New Delhi: A censured employee can be denied
benefits like increase in salary and it cannot be construed as
discriminatory or violative of the equality clause provided in
the Constitution, the Supreme Court has held.
A bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma
said the state has the power to adopt "positive
discrimination" between a censured employee and a colleague
with a clean record.
The apex court passed the ruling while upholding an
appeal filed by Rajasthan government challenging the state
High Court`s direction to grant "selection grade" (increase in
salary) benefits to certain employees despite having been
censured for misconduct.
"The person who has an untainted, unblemished, clean and
unpolluted record in service would be treated on a higher
pedestal than those who have either tainted, blemished,
unclean or polluted record.
"This obviously appears to be a reasonable classification
and is under the ambit and touchstone of Article 14 of the
Constitution. There is neither any ambiguity nor any doubt in
the same," Justice Verma, writing the judgment, said.
In this case, the state had issued an office memo on
January 25, 1992, providing for selection grade to employees
on completion of 9, 18 or 27 years of service. A subsequent
clarification was issued through "Clause 7" on July 24, 1995,
that the grant of selection grade would be deferred by a year
to those had a "censure" in the Annual Confidential Records.
The High Court had, however, held that the selection
grade cannot be deferred or withheld on account of "censure."
Aggrieved, the state had appealed in the apex court.
Upholding the Rajasthan government rules, the apex court
said the classification was “absolutely reasonable and
perfect" as otherwise every employee who has a clean image and
another employee, who has earned censure, would be treated at
"This is not permissible in the service jurisprudence and
is also violative of Article 14 (Equality before Law) of the
"It is a settled principle of law that `like should be
treated alike.` This is the mandate and command of Article 14
of the Constitution which we are required to follow. In any
case, those who have earned censure cannot be treated at par
with those who have had a clean service record," the apex
The apex court said the Constitution has incorporated the
provision of "Equality before Law" to attain justice--social,
economic and political--and "Equal protection of Law" was
enshrined so that amongst equals, the law could be uniformly
administered among similarly-placed persons.
"But this has a caveat. The state still has the power to
differentiate amongst different classes of people. That is to
say, it can positively discriminate on the basis of reasonable
classification and distinction but this must be based upon on
intelligible differentia, which inherently separates such
persons from the others," the bench said.
The apex court, however, clarified that the state
government would not be entitled to recover the enhanced
salaries already paid to the employees who had been granted
Selection Grade despite being censured.