Bengaluru: The High Court of Karnataka has emphasized that a transfer order signed by the Chief Minister lacks legality unless it provides reasoning for appointing a lower cadre officer to a higher position.
"We are constrained to opine that, even though such transfer orders bear the chief minister's 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," stated a recent judgment by a bench of Justices K Somashekar and Rajesh Rai K. The judgment was made in response to a petition filed by Karnataka Administrative Service (Senior Scale) officer Dr. Prajna Ammembala.
Ms. Ammembala contested a Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal order that set aside her transfer notification dated July 6, 2023, transferring her to the post of Additional Director of the Department of Food and Civil Supplies. The tribunal order was based on the application filed by Patharaju V, Additional Director of the Department of Food and Civil Supplies, who argued that Ms. Ammembala was not eligible for the post.
Ms. Ammembala, appointed as a tahsildar in 2006 and later promoted to KAS (Junior Scale) in 2015 and KAS (Senior Scale) in January 2021, was transferred to the post of Additional Director in July 2023. Mr. Patharaju contested the transfer, alleging that it lacked the chief minister's prior approval.
While the State claimed that the chief minister's approval was obtained, the tribunal held that Ms. Ammembala was ineligible for the post and overturned the transfer order. Ms. Ammembala subsequently approached the high court.
Regarding Ms. Ammembala's eligibility for the post, the high court affirmed that she was within the bounds of the law. "If considered initial posting of the respondent No.3 (Mr. Patharaju), then the petitioner (Ms. 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 high court stated. It upheld the transfer order issued by the government.
The high court also instructed the government to issue necessary guidelines for 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 a 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," concluded the high court, disposing of the petition.