Ground for denying appointment

Supreme Court: In an appeal against Patna High Court’s decision, whereby an aspiring Police Constable’s petition to consider his appointment for the said post, as he was declared failed for an inadvertent error of wrong date of birth in the application form, was dismissed. The Division Bench of J.K Maheshwari and K.V Viswanathan*, JJ. held that the trivial error in the date of birth had no bearing on the selection and the appellant himself being oblivious of the error produced the educational certificates which reflected his correct date of birth. The Court directed the respondent-State to treat the appellant as “passed”, in the selection process with the correct date of birth as 18-12-1997.

Factual Matrix

In the matter at hand, the appellant, from a small village in Bihar, aspiring to become a Police Constable applied for the said post under the reserved category. The appellant after noticing the advertisement issued by the Central Selection Board, he went to a Cyber Cafe in the nearby town and with the assistance of a person, he filled in his form and uploaded it online and he received an application No., indicating thereby that the online application had been duly filled. He also cleared the written examination and the Physical Eligibility Test.

His case was that, while filling up the form, by an inadvertent error, the date of birth had got recorded as 08-12-1997 instead of 18-12-1997 and that he derived no benefit from it as either way he fulfilled the eligibility criteria and the age requirement. The Appellant filed a writ petition before the High Court seeking mandamus to the respondents to consider his claim for selection and to direct them to issue an appointment letter treating the date of birth as 18-12-1997, as reflected in his educational certificates.

However, the said petition was dismissed. The Division Bench also affirmed the Single Judge’s order.

The respondent’s case was that it was clearly stipulated that candidates should correctly mention their date of birth according to their 10th board certificate and that if any discrepancy was found while matching the information, the candidature would be cancelled, in case if any information is found false, then the application form would be cancelled and legal action will also be taken. It was also averred that the advertisement also mentioned the method of making corrections and that the appellant never availed that facility.

Whether the error committed in the application form, is a material error or a trivial error and was the State justified in declaring the appellant as having failed on account of the same?

The Court said that the appellant derived no advantage even if either of the dates 08-12-1997, 18-12-1997 were taken, he was eligible for the appointment either way. Further, the Court said that the error in the date of birth had no bearing on the selection and the appellant himself being oblivious of the error produced the educational certificates which reflected his correct date of birth.

Regarding the State’s argument that the error in the application form was so grave as to constitute wrong or mis-leading information, the Court did not find it as impressive. The Court said that if such was the case, even the State did not resort to any criminal action, clearly implying that even they did not consider this error as ‘grave’.

The Court referred to Ajay Kumar Mishra v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 6553, wherein, it was held that “it is true that whenever any material discrepancy is noticed in the application form or mis-representation is detected, the candidature might be cancelled even after the application has been processed and the candidate has been allowed to participate in the selection process. However, after a candidate has participated in the selection process and cleared all the stages successfully, his candidature can only be cancelled, after careful scrutiny of the gravity of the lapse, and not for trivial omissions or errors.”

The Court said that the exception for trivial errors or omissions is based on the reason that ‘law does not concern itself with trifles’, based on the legal maxim- ‘De minimis non curat lex’.

The Bench noted that in the present case, the appellant participated in the selection process and cleared all the stages successfully. The Court said that the error was so trivial that it did not play any part in the selection process, as the appellant did not gain any benefit from the same. Hence, the Court stated that the State was not justified in making a mountain out of this molehill. The Court weighed the possibility that the atmosphere of the Cyber Cafe got to the appellant, and he omitted to take notice of the error and even failed to avail the corrective mechanism offered.

The Bench accepted the appellant’s case, since he was unaware of his own mistake, and had mechanically signed the printed application form in order to verify his details and that it was only on 11-06-2018, the date of publication of the result that the appellant realized the error. Therefore, the Court held that the appellant could not be penalised for this insignificant error which made no difference to the ultimate result. Hence, the Court stated that “errors of this kind, as noticed in the present case, which are inadvertent do not constitute misrepresentation or wilful suppression”.

Regarding the Division Bench’s finding that there was no prayer seeking quashment of the results declared over the web, the Court did not find it impressive and noted that the appellant did pray for a mandamus directing the respondents to consider the candidature treating his date of birth as 18-12-1997 and also sought for a direction for issuance of an appointment letter. The Court said that a Writ Court has the power to mould the relief. The Court stated that “Justice cannot be forsaken on the altar of technicalities.”


The Court set aside the impugned decision and directed the respondent to treat the appellant as a candidate who “passed”, in the selection process with the date of birth as 18-12-1997, and necessary appointment letter be issued. In the event of there being no vacancy, the Court directed that the appointment letter will still have to be issued on the special facts of this case, exercising the powers of the Court under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. The Court also said that the State will be at liberty in to adjust the vacancy in the next recruitment that they may resort to in the coming years. The Court directed for the compliance of the above given directions within a period of four weeks from the date of decision.

[Vashist Narayan Kumar v. State of Bihar, 2024 SCC OnLine SC 2, Decided on 02-01-2024]

Judgment Authored by: Justice K.V Viswanathan

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