Utt HC | Courts not to sit in appeal over the verdict of Selection Committee in Civil Judge Examination

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, CJ and R.C. Khulbe, J. refused to entertain a writ petition which sought, certiorari, to call for the records of the selection process, to include the name of petitioner in OBC category, to direct CBI to investigate into the matter and to eventually quash the said result of Uttarakhand Judicial Services Examination, 2016.

Petitioner contended that Uttarakhand Public Service Commission, advertised for the post of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in 2017, a total number of 2 posts were reserved for OBC candidates. The petitioner further alleged that he secured same marks as of the last selected candidate but was declared unsuccessful in the preliminary exam, hence he challenged the procedure and was allowed provisionally by the Court to write Mains exam. Eventually, he cleared Mains and was called for the interview where he secured 31 marks and the selected respondent was given 32 marks. The petitioner herein alleged ‘nepotism’ in the selection process and collusion between one of the candidates and a member from the Selection Panel. Hence, he doubted the Selection Process as it was unfair and foul play was there. Hence, demanded a probe into the matter by CBI.

The learned counsel for the petitioner Ajay Pundir, submitted that respondent-Commission had granted lesser marks deliberately and acted in a malafide manner. The impugned action of the respondents was alleged violation of Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India; and rejection of petitioner’s candidature was malafide and illegal. It was again submitted that respondent-Interviewer was near relative of the respondent-selected candidate, and therefore, should not have been a Member of the Interview Board.

The learned counsel for the Commission, B.D. Kandpal, replied to the allegations that, 30% of the seats were reserved for Women, and the benefit of such reservation extended category-wise; since there were two posts reserved in favor of OBC category, 30% of two posts comes to 0.6 and, therefore, one post was reserved in favour of OBC Women against which the accused respondent-candidate was selected and the other candidate who was selected secured 60 marks. Hence, the two posts for OBC were satisfied in that manner. Addressing the issue of rejection in the preliminary examination, the counsel submitted that, petitioner obtained 146 marks in the preliminary examination, whereas the last selected candidate had scored 146.75 marks and he was, therefore, held not to have qualified by the Commission. In reply of the alleged ‘nepotism’ remark the counsel stated that, evaluation was done accordingly; there was no interference of any member or officials of the Commission in that process; after its receipt from the examiner, the marks were tabulated for preparing a merit list and, thereafter, results were declared merit-wise and category-wise; before the results were finalized. The petitioner’s objections were considered before the results were declared; however, in view of the interim order passed in an earlier writ, the petitioner was provisionally allowed to participate in the main examination and, since he qualified therein, he was called for interview.

The Interview Board contended that, marks in the interview were awarded by the Interview Board after judging the personality, intelligence, etc., of the candidate. The Panel had honorable personalities and expert in the subjects who awarded marks to the petitioner.

The respondent-Interviewer, contended that he was not a member in the Board but a mere observer according to the policy, as he was newly appointed member hence, was invited to watch and observe the proceedings of the Interview Boards, and the Departmental Promotion Committees, to enable him to undertake the same process independently in future.

The Court after contemplating the matter observed that, petitioner’s self-serving claim of exceptional merit cannot be examined in judicial review proceedings under Article 226, the Court was not justified in sitting in judgment over the decision of the Interview Board in selecting a particular candidate. It cannot arrogate to itself the power to judge the comparative merit of candidates, and consider their fitness and suitability for appointment.

The Court further noted the allegation of malafides by the petitioner against respondent-Interviewer required a very high proof as he was a mere spectator and not a member of the Board, also no malice is attributed to the Interview Board, nor any contention been put forth regarding its constitution, or the manner in which the process of interview was conducted, thus, Court not to sit in judgment over the decision of the Interview Board regarding allotment of marks, to each candidate, in the interview, hence, the petition was thereby dismissed.

The petitioner called for a probe by CBI, to which the Court stated, “The prayer sought for in the writ petition, that an investigation be caused into the matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation, is far fetched and deserves rejection. The High Court has the power, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, to direct investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which power must be exercised sparingly.”[Nirmal Singh v. High Court of Uttarakhand, WP (S/B) No. 111 of 2018, decided on 21-05-2019]

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