Punjab and Haryana High Court: Girish Agnihotri, J., held that the decision of the employer to fill up the vacancies at any particular time depends upon the public need, administrative exigencies and availability of infrastructure or budgetary provision. There was no legal obligation on the part of the State that if the vacancies had fallen vacant, the State must fill up the said vacancies immediately.
The petitioner Navdeep Singh Brar and 55 others had filed the instant writ petition with a prayer to direct the State of Punjab to give age relaxation to them for applying against the posts of Police Sub Inspectors, in the cadre of District Police, Armed Police Intelligence and Investigation advertised on 06-07-2021. A further prayer was made to count their age in lines with the judgment of the Supreme Court in Cognizance for Extension of Limitation whereby the period starting from 15-03-2020 till further orders was directed to be considered as ‘Zero Period’ in view of COVID-19 pandemic: In Re. The prayer was also made to allow the petitioners to provisionally appear in the examination scheduled for the above-said posts.
Although, the petitioners had conceded that they do not fulfill the age criteria prescribed in the advertisement and that their age was beyond the age of 28 years which was required for the said post. The petitioners had based their case on the official tweet of the Chief Minister of Punjab made on 12-07-2020, wherein the CM had responded to the query of one Mr Amarpal Singh from Ludhiana and had said that, “the official announcement of the increase in recruitment age from 28 years to 32 for DSPs and Sub Inspectors will be made in the coming days…”
The petitioners pleaded that since 2016 to till date, no recruitment process had been initiated by the Government and that the inaction on the part of the respondents had adversely affected their chances to appear and compete for the said posts of Sub Inspector as they had lost their chance to face the recruitment due to non-conducting of the exams by the respondents.
Reliance was placed by the petitioners on the recent decision of the Delhi High Court in Najma v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, WP(C) No. 8956 of 2020, wherein the High Court had held that the promise of CM is of binding nature.
Differentiating with the said judgment of the Delhi High Court, the Bench clarified that the decision of the Delhi High Court was with regard to Chief Minister’s statement relating to governmental policy. On the contrary, the case at hand dealt with a prescribed procedure which required to be followed so as to amend the statutory Rules (especially Rule 12.6 of the Rules). Further, observing that after the said tweet, the matter for increase of upper age limit of SI from 28 to 32 years was examined in the office of Director General of Police, Punjab, various field officers were consulted and most of the field officers were not in favour of increase of upper age limit due to the questionable physical fitness at the age of 32 years, particularly physical part of basic training; and also because the same would further increase the upper age limit of reserved categories, the Bench was of the view that the petitioners could not claim to increase the maximum age limit or relaxation merely because the Chief Minister had tweeted in regard thereto.
Cogitating that the Chief Minister along with Council of Ministers had earlier taken a decision as reflected in the memo dated 25-05-2016 (R2) to increase the age limit from 25 to 28 years, the Bench held that the petitioners had no legal right to support the plea that they were entitled to age relaxation/increase in the upper age limit beyond 28 years merely because since 2016, no recruitment process had been initiated by the Government and accordingly their chances of recruitment were affected because the decision of the ‘employer’ whether to fill up the vacancies at any particular time depends upon the public need, administrative exigencies and availability of infrastructure or budgetary provision. There was no legal obligation on the part of the State that if the vacancies had fallen vacant, the State must fill up the said vacancies immediately. The Bench stated,
“There is no legal right with the petitioners to claim that all the vacancies should have been advertised prior to 2021 or even to allege that the inaction of the Department in this regard could be termed as violation of any right.”
In the light of the above, the petition was dismissed and it was held that the petitioners could not claim extension in the upper age limit by taking the plea of COVID situation. More so, because it was not the case of parties that an advertisement in this regard had been initially issued in the year 2019 or 2020 (when the petitioners were allegedly within the maximum age limit) and the selection process had been deferred or delayed because of COVID situation.[Navdeep Sinh Brar v. State of Punjab, CWP-12723 of 2021, decided on 11-08-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioners: Mr Pardhuman Garg, Advocate, Mr DK Bhatti, Advocate, Mr BS Dhatt, Advocate and Mr Saurav Bhatia, Advocate
For the State of Punjab: Ms Monica Chhibber Sharma, Sr. DAG, Punjab