Review of Promotions: Supreme Court Judgement in the Case of T.K. Ponnusamy vs. Central Government

The Supreme Court recently delivered a crucial judgement in the case of T.K. Ponnusamy vs. Central Government, addressing the review of promotions and selection process. The Court’s ruling emphasizes the importance of merit, ability, and suitability in promotion decisions, highlighting key aspects of the Selection Committee’s assessment process. Stay tuned for more insights on this significant legal case.


  • The first respondent’s name was considered for promotion to the IAS in 2004 along with other officers.
  • Despite being assessed as ‘Good’ in 2004, the first respondent’s name could not be included in the Select List due to lower grading and statutory limits on list size.
  • The High Court directed a review of promotions for the year 2004, specifically ordering the promotion of the first respondent.
  • The first respondent filed applications and appeals before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in pursuit of his promotion.
  • The CAT initially dismissed the first respondent’s application due to no irregularities found in the Selection Committee’s assessment process.
  • The Tribunal mentioned that the Selection Committee classifies officers as ‘Outstanding’, ‘Very Good’, ‘Good’, or ‘Unfit’ based on discussions and assessments.
  • Subsequent review applications by the first respondent were also dismissed by the Tribunal.
  • The Selection Committee had considered the first respondent’s Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) along with other officers for the 2004 promotions.
  • The High Court intervened by setting aside the Tribunal’s order and directing a review of the promotion process for the year 2004.
  • The Selection Committee meeting for the 2004 promotions was held against three vacancies as determined by the Central Government.
  • The High Court criticized the sudden change in the classification of T.K. Ponnusamy from ‘Unfit’ in 2003 to ‘Very Good’ in 2004, without valid reasons.
  • It was noted that the first respondent’s overall assessment was downgraded from ‘Very Good’ in 2003 to just ‘Good’ in 2004, with no explanation for this sudden change.
  • The Tribunal had directed the re-fixing of the first respondent’s seniority in a timely manner, but the State Government delayed this re-fixing for 39 months, causing unfair prejudice to the first respondent as his juniors were promoted to the IAS during this period.

Also Read: High Court Acquittal Case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Jai Prakash


  • Regulation 5(2) states that Selection Committee shall consider cases of State Civil Service Members in order of seniority.
  • Seniority plays a role in selection process, especially when merit, ability, and suitability are equal.
  • Selection from State Civil Service Officers to IAS is based on merit, ability, and suitability.
  • Case reference to UPSC v. K. Rajaiah and others (2005) 10 SCC 15 regarding Selection Committee’s classification.
  • Inclusion of candidate with pending criminal case in Select List was provisional as per Regulation 5(5).
  • Allegation of deliberate delay by State Government in fixing first respondent’s seniority causing prejudice.
  • The Selection Committee downgraded the first respondent from ‘Very Good’ to ‘Good’ without providing any reasons.
  • The person with tainted antecedents was rated as ‘Very Good’ in contrast to being found ‘Unfit’ previously.
  • No valid reasons were given for the downgrading of the first respondent’s rating.
  • The High Court correctly found that the Selection Committee’s findings were flawed due to lack of proper consideration and ordered a review of the promotions for the year 2004.

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  • Seniority is relevant only when merit of candidates is approximately equal.
  • Courts should not interfere with the assessment made by Selection Committee unless there are grounds of bias, mala fides, or arbitrariness.
  • The Selection Committee has the discretion to make its own assessment based on candidates’ performance.
  • Courts have a limited scope of judicial review in matters of candidate selection for promotion.
  • Promotion based on merit does not guarantee promotion to senior officers over juniors.
  • Selection should be made on merit, ability, and suitability of officers, and a senior officer has no legal right to promotion based on seniority alone.
  • Selection Committee’s classification of officers is based on their service records, not solely on seniority.
  • The Selection Committee’s decision-making process was found to be free from arbitrariness in the present case.
  • The High Court has pointed out inconsistencies in the classification and rating of candidates by the Selection Committee.
  • The decision-making power to classify candidates as ‘outstanding’, ‘very good’, ‘good’, or ‘unfit’ lies with the Selection Committee.
  • The Selection Committee is not legally required to provide reasons for its grading decisions, as affirmed in various Supreme Court judgments.
  • The power to supersede a senior officer without providing reasons is acknowledged by the Supreme Court under Regulation 5(5) of the Promotion Regulations.
  • The High Court’s decision that the Selection Committee failed to properly assess all aspects of the case in the promotions to the IAS for the year 2004 is incorrect.
  • The High Court’s ruling that the promotions are vitiated and need review is not justified.
  • The High Courts’ judgement dated 17.04.2008 in Writ Petition No.33696 of 2007 is set aside.
  • The appeals are allowed, and the impugned judgment is not sustainable.

Also Read: The Ruias v. MHL: Landmark Supreme Court Judgement


  • The challenge to G.O. Ms. No.1125 dated 26.11.2011 by the first respondent will be considered on its own merits.
  • The judgment will not be influenced by any views expressed in it.


Case Number: C.A. No.-004626-004626 / 2009

Click here to read/download original judgement

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