The High Court of Karnataka has said that a transfer order bearing the signature of the Chief Minister does not become licit, till there is a reasoning recorded to post a lower cadre officer to a higher post.
“We are constrained to opine that, even though such transfer orders bear the chief ministers signature on it, but such orders cannot be said to be a licit order as we find absence of reasons to enlighten the Chief Minister as to non-availability of eligible persons to be posted to said post and as to why a person of a lower cadre is posted to the said encadred place,” it said.
A bench of Justices K Somashekar and Rajesh Rai K said this in their recent judgement on a petition filed by Karnataka Administrative Service (Senior Scale) officer Dr Prajna Ammembala.
Ammembala had challenged a Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal order of August 2, 2023, allowing an application filed by Patharaju V, Additional Director of Department of Food and Civil Supplies and set aside the transfer notification dated July 6, 2023, by which Ammembala was transferred to that post.
Patharaju had contended that Ammembala was not eligible for the post.
Ammembala was appointed as a tahsildar through direct appointment in 2006 and promoted to KAS (Junior Scale) in 2015 and KAS (Senior Scale) in January 2021. Ammembala was transferred as Additional Director, Department of Food and Civil Supplies in July 2023.
Patharaju was already in this post and challenged Ammembala’s transfer in the Tribunal stating that Ammembala was transferred to the post without the prior approval of the Chief Minister.
The State contended that the prior approval of the CM was taken.
The Tribunal held that Ammembala was ineligible to hold the post and set aside the transfer order. Ammembala then approached the High Court.
On the question of the eligibility of Ammembala for the post, the high court said that the law was in her favour.
“If considered initial posting of the respondent No.3 (Patharaju), then the petitioner (Ammembala) who is also in the same cadre of KAS (Senior Scale), is very much eligible to hold the post on the deputation if the same benefit of upgradation is awarded to her,” the HC said. It therefore upheld the transfer order issued by the government.
The HC also directed the government to issue necessary guidelines when transferring lower cadre officers to higher cadre posts.
“We also direct the state government to issue necessary guidelines i.e, as to the circumstances under which a lower cadre person can be posted to higher cadre post, and also to make it mandatory to assign proper reasons when a lower cadre person is posted to a post designated for higher cadre before getting chief minister's approval,” the HC said disposing of the petition.