Where a promotion is to be given on the principle of “seniority-cum-merit”, such promotion will not granted automatically on the basis of seniority alone, but, also in parallel consideration of the merit of the candidate. Merit of all eligible candidates in the feeder cadre must be subject to a process of assessment to determine whether or not an individual in fact possesses the specified minimum qualification, and in the event that he does possess the same, his case must be considered giving due weightage to his seniority (Harigovind Yadav v. Rewa Sidhi Gramin Bank, AIR 2006 SC 3596). Furthermore, the statutory authority must adopt a bonafide and reasonable method to determine the minimum necessary merit, as is required to be possessed by the eligible candidate. It must also take into account his period of service, educational qualifications, his performance during his past service for a particular period, his written test, interview, etc. The authority must further be competent to allocate separate maximum marks on each of the aforesaid counts. Fixing such criteria, or providing for minimum necessary merit, falls within the exclusive domain of policy making(Rajendra Kumar Srivastava v. Samyut Kshetriya Gramin Bank, AIR 2010 SC 699). Thus, it cannot be interfered with by courts in the exercise of their judicial powers, unless the same is found to be off the mark, unreasonable, or malafide.
The principles of “seniority-cum-merit” and “merit-cum-seniority” are conceptually different, as in the case of the former, there is greater emphasis upon seniority even though the same is not the deciding factor, while the case of the latter, merit is the deciding factor and seniority is reckoned only if there is clash of equal merit between the candidates.