Devinder Gupta, C.J.
1. The Writ Appeals arising out of the common order passed by the learned Single Judge in W.P. No. 1615 of 2002 and batch dated 20.12.2002 and the Writ Petition No. 4819 of 2002 filed for similar directions as are contained in the common order were heard together and are being disposed of by this common order as they involve consideration of common questions of fact and law.
2. The Life Insurance Corporation of India has preferred the appeals challenging the order of the learned Single Judge disposing of the writ petitions with certain directions to the Corporation in the matter of recruitment to the posts of Sub-staff (Peons) in the Corporation.
3. The appellant-Corporation is felt aggrieved against the directions primarily on the ground that the directions issued by the learned Single Judge are contrary to the order passed by the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000 (LIC of India v. G. Sudhakar and Ors).
4. It will be necessary at this stage to take notice of certain facts. The Corporation has been engaging Sub-staff (Peons) on temporary and ad hoc basis for the last several years. Their services were not being regularised and they were continued to be treated as temporary or on ad hoc basis. Employees had been agitating for regularisation of their services. Finally the matter was referred by the Government of India to the National Industrial Tribunal presided over by Justice Tulpule. While the proceedings were pending before the National Industrial Tribunal, a complaint under Section 33-A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 was filed on behalf of the Unions complaining that regular recruitment was taking place and if such recruitment would take place, the benefit under the award would be only illusory and as such they sought restraint orders. The Tribunal passed an order directing that during the pendency of proceedings before the Tribunal, no recruitment of the staff on regular basis should be made. Award was finally passed on 17.4.1986 by the Tribunal, which was challenged by the Corporation before the High Court of Bombay in W.P.No. 1801 of 1986. The award was referred for interpretation to the National Tribunal presided over by Justice Jamadar. After Justice Jamadar gave his award, Special Leave Petitions were filed before the Supreme Court by the Corporation being SLP (Civil) No. 14906 of 1988 challenging both the awards. An application was filed in the SLP on 21.1.1989 to dispose of the SLP in terms of the compromise arrived at between the Corporation and the Unions. SLP was accordingly disposed of with directions to implement the terms of the compromise as an interim measure.
5. Subsequent to the interim order of the Supreme Court dated 1.3.1989, some more writ petitions came to be filed before various High Courts including Madras High Court. In the meanwhile, the Central Government referred the dispute for adjudicator to Central Industrial Tribunal, New Delhi on 4.3.1989. During pendency of the reference, from out of an order passed by the Madras High Court, Special Leave Petitions (SLP (C) Nos. 10393-10413 of 1992 – E. Prabavathy and Ors. v. Life Insurance Corporation of India) were filed by certain employees before the Supreme Court. On 27.10.1992 the Supreme Court passed an order in the Civil Appeals arising out of the above SLPs, after noticing the statement made on behalf of the Corporation with regard to the future ad hoc appointments/regularisation to the effect that Corporation was in the process of making a scheme consistent with the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Haryana and Ors. v. Piara Singh and Ors. . Scheme was formulated and ultimately, the Supreme Court approved the scheme on 14.12.1995. Salient features of the scheme were incorporated in the Order.
6. While the matter stood there, Corporation had initiated steps for recruitment to the posts of Sub-staff (Peons) in the Andhra Pradesh Division in the year 1991. Notification inviting applications was issued, recruitment process was commenced, and written test was conducted for the applicants who responded to the notification. Before interviews could be held, notification was withdrawn. In order to meet the exigencies of service, several persons were appointed on temporary basis. On 17.7.1996 Corporation issued another notification proposing to conduct recruitment to the posts of Sub-staff (Peons). 400 vacancies were notified to which 40,000 candidates responded. Written test was conducted on 29.12.1996. At that stage, Writ Petition No. 429 of 1997 and W.P.No. 9431 of 1997 were filed by the employees of the Corporation for regularisation of services of those who had been working on ad hoc or temporary basis, which were dismissed by this Court on 29.12.1997. Corporation proceeded ahead with the interviews in the months of May and June, 1998. Writ Petition No. 23458 of 1998 (G. Sudhakur and Ors. v. L.I.C. of India) was filed by some of the candidates, working on temporary or ad hoc basis seeking regularisation of their services. The said writ petition was dismissed on 3.11.1998. Feeling aggrieved, Writ Appeal No. 1091 of 1999 was filed by the employees, which was disposed of on 16.8.1999 with the direction to the Corporation to frame a scheme, as per the observations made in the Judgment. Feeling aggrieved by the directions of the Division Bench, LIC carried the matter to the Supreme Court contending that the directions issued therein were contrary to the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Prabhavaty’s case (supra) on 27.10.1992. Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000 (LIC of India and Ors. v. G. Sudhakar and Ors.) was decided by the Supreme Court on 22.11.2001 observing that the earlier decision of the Court dated 27.10.1992 had not limited the applicability of the scheme framed by the Corporation only to the employees of Tamilnadu Division, therefore, the Division Bench of this Court, was not justified in issuing the impugned directions to the Corporation to evolve a new set of scheme governing the cases of the employees who had filed writ petition in this Court. While setting aside the directions of the Division Bench of this Court, directions were issued that the cases of regularisation of the employees shall be considered by LIC in accordance with the scheme, which formed part of the order in E. Prabhavaty’s case, if not already considered.
