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Even if private respondents are the part of special category, they cannot seek precedency; Supreme Court

sahithi reddy ,
  06 March 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Brief :

Citation :
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NOS….. OF 2023

CAUSE TITLE:

Sureshkumar Lalitkumar Patel & Ors. V. State of Gujarat & Ors.

DATE OF ORDER:

February 20, 2023

JUDGE(S):

HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE M. M. Sundresh

PARTIES:

Appellant: Sureshkumar Lalitkumar Patel & Ors

Respondent: State of Gujarat & Ors.

SUBJECT:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court (hereinafter referred to as ‘Supreme Court’ or ‘the Court’), has set aside the order of division bench and declared that the private respondents cannot obtain supersede as they are indeed the new candidates.  

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

Indian Constitution 1949

  • Article 142 – states the discretionary power of the Supreme Court with respect to its jurisdiction in case of pending suits before it. 
  • Article 14 – states the equality before law. 

BRIEF FACTS:  

  • Two vacancies were out for the post of Supervisor Instructor specialised in (Employability skill) and (Engineering Trade and Non-Engineering Trade). They required similar eligibility criteria with respective degree. 
  • Prior to this post, the recruitment procedure was finalised by the selection committee with respect to the reservation category. Accordingly the candidate achieving beyond the cut off marks then only such individual be eligible for the selection process. 
  • Specifications regarding the horizontal reservations were clarified under clause (1) of the advertisements stating that the remaining seats will be taken by the eligible candidates. Clause (5) of the Advertisement has mentioned the selection process whereas clause (7) sub clause (15) says about the power of the selection committee with respect to the cancellations process. Accordingly the candidate will be not receiving any refund if there is any reduction or addition in the post. Clause (7) sub clause (19) states the process of recruitment. 
  • It was declared that except in cases of seat reduction, the right to cancel or modify must be applied through an amendment to the advertisement and such power be exercised before the conducting the exam.
  • On 26th December 2016 the said reservation was approved by the State Government. However the clause provided for the eligibility criteria of special category was amended without any notice just after the results were declared. 
  • Departmental selection committee reduced the qualification bench mark for the position of Supervisor Instructor Class III. Such decision was approved by the Gujarat High Court.
  • Appeal was filed to the High Court by the appellant, who would have secured the post. The state government did not challenge the said decision however few individuals who got the post through the previous criteria were affected by the order of the learned senior single judge. 
  • A civil appeal was filed challenging the incorporation of the candidate comprising of the horizontal reservation. Such result was announced through publication. 

QUESTIONS RAISED:

Whether the power vested in the selection committee was in accordance with the law?

Whether the amendment made, without the due process, was valid one?

 ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  • It was contended that there was no such power vested in the selection committee regarding the reduction in the cut-off marks. The mentioned rules cannot be challenged once the selection has been done therefore the said power is arbitrary in nature. 
  • The decision of the division bench is unlawful in nature as the State of Gujarat is not permitted to assume the authority of the Selection Committee, and consequently, it should not have done so.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The council argued that there was just a mere publication of the marks before any changes were made and accordingly the selection was made. 
  • Therefore, as far as the aim of the selection committee was rational and was vested with the power, there is no reason for interference.
  • The decision of the division bench is lawful as the appellant did not have any vested right.
  • The council argued that there are enough open positions, and if an instruction is provided, it will be carried out by taking into account both the appellants and the private defendants.
  • It is to be noted that the vacancies needs to be filled with respect to the mentioned sub-categories and the reservations made horizontally and the vertically. 
  • Inter-se seniority has been filed by both the parties to avoid any confusion in future.  

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT:

  • The Division Bench's ruling that the previous judgment mentioned above does not apply to the circumstances of the current case and therefore it cannot be upheld. Power under article 142 of the Indian Constitution has been invoked
  • It has been noted by the court that the main aim behind the submission made by the council of private respondents is admissible and the respondents were the part of the special class including physically handicapped, women and ex-servicemen. They all have been waiting for a long time with a hope of getting their appointment. 
  • The court finds the merits of the case with respect to the benefits guaranteed by the policy decision and through the order of the Division Bench, at least for the private respondents. 
  • The direction has been given for considering the accommodation into their respective reserved category. 
  • The reservation percentage should not be exceeding while appointing the appellants with respect to their eligibility. 
  • No interference is needed with the question of inter-se seniority and the order of the division bench is dismissed. 

CONCLUSION

In the above case the post needed to be filled through written examination. The cut-off marks were fixed with clarity without keeping anyone into consideration in particular. There was a clear difference between the qualification criteria and the eligibility criteria and here the main focus was on the eligibility of the individual. 

The horizontal reservation was treated as vertical reservation where the rule did not permit to do so. Accordingly the rule was not to determine the cut-off marks. The mere publication was binding on the parties and any changes would be valid only through amendment. Such amendment can be validated in accordance with the Article 14 of the constitution however it cannot give access to special reservation, when the candidates obtain their absolute rights through policy decision, in the absence of an eligible individual. 

While it is true that an applicant might not possess an absolute right to the position, this should not be mistaken for a right to have their application taken into account in accordance with the legislation. An applicant obtains an inherent right to be considered in accordance with the law, so a law that makes it possible for them to get a position cannot be altered to benefit another set of people.

Compared to the circumstances of the aforementioned case, where a choice was made to lower the points before the selection process was finished, the case we are dealing with is more solidly grounded. Previously cut-off marks were established with the marks essential to be considered for the position in view; they could not be dropped unless there is a compelling explanation as to why that would be beneficial for that position.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement


 

 
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