Divya vs. Union of India and Ors.
DATE OF THE CASE:
October 9, 2023
Justice JK Maheshwari
Justice KV Maheshwari
Respondent: Union of India and Ors.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS: -
- Rule 13 of the CSE-2022 Rules deals with the eligibility criteria for admission to the Civil Services Examination.
- Rule 27 deals with the reservation of vacancies for candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Economically Weaker Sections and Persons with Benchmark Disabilities.
- Rule 28 deals with the relaxation of upper age limits for candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Economically Weaker Sections and Persons with Benchmark Disabilities.
The case involves the interpretation of the Office Memoranda [OM] dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019 prescribing the eligibility for the Economically Weaker Section [EWS] Category and the Civil Services Examination Rules, 2022 [CSE-2022 Rules], particularly, Rules 13, 27 and 28 thereof.
The case involves the interpretation of the Office Memoranda [OM] dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019 prescribing the eligibility for the Economically Weaker Section [EWS] Category and the Civil Services Examination Rules, 2022 [CSE-2022 Rules], particularly, Rules 13, 27 and 28 thereof. The petitioners were denied the benefit of the EWS category by the Union Public Service Commission [UPSC] for the Civil Services Examination of the year 2022. The main question involved is whether UPSC was justified in denying them the benefit of reservation under the EWS category. The CSE-2022 is governed by the Civil Services Examination Rules, 2022, which were promulgated on 02.02.2022.
ISSUES RAISED: -
- What is the eligibility criterion for a candidate to stake a valid claim under the EWS Category as per the CSE Rules, 2022 read with OM dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019?
- Was the UPSC justified in prescribing the cut-off date for possession and for uploading of the I&AC certificates in the prescribed format to stake a valid claim under the EWS category, as done in the instant case?
- Are the CSE-Rules 2022 enforceable in law?
- Are Rules 13, 27(3) and 28 of the CSE-Rules 2022 constitutionally valid?
- Was the UPSC justified in rejecting the claim of the petitioners for consideration under the EWS category?
CONTENTIONS RAISED BY THE PETITIONER: -
- The main contention raised by the petitioners is that they were eligible for reservation under the EWS category as per the Office Memoranda [OM] dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019 prescribing the eligibility for the EWS Category and the Civil Services Examination Rules, 2022 [CSE-2022 Rules], particularly, Rules 13, 27 and 28 thereof.
- The petitioners argue that they fulfilled all the criteria prescribed under these rules and were wrongly denied the benefit of reservation under the EWS category by UPSC.
- Moreover, they contended that, once their categorization as EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) was not in dispute, the delay in obtaining the Income and Asset Certificate (I&AC) by the specified date, in this case, 22.02.2022, should not affect their eligibility. They argued that the delayed submission did not impact the Category-wise allocation process at any stage.
- They cited various judgments to support their argument, such as Ram Kumar Gijroya vs. Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board, Karn Singh Yadav vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, and others. They also raised a secondary contention that the CSE-Rules 2022 might lack statutory validity.
CONTENTIONS RAISED BY RESPONDENTS: -
- The respondents, including the Union of India and UPSC, countered the petitioners' arguments by emphasizing that the case had clear rules and regulations in place.
- They relied on the Official Memorandums (OM) dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019, along with Rule 13, 27, and 28 of the CSE-2022 Rules. They argued that eligibility as an EWS candidate is only acquired once the candidate meets the criteria issued by the Central Government and possesses the necessary I&AC based on the 2020-2021 income.
- They pointed out that Rule 28 requires candidates to have all required certificates in the prescribed format by the closing date of the application, which was 22.02.2022. Any delay in submitting these documents beyond the prescribed date would lead to the cancellation of candidature.
- The respondents also distinguished certain court cases, such as Charles K. Skaria, Dolly Chhanda, and Dheerender Singh Paliwal, where candidates were granted relief, by explaining that those cases involved candidates who already possessed eligibility before the cut-off date, and the issue was only about document submission.
