Interviews

   

Akhil V Menon is a 2018 NUALS graduate who secured AIR 66 in UPSC CSE 2021. While in law school, he was actively involved in mooting, debating and managing the Center for Law and Economics. He cracked the Kerala Administrative Exam after his graduation, and then went on to crack UPSC CSE 2021 with a stellar AIR of 66. He can be seen playing cricket in his free time.

1. I see that you graduated in 2018 from the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi and appeared for UPSC this year. Did you always want to go for civil services, if not, how did it span out, and what prompted you to go for it?

I first appeared for UPSC in the year 2019; however, I only cleared it in my third attempt. While in school, I used to casually say that I wanted to be a civil servant but never really believed that I would clear this exam one day. Law school was a turning point in my life; the culture of debate and dialogue made me aware of many issues around me. Looking back, these debates have played a vital role in my journey.

2. What were your plans after law school, were you working with an advocate/law firm or did you want to go for a corporate job?

I did not have any plans after law school; maybe that fear of free fall may have pushed me to work harder to conquer this dream. However, it is a big risk to take; civil services is uncertain in many ways. Therefore, if I were to take that decision of pursuing civil services right after graduation at this point, maybe I would give it more time and space.

3. Do you think doing an undergraduate course in law helped in your journey towards UPSC? An undergraduate degree in which other course do you think would be helpful?

My graduation subjects covered a lot of areas connected with the civil services examination. Especially the knowledge in constitutional law has been important in all stages of this exam. My optional was also law, though I did not score high in it, I could manage my optional on my own. Even during the interview phase, most questions had a direct connection with law. Above everything, I feel that law is an indispensable element in administration. It is indeed “law in motion”; thus, a degree in law is always an advantage. Apart from law, degrees in political science, sociology or economics can also help at most stages. Having said that, any degree subject that one pursues can help in some way or the other in civil services preparation.

4. I see that you were briefly involved in Kerala Administrative Services as well. Tell us about Kerala State Civil Services, how you cracked the exam and how your experience so far has been.

The KAS exam closely resembled the syllabus and pattern of the UPSC examination. Therefore, the preparation was not very different. The only difference was that Kerala-related portions had to be prepared for KAS. I took a bridge course to ensure that such a gap is filled in my preparation. In hindsight, cracking the KAS with 6th rank gave me the confidence to attempt the civil services exam again.

The experience so far with the KAS has been really good; I am a believer of the idea of State civil services and its potential to bring changes in the administrative set-up. We were taught on the history and the economy of Kerala in detail. The Kerala Darshan trip and the attachment with various State Government departments done as part of the training have helped me to understand the needs of the State and the role of an administrator.

5. Briefly tell us about your preparation strategy for UPSC, focusing particularly on a specific detail that you would want the aspirants to know about?

Failure was my teacher in this process. I have failed both in prelims as well as mains; I derived lessons from both and made necessary changes to get to this stage. My focus during these three years was to maintain that element of consistency and discipline all throughout; an average of 6 to 7 hours of time was set apart for prep.

My preparation was in and around Trivandrum for the last few years. For GS, I took guidance from Fortune IAS Academy. However, the role of coaching is limited in a highly competitive examination like the civil services; your daily routine plays an important role there. It is also important that we focus on our physical and mental health during the same period. Therefore, I tried to formulate a balanced timetable incorporating sufficient breaks in my recent attempt.

6. Can you also tell us about the changes you brought about in your preparation during your first and second mains attempts? Also, elaborate on your journey from prelims to mains and finally cracking the interview.

My first mains was a story of under preparation. I failed my first prelims in 2019; thereafter, my sole focus was to somehow clear prelims in the next attempt.

I followed a strategy of solving a maximum number of mock questions for prelims. With this method, I did clear prelims in 2020; however, I did not have much idea about the demands of the mains examination. I did not cover my optional properly, and my attempts in GS papers were also a bit haphazard. This reflected in my attempt, and I did not clear the exam. However, this year I knew that I had certain gaps in my preparation, and my focus was to cover those gaps. I identified my weak subjects in the mains examination. Furthermore, I practised writing answers in a given time limit. This helped me to build my skills to write an organised answer.

