The Madras High Court on Wednesday said that during the period of currency of a minor punishment, a government employee cannot claim as a matter of right to be promoted to the next category merely on the basis that he is otherwise fit for promotion.

In its common judgment on a batch of writ appeals, challenging an order of the Madurai Bench of the High Court dated November 18, 2009, a Full Bench comprising Chief Justice M.Y.Eqbal and Justices P.Jyothimani and T.S.Sivagnanam, said it was needless to state that after the currency of the punishment period, a government servant was entitled to be considered for promotion, if otherwise eligible.

Originally, a writ petition was filed challenging government orders denying promotion during pendency of punishment such as stoppage of increments for minor offences under Rule 8 of the Tamil Nadu Civil Servants (Discipline and Appeal Rules). A Division Bench allowed the petition. Challenging this order, the government preferred an appeal. As a large number of similar cases were pending before the High Court's Principal Seat and its Madurai Bench, all the matters were placed before the Full Bench.

The Bench held that the detailed instructions issued by the government in the order on October 18, 1993 could not be equated to the statutory rules framed under Article 309 of the Constitution and it could utmost be administrative instructions issued under Article 162 of the Constitution. In any event, the G.O. did not deal with the case of promotion of a government servant during the currency of punishment.

The letters of the Personnel and Administrative Department dated October 7, 2005 and October 20, 1997 were not statutory rules framed under proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution and could not be read either with the Tamil Nadu Government Servants Conduct rules or under the Tamil Nadu Civil Service (Disciplinary and Appeal) Rules. Consequently, the embargo put on the right of government servants for being considered for promotion for a further period, after the period of minor punishment was over, in the name of ‘check period' viz. one year in the case of censure and five years in the case other than minor punishment was illegal and impermissible under the statutory rules, the Full Bench held.

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