 

shows that the person who has an untainted, unblemished, 

clean and unpolluted record in service would be treated on a 

higher pedestal than those who have either tainted, 

blemished, unclean or polluted record. This obviously 

appears to be a reasonable classification and is under the 

 12

ambit and touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution. 

There is neither any ambiguity nor any doubt in the same. 

17. However, with an intention to clarify the controversy, 

a subsequent office order/letter dated 24.07.1995 was sent 

by Finance Department (Rules Division) to Director General 

of Police, Rajasthan wherein it was provided that the record 

of service which made an employee eligible for promotion on 

the basis of seniority was also to be considered to be 

satisfactory for the purpose of granting 'Selection Grade'. 

It further laid down that if an employee has earned censure, 

then his case for grant of Selection Grade would be deferred 

by one year. In other words, he would be entitled to get it 

but after 1 year, i.e. to say on completion of 10 years of 

service as compared to others, who would get it on 

completion of 9 years of service.

18. It has not been disputed before us that censure is a 

minor penalty and has a minimum penalty as prescribed under 

the Rules of Rajasthan. Thus, it cannot be said that an 

employee who has earned censure would automatically be 

entitled for promotion or respective Selection Grade after 

the completion of 9, 18 or 27 years of service.

 13

19. However, we need to clarify that during the interregnum 

period between the first Office Order, issued on 25.01.1992 

and the subsequent clarificatory office order/ letter dated 

24.07.1995, some of the employees were granted the benefit 

of Selection Grade. The Appellant - State would not be 

entitled to claim refund from such employees who have 

already been granted benefit in this period. The subsequent 

office Order/ letter further makes it clear that all those 

employees who have earned censure in service shall also be 

entitled for the selection grade but the grant of Selection 

Grade to them would be deferred by one year. This appears to 

be an absolutely reasonable and perfect classification as 

otherwise every employee who has a clean image and another 

employee, who has earned censure would be treated at par. 

This is not permissible in the service jurisprudence and is 

also violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

20. It is settled principle of law that "like should be 

treated alike". This is the mandate and command of Article 

14 of the Constitution, which we are required to follow. In 

any case, those who have earned censure cannot be treated at 

par with those who have had a clean service record. As 

 14

mentioned hereinabove, an employee with blemished, polluted, 

tainted, unclean service record cannot be equated with other 

employee who has enjoyed clean, unblemished, unpolluted, 

untainted and impeccable service record. Such 

differentiation would not be violative of Article 14 while 

dealing with the principles of equality. 

21. Since the appeals are to be decided on the touch-stone 

of Article 14 of the Constitution, in short we would like to 

deal with it. This Article has two essential ingredients. 

 (i) Equality before Law 

 (ii) Equal protection of Law

 The forefathers of our Constitution in their wisdom 

incorporated the provision of Equality before Law to attain 

justice: social, economic and political. While Equal 

protection of Law was incorporated so that amongst equals, 

the law could be equally administered and similarly placed 

persons could be placed in a similar manner. But this has a 

caveat. State still has the power to differentiate amongst 

different classes of people. That is to say, it can 

positively discriminate on the basis of reasonable 

classification and distinction but this must be based upon 

 15

an intelligible differentia, which inherently separates such 

persons from the others.

22. In the case in hand, it is a question of grant of 

Selection Grade. A Selection Grade has higher pay but in the 

same post. A promotion post is a higher post with higher 

pay. A Selection Grade is intended to ensure that capable 

employees who may not be able to get a chance of promotion 

on account of limited outlets of promotion, should at least 

be placed in the Selection Grade to prevent stagnation at 

the maximum of the scale. Selection Grade was created to 

remove stagnation in service and consequently leading to 

greater efficiency. State has permitted grant of Selection 

Grade to those who had good service record but for those who 

had earned censure, the same has been deferred by one year. 

Thus, according to us, it would clearly fall in the category 

of reasonable classification which is permissible in 

accordance with the mandate of the Constitution and also on 

account of various judgments pronounced by this Court on 

this topic from time to time.

23. Thus, in our opinion, there is a basic and fundamental 

difference between the two categories of the employees. 

 16

Appellant-State was fully justified in issuing the 

subsequent Office Order/ letter dated 24.07.1995, putting 

all controversies at rest. We do not find that any case of 

discrimination has been made out against the Respondents/ 

Employees. Subsequent Office Order/ letter cannot be said 

to be illegal, arbitrary, unconstitutional or without 

authority of law. We find merit in the arguments advanced 

by Dr. Manish Singhvi, Advocate for the Appellants and thus, 

have no hesitation in allowing these Appeals. It is also 

pertinent to mention here that Respondents/Employees had not 

challenged the subsequent Office Order/ letter dated 

24.07.1995, as being illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary or 

without jurisdiction. As long as this Office Order/ letter 

holds good, it is to be implemented in the same manner and 

spirit in which it was issued.

24. In the light of the foregoing discussion, we are of the 

considered opinion that the impugned orders passed by the 

learned Judges of the Division Benches cannot be sustained 

in law. Hence, the same are hereby set aside and quashed. 

However, looking into the controversies which have been 

 17

there in the State of Rajasthan since 1992, we deem it fit 

and proper to pass the following orders:

 (i) The Appellant-State would not be entitled to 

 recover financial benefits already extended to 

 the employees, pursuant to the first office 

 order issued by Appellant on 25.01.1992.

 (ii) The Appellant would not also be entitled to 

 recover any amount which might have been paid to 

 the employees even after issuance of the second 

 clarificatory office Order/ letter dated 

 24.07.1995 as according to us, recovery of such 

 amount would cause great hardships to the 

 employees.

 (iii)The employees who have earned censure in the past 

 years for their service record will not be 

 entitled to be granted `Selection Grade' 

 alongwith those who have a clean and unblemished 

 record. They would be granted `Selection Grade' 

 only one year thereafter.

 18

 (iv) Any employee who has been promoted before the 

 said period would not be entitled for the grant 

 of `Selection Grade'.

25. With the aforesaid direction, this and the connected 

appeals are allowed. Impugned orders as mentioned 

hereinabove are set aside. Parties to bear their respective 

costs.

 .........................J.

 [DALVEER BHANDARI]

 .........................J.

 [DEEPAK VERMA]

 New Delhi September 30, 2011 

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