With this change in approach, I cleared mains this year. In the interview stage, I did not invest a lot of time preparing for the interview, but my focus was on the day of the interview. I tried to simulate conditions that reflected the actual interview. Also, mock interviews of various institutes helped me to better assess my preparedness for the interview. The actual interview was much easier; it was more like a sensible conversation around different topics of law.

7. I see that you were rank 2nd in your batch in NUALS. What activities were you involved in during your law school days? Elaborate on how it contributed to your personal and professional growth.

I loved mooting and debating; it has taught me the importance of reasoning in building an argument. I think that is one skill which has helped me immensely both at the answer writing stage and in the interview process. NUALS also gives you ample opportunity to understand the society that you are part of. We had a vibrant student body, which actively participated in the affairs of the university. The legal aid camps at the university helped me understand some issues at the grassroot level. For instance, the camp at Attapadi taught us the issues faced by the tribal population on a day-to-day basis and also the power of good governance to resolve such challenges.

8. How can one streamline one's preparation for UPSC exams when in law school?

I do not think I am fit to comment on that; I have just lived a laid-back life during my law school days. However, if I could ever meet my younger self, I would ask him to read daily newspaper and go through some of those NCERT textbooks. UPSC expects you to have a general understanding on a lot of issues across different subjects. Therefore, being keen to learn new things is a trait that we need to inculcate and carry forward from the law school times. Also, constitutional law should be given special attention as it helps you at several stages of UPSC preparation.

9. How do you think being a lawyer will help you in your role as a public servant? And what obstacles do you think you are going to be facing?

Knowing law is an empowering factor for any administrator, so that way, I feel I will benefit from my training as a lawyer. I think training in law also helps one to develop a sense of justice which will help a lot in the decision-making aspect. Further, a good understanding on legal provisions and its interpretation can make an officer more decisive at several levels.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-Judges Bench Comprising of L. Nageswara Rao*, Sanjiv Khanna and B.R. Gavai, JJ., upheld the controversial appointment of Mr. DInkar Gupta as DSP, State of Punjab.

Aggrieved by the order of the Governor of Punjab by which one Mr. Dinkar Gupta was appointed as Director General of Police (DGP), the appellants had filed original applications before the Central Administrative Tribunal. The Tribunal set aside the order of appointment on the ground that preparation of the panel for selection of DGP was in contravention of the judgement in the case of Prakash Singh v. Union of India and directed the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the State of Punjab to conduct selection for the post of DGP afresh. However, in appeal, the judgement of the Tribunal was set aside by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

The grievance of the appellant was that the Draft Guidelines for the appointment were not in conformity with the decision of the Supreme Court. The appellant also alleged one of the members of the Empanelment Committee constituted by the UPSC to finalise a panel of shortlisted candidates for selection for holding bias against him.

Factual Analysis

So far as the selection and minimum tenure of DGP was concerned, the had Court directed that the UPSC shall empanel three senior-most officers of the Department for promotion to the rank of DGP on the basis of their length of service, very good record and range of experience for heading the police force and the State Government should select the DGP from amongst the officers empanelled by the UPSC.

By way of implementation of the directions issued by this Court in Prakash Singh’s case, UPSC framed Draft Guidelines for empanelling officers for appointment as DGP. Selection, according to the Guidelines, shall be meritbased and inclusion in the panel shall be adjudged on the basis of ‘very good’ record and range of experience for heading the police force. The Committee was obligated to make assessment of the annual confidential reports of the officers with reference to the last ten years preceding the date of meeting of the Committee.

Validity of Draft Guideline          

According to UPSC, the range of experience was a constituent part of the component of merit. In respect of selection to the post of DGP, five core policing areas had been identified to assess the range of experience of the officers concerned for the last 10 years, which were:- A. Intelligence B. Law and order C. Administration D. Investigation E. Security.

