Vikas Pratap Singh Followed: Service Law

-By Shivam Kumar, Partner, Qualegal

On 18/02/2021, a division bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Civil Appeal Nos. 429-430 of 2021, titled Anmol Kumar Tiwari & Ors. Vs. The State of Jharkhand & Ors., has upheld the decision of the Hon’ble High Court of Jharkhand in a matter pertaining to the appointment to the post of Sub-Inspector. Advertisement for the 384 posts was published on 01.03.2008. 382 candidates were selected against 384 vacancies as candidates belonging to SC quota for the two posts of Sergeant were not available. A High Level Committee was constituted by the State Government to examine the irregularities in the selection process. A report was submitted by the said committee, in which it was found that the select list was prepared wrongly by ignoring merit of candidates and by giving undue importance to the preferences given by them. In view of the Report, the appointment of 42 candidates which was made on the basis of the original select list were cancelled and 43 persons were appointed on the basis of the revised select list that was prepared in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee headed by the Director General of Police, Jharkhand.

Writ Petitions were filed by the 42 persons before the Hon’ble Jharkhand High Court, whose services were terminated, which allowed by a judgment dated 12.08.2016, whereby, the Hon’ble High Court appreciated the fact that the Writ Petitioners were appointed after completion of their training and had served the State for a considerable period, and therefore held that, they should be appointed against existing/ anticipated or future vacancies. Their appointments were directed to be treated as fresh appointments and they were to be placed at the bottom of the seniority list in the revised merit list. The High Court also observed that the Writ Petitioners cannot be held responsible for the irregularities committed by the authorities in the matter of their selection and there is no allegation of fraud or misrepresentation on their part.

Two issues arose for consideration before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India:-

a) Whether the Hon’ble High Court was correct in reinstating the 42 Petitioners?

The Apex Court has held that: “The High Court directed reinstatement of the Writ Petitioners after taking into account the fact that they were beneficiaries of the select list that was prepared in an irregular manner. However, the High Court found that the Writ Petitioners were not responsible for the irregularities committed by the authorities in preparation of the select list. Moreover, the Writ Petitioners were appointed after completion of training and worked for some time. The High Court was of the opinion that the Writ Petitioners ought to be considered for reinstatement without affecting the rights of other candidates who were already selected. A similar situation arose in Vikas Pratap Singh’s case (2013 (14) SCC 494), where this Court considered that the Appellants-therein were appointed due to an error committed by the Respondents in the matter of valuation of answer scripts. As there was no allegation of fraud or misrepresentation committed by the Appellants therein, the termination of their services was set aside as it would adversely affect their careers. That the Appellants-therein had successfully undergone training and were serving the State for more than 3 years was another reason that was given by this Court for setting aside the orders passed by the High Court. As the Writ Petitioners are similarly situated to the Appellants in Vikas Pratap Singh’s case (supra), we are in agreement with the High Court that the Writ Petitioners are entitled to the relief granted.

b) Whether the interveners, who admittedly are more meritorious than the 42 Petitioners, ought to be appointed?

The Hon’ble Court observed that: “There is no doubt that selections to public employment should be on the basis of merit. Appointment of persons with lesser merit ignoring those who have secured more marks would be in violation of the Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. The intervenors in the Writ Petitions admittedly have secured more marks than the Writ Petitioners. After cancellation of the appointments of the Writ Petitioners, 43 persons have been appointed from the revised select list. Those 43 persons have secured more marks than the intervenors. By the appointment of 43 persons, the number of posts that were advertised i.e. 384 have been filled up. The intervenors have no right for appointment to posts beyond those advertised. The contention on behalf of the intervenors in the Writ Petitions is that they cannot be ignored when relief is granted to the Writ Petitioners who were less meritorious than them. We are unable to agree. Relief granted to Writ Petitioners is mainly on the ground that they have already been appointed and have served the State for some time and they cannot be punished for no fault of theirs. The intervenors are not similarly situated to them and they cannot seek the same relief.