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Andhra Pradesh High Court: Forest Range Officer service is not a “State Forest Service”

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Forest Range Officer service is not a “State Forest Service” within the meaning of Rule 2 (g) (i) of the Indian Forest Service (Recruitment) Rules 1966: AP HC

Recently, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that Forest Range Officer service is not a “State Forest Service” within the meaning of Rule 2 (g) (i) of the Indian Forest Service (Recruitment) Rules 1966.

The bench of Justices Ravi Nath Tilhari and B.V.L.N. Chakravarthi was dealing with the petition challenging the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal.

In this case, 1st respondent was directly recruited as a Forest Range Officer in May 2006 and was thereafter promoted to Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) in August 2020. His next promotional post is Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF).

The petitioners were not considering the 1st respondent’s claim for promotion to the Indian Forest Service, though the rules and regulations provide for consideration of the appointment of Forest Range Officer’s cadre Officers to the Indian Forest Service on promotion.

The Tribunal directed the respondents to treat the Forest Range Officers as State Forest Service Officers and consider the appointment of the 1st respondent to the Indian Forest Service on promotion, provided the 1st respondent was otherwise eligible against vacancies of the appropriate panel year.

The Tribunal further considered that the procedure for appointment to the Indian Forest Service by promotion is under the Indian Forest Service Regulations 1966.

The issue before the bench was:

Whether the Forest Range Officer is a “State Forest Service” fulfilling all the requirements of the “State Forest Service” as per the definition under Rule 2 (g) (i) of the Indian Forest Service (Recruitment) Rules 1966?

The bench observed that Rule 2 (g) (i) of the Recruitment Rules 1966 defines “State Forest Service” which means any such service in State, being a service connected with forestry and the members thereof having gazetted status, as the Central Government may, in consultation with the State Government, approve for the purpose of those Rules.

High Court opined that even if the argument that the Assistant Conservator of Forests is not approved for the purpose of the Recruitment Rules 1966 for promotion to the post of Indian Forest Service by the Central Government, be acceptable, even then on that ground, the claim of the respondent-Forest Range Officer to be considered for promotion as directed by the Tribunal cannot be sustained de horse the Recruitment Rules of 1966.

The bench noted that at least at the initial stage, where there is no consideration by the Authority competent i.e., the State or the Central Government as the case may be, the exercise by the Tribunal to hold the post of Forest Range Officer as much as the post of

Assistant Conservator of Forests is wholly unjustified and uncalled for, though the grant or refusal of equivalence by the competent authority may be open to judicial review afterwards on the limited grounds.

High Court stated that there is no equivalence or that there is equivalence between the posts of Assistant Conservator of Forests and Range Officer in the Andhra Pradesh Forest Service Rules, but such equivalence could not be considered by the Tribunal and based thereon the Forest Range Officer could not be held to be covered in the definition of “State Forest Service” under Rule 2 (g) (i) of the Indian Forest Service (Recruitment) Rules 1966.

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