The contention of the Appellant was that the criteria fixed in Prakash Singh’s case were not followed in letter and spirit by the Empanelment Committee of UPSC while conducting selection to the post of DGP. Admittedly, appellant was senior to respondent 4 and could not have been superseded by the Empanelment Committee of the UPSC.

The Draft Guidelines which have to be scrupulously followed by empanelment committees stipulate that a selection should be on the same criteria. In the instant case, Empanelment Committee decided to assess the range of experience of officers to head the police force in the State of Punjab after considering the peculiarities of the State. Identification of five core policing areas out of a domain of twenty policing areas could not be said to be an arbitrary exercise of power as discretion was given to the empanelment committees to select the core policing areas by taking into account the prevailing situation in the States.

Noticeably, by the order dated 13-03-2019, the judgment of Prakash Singh’s case was clarified by the Court and the UPSC was directed to prepare the panel purely on the basis of merit. The recommendation of the names of 12 officers for consideration was on the basis of completion of thirty years’ service in the cadre of ADGP. Length of service as mentioned in Prakash Singh’s case was taken into account for determination of zone of consideration. The other two factors namely, good record of service and range of experience on the basis of length of service was assessed by the Empanelment Committee. Inter se merit of the candidates was evaluated according to the objective criteria followed by the Committee and a panel of three officers had been prepared in the order of seniority. Observing that the Appellant was found to be inadequate for inclusion in the panel in the range of experience for core policing areas, the Bench stated that the preparation of panel by the Empanelment Committee was in compliance of the Draft Guidelines, which were in conformity with the directions issued by the Court in Prakash Singh’s case.

Allegation of Bias

The appellant argued that the empanelment and appointment of Respondent 4 as DGP was vitiated by bias as respondent 5 who was a member of the Empanelment Committee was prejudiced against the Appellant due to the report filed by the Appellant before the Punjab and Haryana High Court by which Respondent 5 was found to be involved in criminal activities. The appellant submitted that, on earlier occasions Respondent 5 had recused himself in matters relating to the Appellant and, therefore, he ought not to have participated in the selection process.

Noticeably, the incumbent DGP of the State is a member of the empanelment committee according to the Draft Guidelines issued by the UPSC and the Guidelines were issued in compliance with the directions given by the under Article 142 of the Constitution, which was well-known and in public domain. Therefore, the Bench opined that the position that Respondent 5, being the DGP, would be a member of the Empanelment Committee was within the knowledge of the Appellant and ignorance of that factum must be rejected as a mere pretence. Moreover, the fact that respondent 5 was member of the Committee was even published in the Hindustan Times, considering that the appellants were not laymen, but senior police officers aspiring for the appointment to the top police position in the State, the Bench held that they were estopped from challenging the recommendations made by the Committee, given the fact that they had taken a calculated chance, and not protested till the selection panel was made public. Applying the ratio of Madan Lal v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, (1995) 3 SCC 486, the Bench stated,

“When a person takes a chance and participates, thereafter he cannot, because the result is unpalatable, turn around to contend that the process was unfair or the selection committee was not properly constituted.”

Conclusion

In the light of above, the Bench held that the High Court did not commit any error by setting aside the judgment of the Tribunal and upholding the selection and appointment of Respondent 4 as DGP of State of Punjab. Accordingly, the appeals were dismissed.

[Mustafa v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1063, decided on 16-11-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 


Appearance by:

For the Appellants: Krishnan Venugopal, Senior Counsel and P.S. Patwalia, Senior Counsel

For UPSC: Aman Lekhi, Additional Solicitor General

For State of Punjab: Mukul Rohatgi, Senior Counsel for the State of Punjab

For Respondent 4: Maninder Singh, Senior Counsel

For Respondent 5: Shyam Divan, Senior Counsel


*Judgment by: Justice L. Nageswara Rao

Quote:

Tags:

Case Briefs

Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Hemant Gupta* and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., set aside the impugned order passed by the High Court of Kerala, by which the High Court had directed Union government to allocate Kerala cadre of All-India Service to the respondent.