- They mentioned the case of Ashok Kumar Sharma and Union Public Service Commission vs. Gaurav Singh, which supported their position and explained that the case of Deepak Yadav was confined to specific circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Additionally, they argued that the petitioners should be estopped from challenging the selection process since they participated in it.
ANALYSIS BY COURT: -
- The Court notes that the case of the petitioners in Writ Petition (C) Nos. 705 and 764 is directly covered by the judgment in Gaurav Singh's case.
- The Court cites the case of T. Jayakumar vs. A. Gopu and Another (2008) 9 SCC 403, which states that a defect in the application form rendering a candidate ineligible, even if initially overlooked, does not disqualify the examining body from holding the candidate ineligible at a later stage when the defect comes to light.
- The Court rejects the argument made by the counsel for the petitioners in W.P. (C) Nos. 705 and 764 that the communications from the UPSC asking them to correct deficiencies and produce the certificate at the time of the Personality Test should be seen as a waiver of the rules. The Court emphasizes that these communications cannot guarantee that the petitioners' candidatures would be accepted as valid.
- The Court asserts that the rules and the Office Memorandum (OM) provide clear eligibility criteria and deadlines for possessing and submitting the required documents. The consequences for failing to meet these requirements are also specified. The Court emphasizes the importance of adhering to these crucial documents that determine eligibility.
- The Court acknowledges that four other candidates were allowed to rectify minor omissions in their EWS and I&AC. However, it notes that the UPSC considered these omissions as trivial and not affecting the root of eligibility, which was not the case for the petitioners.
- The Court cites the judgment in Ajay Kumar Mishra vs. Union of India, which emphasizes that candidates must carefully fill in application forms and that candidates cannot claim a right to rectify errors in applications. The Court underscores the authority of the examining body to decide which errors are material and which are inessential.
- The Court mentions the case of Gaurav Singh, where the distinction between material and non-material defects and the authority of the examining body to condone has been noted. The Court concludes that the UPSC was justified in denying the petitioners the benefit of EWS categorization.
- The Court dismisses the argument made by the counsel for the petitioners regarding a letter from the UPSC, stating that the original EWS Certificate submitted by one of the petitioners was returned. The UPSC clarified that the certificate did not comply with the rules and conditions in the advertisement.
- The Court rejects the argument that there was a past practice treating Rule 13 as directory, finding no merit in this submission.
- The counsel for the petitioners makes an alternative submission, requesting the Court to exercise its power under Article 142 of the Constitution to treat her client as an EWS category candidate.
- The Court refuses to grant refuge to the petitioners under Article 142. It states that complete justice has been done to all parties through the rightful application of the OM and the CSE-Rules 2022. The Court notes that Article 142 is a useful tool but should be used with great caution and circumspection, and it does not find the present case warranting the invocation of this power.
The Court ruled in favor of the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) and upheld the rules and actions of the UPSC regarding the eligibility of the petitioners as EWS (Economically Weaker Section) category candidates. The Court found that the UPSC was justified in rejecting the claims of the petitioners for EWS categorization. The Court also rejected the petitioners' arguments and their plea for invoking Article 142 of the Constitution to treat them as EWS category candidates. The Court emphasized the importance of adhering to the specified eligibility criteria and deadlines for required documents. Therefore, the writ petitions were dismissed.
Based on the above analysis, we can conclude the following: -
- To claim benefits in the EWS Category for CSE-2022, candidates must meet the Central Government's criteria from the O.M. dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019. They need the required Income and Asset Certificate (I&AC) based on the 2020-21 income, and they should have had this certificate as of 22.02.2022. If candidates didn't submit the I&AC in the right format by the deadline, they can't claim EWS benefits.
- The UPSC was right in setting the cutoff date for possession and submission of the I&AC for EWS claimants, as it's in line with relevant rules and past judgments on eligibility cut-offs.
- The CSE-2022 Rules have the legal power and derive from various laws and regulations.
- Rules 13, 27(3), and 28 of the CSE-Rules, 2022 are constitutionally valid. The UPSC was correct in rejecting the petitioners' claims for EWS Category consideration in CSE-2022.
- All writ petitions have been dismissed, and no costs are awarded.