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Sub-classification of posts based on job description is not permissible under 'distinct category'



GOVERNMENT OF INDIA & ORS V. ISRO DRIVERS ASSOCIATION, CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 7138 OF 2010, August 10, 2020.

The bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice SANJAY KISHAN KAUL, Hon’ble Justice AJAY RASTOGI and Hon’ble Justice ANIRUDDHA BOSE pronounced the judgment on the appeal directed against the order and judgment passed by the Division Bench of the  High Court of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad holding the association formed by the drivers based on job description as a ‘distinct  category’ laid down under Rule 5 (c) of Central Civil Services  (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993, overruling the view expressed by the  Single Bench of the High Court.

The question for consideration before the apex court is; Whether “the association formed on the basis of job description such as drivers etc. which has been classified in group ‘C’ constitute a ‘distinct category of Government servants’ under Rule 5 (c) of Rules 1993”?  

Mr. Vikramjeet Banerjee, learned Additional Solicitor General submits that the expression ‘distinct category’ as referred to under Rule 5 (c ) of the Rules 1993 has not been defined and that was the reason the rule making authority visited the scheme and by its clarificatory memo dated 22nd April, 1994, had entrusted this responsibility to concerned Ministry/Department to take a decision keeping in view the functional, administrative and organizational set up. In furtherance thereof, the Department of Space held its meeting in April 1994 with all the service associations and except the respondent, other associations agreed that all the employees covered by the Joint Consultative Machinery scheme of the Department should be treated as single category and any association/Union exclusively formed by certain group of employees based on job description in the organization such as drivers, stenographers, tradesmen, etc. would not qualify for recognition under the Rules 1993. Taking note of the overall view of the functional, administrative and organizational set up of the Department, a letter was issued to the centres/units on 30th May, 1996 to call for application of service association who wished to be recognized under the scheme of Rules and it was clarified by the Department that the term ‘distinct category’ as defined under Rule 5(c) will constitute all the employees in the particular region and not a cluster of employees based on job or trade description like the members of the respondent, all of whom were drivers, did not constitute a ‘distinct category’ of government servants and were rightly held not entitled for recognition.

Mr. Shekhar G. Devasa, learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, while supporting the finding recorded in the impugned judgment submits that as long as the respondent fulfil the preconditions for recognition as envisaged under the scheme of Rules 1993, it was not open for the appellants to take aid or assistance and place reliance on the Office Memorandum dated 22nd April, 1994 or 30th May, 1996 to deny their claim which has been conferred on them under the statutory rules framed under proviso to Article 309 read with clause 5 of Article 148 of the Constitution of India. Learned counsel further submits that they had formed their association with the object of common service interest of the drivers employed in Unit ISRO and remain restricted to a ‘distinct category’ of Government servants, i.e., drivers all of whom had a common interest and were eligible to be members of their association and representing 120 out of 150 drivers of ISRO Unit and more than 35% of the membership required and nature of duties discharged by the drivers in ISRO being distinct from the duties discharged by employees working in other categories of posts, were rightly held to be eligible for recognition under Rules 1993.

The Court stated that;

In exercise of the powers conferred by the proviso to Article 309 and clause (5) of Article 148 of the Constitution and in  supersession of the Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service  Associations) Rules, 1959, Rules 1993 have been framed.

Since certain doubts were raised by the persons for  implementation of the scheme of Rules 1993,  Ministry of Personnel P.G. & Pension(Department of Personnel & Training), Government  of India vide Office Memorandum dated 22nd April, 1994 (Annexure  P­2) made a clarification and invited attention to all the  Ministries/ Departments and so far as expression ‘distinct category’  as referred to under Rule 5(c) is concerned, the doubt was whether  the term ‘distinct category’ means group wise categorization i.e.  group ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ or cadre wise categorization and what will  be the effect of 35% of minimum membership of employees as  referred to under 5(d) and the clarification was made by the DOPT   for implementation of the Rules 1993 in granting recognition to the  service association.  

The Latin maxim ‘noscitur a socilis’ states this contextual principle, whereby a word or phrase is not to be construed as if it stood alone but in the light of its surroundings – Bennion on Statutory Interpretation, Fifth Edition AG Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover [1957] AC 436, Viscount Simonds has opined that “a word or phrase in an enactment must always be construed in the light of the surrounding text. “…words and particular general words, cannot be read in isolation, their colour and their content are derived from their context.”

Adverting to the facts of the instant case, the scheme of Rules 1993 clearly manifests that the primary object of the scheme is to promote the common service interest of its members and service association which intends to accord recognition must represent minimum 35% of the total category of employees with a rider that where there is only one association which commands more than 35% membership and another association with second highest membership must be recognized if it commands at least 15% membership. The intention appears to be to avoid plurality of associations which indeed may not be in the overall interest of the Government servants in forming service association on their job description.

In this context, the expression ‘distinct category of government servants’ referred under Rule 5 (c) with its due emphasis in furtherance of the clarification which has been made by the rule making authority is, in fact, supplementing the scheme of rules for its effective and proper implementation which is permissible under the law unless held to the contrary and that was never the case of the respondent at any stage in grouping the classification of posts in group ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ as a ‘distinct category’, is in contravention to Rule 5 (c ) of Rules 1993 and any further sub-classification of posts based on job description is not permissible under the recruitment and conduct rules if permitted under the guise of expression ‘distinct category’ to form service association, it would defeat the purpose and object with which the scheme of Rules 1993 have been framed according recognition to service association which has been primarily formed with an object of promoting the common service interests of its members at large and the literal interpretation in isolation of the term ‘distinct category’ made by the Division Bench of the High Court in the impugned judgment granting permission to each group of employees based on job description/trade to claim recognition and form their service association would not only defeat the primary object of the scheme of Rules 1993 but the purpose as well with which the Joint Consultative Machinery has been formed to watch albeit the common service interest of its members/Government servants.

Hence, the court sets aside the judgement passed by High Court.


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CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 7138 OF 2010
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Karthik K.P (School of Law, SASTRA Deemed to be University)


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