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The Supreme Court reiterated that the services rendered by ad hoc employees prior to their regularization cannot be counted for the purpose of seniority.

In this case, while allowing a writ petition filed by some regularized employees, the Single bench of the High Court (in Malook Singh vs State of Punjab ) observed that once the services had been regularized they would relate back to the date of their initial appointment and the ad hoc service would have to be kept in view in determining seniority and other benefit. The Division Bench, while dismissing the Letters Patent Appeal, however clarified that this observation would not be treated as a binding precedent. The Special Leave Petition filed against these judgments was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

In the meanwhile, the said observations made in Malook Singh was overruled by a Division Bench of the High Court in Gurmail Singh v. State of Punjab. Thereafter, a batch of writ petitions was instituted before the High Court to challenge the fixation of seniority. Taking note of the fact that the observations made in Malook Singh is overruled, the Single bench held that as between the parties to the decision in Malook Singh’s case, the judgment would be treated as final and binding. On the other hand, the persons who were appointed by a due process of selection and were not parties to the earlier proceedings in Malook Singh’s case would not be bound by the decision. The Division bench dismissed the Letters Patent Appeal.

In appeal, the Apex court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna noted that the Constitution Bench in Direct Recruit Class II Engineering Officers’ Association v. State of Maharashtra had held that ad hoc service cannot be counted for determining the seniority if the initial appointment has been made as a stop gap arrangement and not according to rules. 

The court observed that a binding decision of the court which has attained finality would bind the parties to the proceedings inter-se.

“The judgment, therefore, would only bind those who are parties to the proceedings. The judgment would by no means operate to bind others whose interest did not coincide with the private respondents who are impleaded in the proceedings. This is precisely the reason why the Single Judge in the subsequent proceedings held that the seniority list which was prepared pursuant to the earlier judgment would not operate to bind those persons who were not parties to the earlier proceedings and were adversely affected”, the court said.

The court, therefore, disposed of the appeal by issuing the following directives:

(i) The pensionary benefits which are being disbursed to the appellants shall not be disturbed. Likewise, the pensionary payments which are being disbursed to the respondents shall be paid over in accordance with law;

(ii) No recoveries shall be made of any nature whatsoever from the appellants.

Case name and Citation: Malook Singh vs State of Punjab LL 2021 SC 547 

Case no. and date: CA 6026-28/2021 | 28 September 2021 

Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud, Vikram Nath and BV Nagarathna 

Counsel: Sr. Adv P S Patwalia , Adv Surjit Singh Swaich for appellants, Adv Anusha Nagarajan for state, Adv Arun K Sinha for respondents

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