Partly allowing a plea by IAS officer couple Ajit Balaji Joshi and Gauri Parasher Joshi, seeking transfer to the same state cadre on grounds of marriage, the Central Administrative Tribunal’s (CAT) Chandigarh bench has directed the Union to reconsider the case of transfer to Punjab.
The petition states that Ajit Balaji Joshi was directly appointed as an IAS officer in 2003. He belonged to Maharashtra and was allotted Haryana cadre. Gauri Parasher Joshi was directly appointed as an IAS officer in 2009. She belonged to Haryana and was allotted Odisha cadre. They got married on June 28, 2010. Immediately after, Gauri Parasher made a request for change of cadre on the ground of marriage to the same cadre as her husband, for which she was given a No Objection Certificate (NOCs) by Odisha. The couple then made a representation to Union of India, that in case it is not feasible to transfer Gauri Parasher to Haryana cadre, they may be transferred to the State of Punjab.
According to the petitioners, the Union government, without considering an earlier precedent where a woman officer was adjusted in her home cadre on ground of marriage, rejected the request in November 2010.
In March 2011, the couple made a joint representation to the Secretary, DoPT, Government of India, for cadre change on ground of marriage to Punjab. The governments of Haryana, Punjab and Odisha had given NOCs to the applicants for their inter-state transfer to Punjab by March 2011. However, in violation of Rule 5(2) of the All India Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954, the DoPT in April 2011 wrote to the government of Odisha to fulfil the requirement of guidelines of November 2004 and advised Ajit Balaji Joshi to apply for his transfer to Odisha. However, in June 2011, the government of Odisha wrote that it is not willing to accept Ajit Balaji Joshi in Odisha cadre, however on being asked again by DoPT, the Odisha cadre conveyed their acceptance of Ajit Balaji Joshi, indicating that the earlier decision to not accept him was because of his persistent unwillingness to join the cadre. Then, Odisha reiterated its stand, and stated that they have no objection for cadre change of the couple IAS officers to Punjab.
The petitioners have contended that as no fruitful action was taken on their repeated representations, they finally made a representation to the President in June 2016, with a reminder in October 2017. However, representations were withheld by DoPT in January 2018. Meanwhile, due to rejection of their representation to President on January 15, 2018, the couple filed a petition at the CAT, which was disposed of with directions to Union in April 2019 to decide their representation. The Union however again rejected the claim of the petitioner couple, passing an order on May 1, 2019.
The couple have thus approached the CAT, seeking to quash the May 1, 2019 order rejecting their claim for change of cadre of Gauri Parasher to Haryana or change cadre of both to Punjab on grounds of marriage. The duo have also sought quashing of the December 11, 2013 order on the ground that the case of the applicants has been treated as per modified policy, which is not applicable to them.
The Union, opposing the plea while quoting Article 312 of the Constitution, stated that the service was created in national interest and is common to the Union and states. A member of the All India Service, therefore, bears a liability to serve either in the Union or the State to which he or she is allocated, and also the case is almost a closed case as the same cannot be considered as per old policy after a lapse of more than seven years.
It was also contended by the Union that the old policy does not confer any right on officers to get transferred to any third cadre of their own choice. The window is still open for Ajit Balaji Joshi for his transfer to Odisha Cadre as Gauri Parasher cannot be transferred to Haryana, it being her home state.
The CAT bench of Ajanta Dayalan (member administrative) and Sanjeev Kaushik (member judiciary) after hearing the arguments, held: “It is clear from the above policy that inter-cadre transfer to home state of an officer is not permissible, hence, Gauri Parasher cannot come to Haryana cadre being her home state.”
The CAT further stated that DoPT had in a number of cases and during the same period allowed couples to move to a third cadre which was not a deficit cadre. So, we find that the case of the applicants has been dealt with discriminately and with some prejudice.
“Punjab and Haryana cadres are totally separate and independent of each other. Their being near to each other or officers choosing nearby states does not violate any provision of the policy. Intention as indicated by the secretary, DoPT does not find articulation anywhere in the policy. There is no bar whatsoever on officers to choose nearby states or nearby regions in the policy. Thus, the grounds taken by secretary, DoPT are not valid and not as per policy.”, read the order.
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