The applicant-respondent had cleared the Civil Services Examination-2006 and was allotted Himachal Pradesh cadre. The grievance of the applicant was that she had a better merit than one Sachindra Pratap Singh (Merit No. 26) who was allocated the Maharashtra cadre as an OBC candidate. The argument of the applicant was that she was higher in merit as an OBC candidate, therefore, she should have been allocated the Maharashtra cadre.

Findings of the Courts below

On the above grounds, the Central Administrative Tribunal Union government to allot and accommodate the applicant against the outsider OBC vacancy in the Maharashtra cadre by virtue of her merit over the candidate already identified and allotted the Maharashtra cadre. Similarly, the High Court observed that the Kerala government had submitted requisition for a minimum of 7 candidates. Even as per the Union, the cadre was of 124 direct recruits and the available officers were 119, therefore, there was a cadre deficiency of 5 officers. Accordingly, the High Court held that admitted deficit vacancies were required to be filled up by following the outsider-insider ratio in the given cycle of 30-point roster, then there would be an insider vacancy, to be given either to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or the OBC. Since there was no SC/ST candidate, it had to be filled up by insider OBC, i.e., the applicant.

The High Court also observed that Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954 contemplates consultation with the State Government in respect of matter of allocation of cadre. Since there was no consultation with the government of Kerala, the Union was in breach of the mandate of Rule 5(1).

The applicant, though an OBC candidate, came on general merit without resorting to the relaxed standard for the candidates belonging to OBC.

Scramble for the Home Cadre   

The number of vacancies of IAS for CSE-2006 was 89 and there was requisition for 108 posts by the States as against the 89 posts available for allotment. Kerala had sought 7 to 14 officers as against 2 officers allocated to it. Noticeably, there were total 595 districts in the country whereas Kerala had 14 districts at the time of distribution of vacancies for CSE-2006. Therefore, the vacancies in Kerala were determined as 14/595*89= 2.09 (rounded off to 2).

Therefore, in terms of the Recruitment Rules, the applicant was assigned Himachal Pradesh cadre as a general category candidate as the applicant had not availed any concessions/relaxations as admissible to OBC candidates and was being considered as a  general merit candidate while Sachindra Pratap Singh who was an OBC candidate had ranked 26 in the merit list and had availed concessions and relaxations available to such OBC candidates unlike the applicant. Therefore, as an OBC candidate, he was allocated the first vacancy of OBC to Maharashtra cadre as it was the first State in the grouping of cadres to be followed for cadre allocation.  The Bench observed,

“The fact that the Kerala Cadre is deficient in respect of number of officers cannot be disputed by a successful candidate as such candidate had no right to claim additional vacancies so that the applicant can be assigned home state.”

Hence, the Bench opined that the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction to order allocation of Kerala Cadre to the applicant without examining the policy decision of the Union to fill up only 89 vacancies.  The Bench added,

“The argument to claim that the entire deficient cadre should be made by allocation to one State in preference to other 23 States in the country is preposterous. The balancing of claims of all the States is to be carried by the Union and not by one State or by the Courts.”

Consultation with State

The Bench was to examine whether consultation in respect of allocation of cadre was required to be done with the State from which the candidate belongs or with the State to which the candidate was being allocated.

The Union government had argued that consultation contemplated under Rule 5(1) of the Cadre Rules was held with the State of Himachal Pradesh where the applicant was allocated. Noticing that the applicant was on merit as a general category candidate, and as a general category candidate, there was no occasion for consultation with State of Kerala as the applicant was not even eligible to be considered for allocation to the said State in terms of the allocation order, the Bench opined that no consultation was required to be carried out in respect of the applicant with Kerala State. Similarly, considering the fact that the applicant was allocated to the State of Himachal Pradesh and there was a consent duly given by the State of Himachal Pradesh for her allocation to that State, the Bench held that mandate of Rule 5(1) of the Cadre Rules was satisfied when consultation was made with the State to which allocation was made.