7. Out of the seven Writ Petitions giving rise to these seven appeals, W.P. Nos.24249 of 1999, 1615, 3293, 4108 and 12261 of 2002 were filed by the fresh candidates, who had appeared for the written test and interviews seeking directions against the Corporation to declare the results of the written test/interview held for the posts of Sub-staff pursuant to the notification dated 17.7.1996 and to make appointments accordingly. Two Writ Petitions viz., 20504 of 1999 and 6630 of 2002 were filed by those who had been continuing on temporary basis for granting the same reliefs as had been granted by the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000. All these writ petitions were disposed by the learned Single Judge by the order impugned. Learned Single Judge noticed the fact that the scheme evolved by the Corporation, as approved by the Supreme Court in Prabhavathy’s case (supra) was also to be followed by the Corporation in the case of Andhra Pradesh as has been directed by the Apex Court in the order passed in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000. Therefore, it was incumbent upon the Corporation to consider the cases of the temporary/ad hoc employees for regularisation of their services in accordance with the scheme, if not already considered. The learned Single Judge also noticed the fact that pursuant to the advertisement-dated 17.7.1996, some of the employees of their own had applied and appeared in the written test but did not appear in the interview. Learned Judge also came to the conclusion that LIC had not considered the cases of the temporary/ad hoc employees for regularisation in terms of the directions of the Supreme Court in Prabhavaty’s case and in terms of the subsequent directions issued in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2002, therefore, a peculiar situation had emerged as regards the temporary employees. Those who were enthusiastic had appeared in the written test and those who expected a different type of absorption remained outside the selection process. The learned Single Judge held that the Corporation had not considered the cases of the temporary employees strictly in consonance with the directions issued in Prabhavaty’s case, therefore, the writ petitions were disposed of issuing the following directions:
(a) The Corporation shall declare the results of the candidates who have been interviewed in the recruitment process;
(b) The vacancies, representing the number of eligible temporary employees shall be kept apart and remaining vacancies shall be filled by successful (wrongly typed as unsuccessful) fresh applicants;
(c) So far as the vacancies earmarked for temporary employees are concerned, such of those temporary employees who are successful in the written test and interview shall be considered for appointment against such vacancies; and
(d) As regards the balance of vacancies earmarked for temporary employees, the Corporation shall hold written test and interview for temporary employees as well as those fresh candidates who are found to be eligible to be interviewed under the 1996 recruitment and the appointments shall be on the basis of relative merit among all the candidates.
8. Aggrieved by the aforesaid directions, the Corporation has filed the appeals on the ground that the directions are contrary to the directions issued in Prabhavaty’s case and in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000.
9. Writ Petition No. 4819 of 2002 is filed by as many as 96 employees claiming to be working either on temporary or ad hoc basis stating that though their cases for regularisation of services are required to be considered by the Corporation in terms of the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Prabhavaty’s case and in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000, the same have not been considered, therefore, directions be issued to the Corporation to consider their cases in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court.
10. The stand of the Corporation in the counter-affidavit filed in W.P.No. 4819 of 2002 is that a notification was issued on 17.7.1996 inviting applications for appointment to 400 posts of Sub-staff within the jurisdiction of Hyderabad and Secunderabad Division. At that time, the anticipated vacancies were about 200 in number and as per rules and instructions, double the number of vacancies have to be empanelled, In response to the above notification, more than 40,000 applications were received and written test and interviews were conducted. The results of the test/ interviews and further appointments could not be proceeded with in view of the pendency of the litigation. As regards the directions issued by the Supreme Court, the stand of the Corporation in the counter was that the Corporation has to apply the scheme only with regard to the vacancies and notification that may be issued after the judgment of Supreme Court dated 22.11.2001. The question of the 1996 recruitment therefore, cannot be linked to the petitioners and the Corporation has to take further steps in filling up the posts as per 1996 notification. The petitioners became eligible for taking test only after 22.11.2001. The notification of 1996 and the vacancies notified therein cannot be made applicable to the petitioners and they cannot claim any right with regard to the 1996 notification and the vacancies notified therein and stultify these appointments.
11. The Corporation also filed additional counter-affidavit clarifying the position as regards the total number of temporary workmen said to have been engaged by the Corporation and the number of workmen who had availed of the opportunity by applying pursuant to the advertisement dated 17.7.1996 and who had appeared for the written test. It was averred that the total number of temporary workmen were around 127 out of which 102 had appeared in written test pursuant to the advertisement dated 17.7.1996. Since 102 temporary workmen had already availed of one opportunity for being considered for regularisation, their cases cannot be considered by the Corporation once again for regularisation. As regards the remaining 25 workmen, it was stated on behalf of the Corporation that if they were within the age limit prescribed for recruitment and they did not apply for the same, no further chance could be given to them as it would be a second opportunity since first opportunity had arisen in the year 1996, therefore, there was no question of granting any relief to them also.
