SC on Rule 5 (c) of CCS (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 10th August 2020, in the matter of Government of India & Ors. v. ISRO Drivers Association held that grouping the classification of posts in group ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ as a ‘distinct category’, is in contravention to Rule 5 (c) of CCS (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993 and any further sub­classification 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 CCS (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993 have been framed.

Question before the Hon’ble Supreme Court

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 Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993  ?

Hon’ble Supreme Court’s observation:

With the object of promoting harmonious relations and securing cooperation between the Government and its employees in the matters of common concern and to increase efficiency of public service, the Government of India established in 1966 the Machinery for Joint Consultation and Arbitration. The Joint Consultative Machinery Scheme was introduced at the national level and at two lower levels, namely, departmental and regional/office level. The Joint Councils operate with the official members and staff members. The staff members are represented by recognized service association of Government servants belonging to Group C & Group D and Group B (non­gazetted staff). (Para 13)

The expression ‘distinct category’ referred to under clause (c) of Rule 5 has not been defined under the scheme of Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993.  (Para 16)

The primary object of forming service association is to promote the common service interest of its members and the membership of the service association remain restricted to such Government servants having common interest. (Para 29)

At the same time, if association/Union is being exclusively permitted to be formed by the group of employees based on job description in the organization such as drivers, stenographers, etc. apart from various category of employees who are working in SDSC SHAR i.e. technical attendants, nursing attendants, technicians, office attendants,  radiographers, etc. for the purpose of recognition under the scheme of Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993 treating them to be a ‘distinct category’, there is a greater probability that the employees of each of the above mentioned trades/jobs would form into association in each of the centres/units qualifying themselves into ‘distinct category’ and seek representation in Joint Consultative Machinery that would not only defeat the purpose of Joint Consultative Machinery but would lead to groupism obstructing the working atmosphere and neither joint consultation nor consensus would prevail and that will jeopardize the service interest of the government servants. (Para 29)

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.” (Para 31)

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. (Para 32)

Grouping the classification of posts in group ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ as a ‘distinct category’, is in contravention to Rule 5 (c ) of Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) Rules, 1993 and any further sub­classification 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 Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) 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’ 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 Central Civil Services (Recognition of Service Association) 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. (Para 32)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_10-Aug-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik 

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