The three terms ‘ad hoc’, ‘stop gap’ and ‘fortuitous’ are in frequent use in service jurisprudence. In the absence of definition of these terms in the Rules in question we have to look to the dictionary meaning of the words and the meaning commonly assigned to them in service matters. The meaning given to the expression “fortuitous” in Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary is “accident or fortuitous casualty”. This should obviously connote that if an appointment is made accidentally, because of a particular emergent situation and such appointment obviously would not continue for a fairly long period. But an appointment made either under Rule 16 or 17 of the Recruitment Rules, after due consultation with the High Court and the appointee possesses the prescribed qualification for such appointment provided in Rule 7 and continues as such for a fairly long period, then the same cannot be held to “fortuitous”. In Black’s Law dictionary, the expression “fortuitous” means “occurring by chance”, “a fortuitous event may be highly unfortunate”. It thus, indicates that it occurs only by chance or accident, which could not have been reasonably foreseen. The expression “ad hoc” in Black’s Law Dictionary, means “something which is formed for a particular purpose”. The expression “stop-gap” as per Oxford Dictionary, means “a temporary way of dealing with a problem or satisfying a need”.
In Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘ad hoc’ means for a particular purpose, specially. In the same Dictionary, the word ‘fortuitous’ means happening by accident or chance rather than design.
In P. Ramanatha Aiyer’s Law Lexicon (2nd Edition) the word ‘ad hoc’ is described as “for particular purpose, Made, established, acting or concerned with a particular and or purpose’. The meaning of word fortuitous event’ is given as ‘an event which happens by a cause which we cannot resist; one which is unforeseen and caused by superior force, which it is impossible to resist; a term synonymous with Act of God’.
The meaning to be assigned to these terms while interpreting provisions of a Service Rule will depend on the provisions of that Rule and the context in and the purpose for which the expressions are used. The meaning of any of these terms in the context of computation of inter se seniority of officers holding Cadre post will depend on the facts and circumstances in which the appointment came to be made. For that purpose it will be necessary to look into the purpose for which the post was created and the nature of the appointment of the officer as stated in the appointment order. If the appointment order itself indicates that the post is created to meet a particular temporary contingency and for a period specified in the order, then the appointment to such a post can be aptly described as ‘ad hoc’ or ‘stop-gap’. If a post is created to meet a situation which has suddenly arisen on account of happening of some event of a temporary nature then the appointment of such a post can aptly be described as ‘fortuitous’ in nature. If an appointment is made to meet the contingency arising on account of delay in completing the process of regular recruitment to the post due to any reason and it is not possible to leave the post vacant till then, and to meet this contingency an appointment is made then it can appropriately be called as a ‘stop-gap’ arrangement and appointment in the post as ‘ad hoc’ appointment. It is not possible to lay down any strait-jacket formula nor give an exhaustive list of circumstances and situation in which such an (ad hoc, fortuitous or stop-gap) appointment can be made. As such, this discussion is not intended to enumerate the circumstances or situations in which appointments of officers can be said to come within the scope of any of these terms. It is only to indicate how the matter should be approached while dealing with the question of inter se seniority of officers in the Cadre.
In the Service Jurisprudence, a person who possesses the requisite qualification for being appointed to a particular post and then he is appointed with the approval and consultation of the appropriate authority and continues in the post for a fairly long period, then such appointment cannot be held to be “stop-gap or fortuitous or purely ad hoc”. In his view of the matter, the reasoning and basis on which, the appointment of the promotees in the Delhi Higher Judicial Service in the case in hand was held by the High Court to be ‘fortuitous/ad hoc/stop-gap’ are wholly erroneous and, therefore, exclusion of those appointees to have their continuous length of service for seniority is erroneous.
Refer : AIR 2000 SC 2808 : (2000) 2 Suppl. SCR 573 : (2000) 8 SCC 25 : JT 2000 (9) SC 299 : (2000) 6 SCALE 54