12. The learned Counsel appearing for the Corporation during the course of arguments submitted that as per the directions of the Supreme Court temporary workmen were entitled to avail of one opportunity to consider their cases for regularisation of services, which arose in the year 1996. Some of them did apply and appeared in the written test who cannot be granted second chance. The remaining 25 candidates also cannot be given further chance since it would amount to giving second opportunity since, the opportunity for them having arisen in the year 1996 and in case they will be over-aged at the second chance which would arise in future, the same would be contrary to the scheme, Directions in the impugned order, which are under challenge in these appeals permits these candidates to be given a second chance, therefore, the same are contrary to the directions issued by the Supreme Court.
13. We are not impressed with the submissions made on behalf of the Corporation. The Corporation has been taking conflicting stand to suit its requirement. Stand taken in the two writ petitions out of which the appeals have arisen is different from the stand taken in the counter-affidavit filed in W.P.No. 4819 of 2002. Even the stand taken in Supreme Court was totally different. Stand now taken is also contrary to the directions of the Supreme Court given in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000 as also the directions issued in Prabhavathy’s case and the instructions formulated by the Corporation in the year 1993 pursuant to the decision in Prabhavaty’s case, which are known as Life Insurance Corporation of India (Employment of Temporary Staff) Instructions, 1993.
14. The public advertisement dated 17.7.1996 inviting applications for appointment to the posts of Sub-staff (Peons) gave an opportunity to temporary employees also to appear in test and interview, as a step for regularisation of their services. Learned Counsel appearing for the Corporation contended that this public advertisement was a notice to the temporary employees also that they could apply and seek their regularisation. This stand of the Corporation, in our view, is not the correct interpretation of the order of the Supreme Court. The advertisement specifically stated that those candidates, who had been appointed on or after 28.6.1993 under Life Insurance Corporation of India (Employment of Temporary Staff) Instructions, 1993 and worked in temporary capacity for a period of 85 days in a financial year will be allowed to compete in the recruitment process provided they fulfil the remaining conditions. Thus, on the face of it, the advertisement gave an opportunity to those temporary employees only who had been appointed on or after 28.6.1993 for being considered. Petitioners who had been seeking regularisation and those who were before the Supreme Court as also the petitioners in W.P. No. 4819 of 2002 were those who had been appointed prior to 28.6.1993. The directions of the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000 clearly stated that the cases of regularisation shall be considered in accordance with the scheme which formed part of the order in E. Prabhavathy ‘s case, if not already considered. Obligation was on the part of the Corporation to have considered the cases of all eligible temporary/ad hoc employees for regularisation as per the scheme and such obligation was not discharged by the LIC. Also it cannot be said that those employees, who were enthusiastic enough and had applied pursuant to the notification dated 17.7.1996 were availing of chance as per the scheme. They in fact had applied as general candidates and not as candidates per the scheme. The advertisement itself restricted the scope and stated that only those who had been appointed on or after 28.6.1993 would be considered for regularisation implying that the temporary employees who had been appointed prior to 28.6.1993 will not be considered for regularisation.
15. In view of the above, we are of the considered view that the directions issued by the learned single Judge are not at all contrary to the directions of the Supreme Court either in Prabhavaty’s case or in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000. Learned Single Judge has taken great pains while issuing directions that the same are in consonance with the directions issued by the Supreme Court. While directing the Corporation to declare the result of the candidates, who had been interviewed in the recruitment process, the learned Judge rightly directed that the vacancies representing the number of eligible temporary employees shall be kept apart and the remaining vacancies shall be filled up by successful fresh applicants. So far as the vacancies earmarked for temporary employees, such of them who are successful in written test and interview would be considered for appointment against those vacancies and as regards the balance, the Corporation shall hold written test and interview for temporary employees as well to those fresh candidates who are found to be eligible to be interviewed in 1996 recruitment and the appointments shall be made on the basis of the relative merit amongst the candidates. No fault can be found with the directions issued by the learned Single Judge which as we have observed earlier have been issued in order to facilitate L.I.C. to comply with the directions issued by Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 2104 of 2000, strictly in accordance with the scheme formulated in Prabhavaty’s case.
16. For the reasons aforesaid, the Writ Appeals filed by the Corporation are liable to be dismissed and W.P. No. 4819 of 2002 deserves to be allowed by issuing similar directions as are contained in the impugned order. Accordingly, the Writ Appeals are dismissed. Writ Petition No. 4839 of 2002 is allowed with the directions as are contained in the impugned order under challenge. Since time to comply with the directions has come to an end, Corporation is directed to complete the process as contained in directions (a) and (b) within a period of two months from today and those contained under (c) and (d) within a further period of four months from today.
17. Ordered accordingly. Parties are directed to bear their respective costs.