Delhi High Court: In a case wherein a petition was filed challenging the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal wherein the Tribunal stated that the petitioner having participated in the selection process, could not as an afterthought challenge the rules and stipulations of the selection process, a Division Bench of V. Kameswar Rao and Anoop Kumar Mendiratta, JJ. dismissed the petition and held that the walking test of completing 25 kilometers would be an obligatory stipulation and need to be fulfilled/adhered to apart from meeting the special eligibility criteria in terms of physical requirement/functional classification (abilities/disabilities) consistent with requirements of the identified service/post as may be prescribed by its Cadre Controlling Authority for the Indian Forest Service Examination.
The petitioner filed the present petition challenging the order of the Tribunal in Original Application whereby the Tribunal had dismissed the application, as being without merit. In the present case, the petitioner was a physically disabled candidate who had appeared in the Preliminary and Main Examination in 2014 and was selected for Indian Forest Service (IFS). The Recruitment Rules for IFS, stipulated a walking test of 25 kilometers of distance to be covered in four hours by male candidates and 14 kilometers in four hours by female candidates. The petitioner appeared for the walking test and was not able to cover the distance within the stipulated time, so he was given another opportunity, as provided for under the Rules, but he was not successful and as such was not included in the list of selected candidates.
Submissions on behalf of the Petitioner
It was submitted that wherever any requirement was stipulated with reference to time, the relevant rules provided for compensatory/extra time for candidates with physical disability, but in the case of the petitioner, such a facility was not extended, and the requirement stipulated by the respondents regarding the walking test was contrary to the guidelines framed by the Ministry of Social Justice. It was also submitted that a physically challenged person should be assessed on a lower threshold, since a physically challenged person could not be put to test on the same parameters applicable to general candidates. It was further submitted that the petitioner being a person with low vision fulfilled all eligibility criteria/conditions, and was fit was IFS, as per the Indian Forest Service Examination Rules, 2014 (2014 Rules).
Moreover, it was contended that the walking test was not part of the selection process and the same was not mentioned anywhere in the advertisement for the examination. It was submitted that as per Section 2(t) of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, reservation was applicable for persons having disability not less than 40%. It was also stated that that persons with visual disabilities or low vision constitute a larger group of individuals who may have different functional constraints related to various activities like reading, writing, walking etc. and may require varied and reasonable accommodation and whenever vision was required to be used, a person with severe visual disability needed such reasonable accommodation. But no such reasonable accommodation was provided to the petitioner for the walking test, although requisite reasonable accommodations were provided for written examinations by the respondents.
Submissions on behalf of the Respondents
It was submitted that the petitioner could not be permitted to challenge the condition once he had participated in the examination and taken subsequent steps thereof. Further, it was submitted that though the reservation was provided for in favor of physically disabled candidates, there was no relaxation on certain conditions that were required to be complied with; the walking test being one such condition. The only relaxation provided was that the candidates who failed to complete the walking test in the first chance would be given one more chance and since the petitioner failed to complete the walking test, he was given one more opportunity.
It was further submitted that due to the arduous nature of the job, there could not be any relaxation in the Rules as far as the walking test was concerned and therefore, the petitioner would not be entitled to the prayer as made before the Tribunal and in the writ petition.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court noted that the petitioner had applied for the IFS Examination, 2014 and had cleared the same and as per the Appendix III of the 2014 Rules, male candidates were to qualify the walking test of 25 kilometers in four hours, which admittedly the petitioner could not clear. The Court further noted that the petitioner walked beyond four hours to complete 25 kilometers.
The Court opined that the second applicant before the Tribunal had qualified the same walking test within the time stipulated in Appendix III of the Rules, that is, within four hours and the petitioner being similarly placed like the said applicant, it was clear that the stipulation was not arduous, which a person with low vision could not achieve. The Court further opined that the Tribunal was justified in stating that the petitioner having participated in the selection process, could not as an afterthought challenge the rules and stipulations of the selection process.
The Court further took note of the proviso to Rule 19 of the 2014 Rules and held that a physically disabled candidate shall also be required to meet special eligibility criteria in terms of physical requirement/functional classification (abilities/disabilities) consistent with requirements of the identified service/post as may be prescribed by its Cadre Controlling Authority. Therefore, the walking test of completing 25 kilometers within four hours, in the presence of the said proviso would be an obligatory stipulation and need to be fulfilled/adhered to. Therefore, the Court dismissed the petition and held that the impugned order of the Tribunal needed no interference.
[Karanti Goyal v. Ministry of Environment Forests Climate Change, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 708, decided on 7-2-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Advocate Pankaj Sinha;
For the Respondents: Advocate Avnish Singh.
*Judgment authored by: Justice V. Kameswar Rao.
*Simranjeet Kaur, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.