Opining that the applicant had taken chance in appearing in the selection process but when she was unsuccessful in getting the home cadre, attempts were made to get into the home cadre on wholly untenable grounds, the Bench remarked,

“An SC/ST or OBC candidate selected against unreserved vacancy as a general merit candidate cannot make a grievance in respect of allocation of cadre but has a right to seek service as a reserved category candidate if that improves the selection of service.”

Decision

Considering that the first vacancy meant for insider from a Kerala candidate was filled up by one Prasanna N (person higher in merit) and the other vacancy was meant for outsider OBC, the Bench held that the findings of the High Court were unsustainable in law. Similarly, the findings that the action of the Union was arbitrary as the allocation to certain States were more than the cadre gap was again not sustainable as the 89 vacancies were allocated to the States on the basis of the norms.

In view of the above, the appeals were allowed and the orders passed by the High Court and the Tribunal were set aside.
[Union of India v. A. Shainamol, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 962, decided on 22-10-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 


*Judgment by: Justice Hemant Gupta

Know Thy Judge| Justice Hemant Gupta

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi*, JJ has held that the Courts cannot issue mandamus to frame policy.

The Court was hearing the case where the last attemptees of the UPSC Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2020 had sought an extra attempt to clear the exam in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also read: COVID 19 a “lame excuse”: Here’s why SC refused to allow extra attempt for UPSC CSE to last attemptees

It was argued before the Court that there is always a change in the upper age limit and number of attempts in different spell and that in the year 2015, the Union of India allowed one more attempt in the Civil Service Examination 2015 for the candidates who appeared in CSE 2011.

However, as pointed out by the Union of India, there was a substantial change in the pattern of Civil Service (Preliminary) Examination 2011, in the given circumstances, it was considered appropriate to grant one more attempt in Civil Service Examination, 2015 to such candidates who appeared in Civil Service Examination, 2011 either due to reaching upper age limit or due to exhausting of number of attempts.

The Court, however, noticed that the said instance cannot be made to be the basis or a foundation for the petitioners to site as a precedent in claiming to seek one additional attempt as a matter of right which is not permissible under the scheme of Rules 2020 or with the aid of Article 14 of the Constitution to take a call in meeting out the difficulties which have been faced as alleged in the given circumstance.

“Judicial review of a policy decision and to issue mandamus to frame policy in a particular manner are absolutely different.”

It is within the realm of the executive to take a policy decision based on the prevailing circumstances for better administration and in meeting out the exigencies but at the same time, it is not within the domain of the Courts to legislate. The Courts do interpret the laws and in such an interpretation, certain creative process is involved. The Courts have the jurisdiction to declare the law as unconstitutional. That too, where it is called for.  The Court is called upon to consider the validity of a policy decision only when a challenge is made that such policy decision infringes fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution or any other statutory right.

“Merely because as a matter of policy, if the 1st respondent has granted relaxation in the past for  the reason that there was  a change in the examination pattern/syllabus and in the given situation, had considered to be an impediment for the participant in the Civil Service Examination, no assistance can be claimed by the petitioners in seeking mandamus to the 1st respondent to come out with a policy granting relaxation to the participants who had availed a final and last attempt or have crossed the upper age by appearing in the Examination 2020 as a matter of right.”

[Rachna v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 140, decided on 24.02.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi

Appearances in the matter by

For petitioners: Senior Advocate Shyam Divan,  

For Respondents: Additional Solicitor General S.V.   Raju and advocate Naresh Kaushik

For intervenors: Senior Advocates P.V. Narasimha and Pallav Shishodia

https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2021/02/24/covid-19-a-lame-excuse-to-take-extra-attempt-to-clear-civil-service-examination-heres-why-sc-refused-to-allow-extra-attempt-for-upse-cse-to-last-attemptees/

Op EdsOP. ED.

The Civil Services Exam(CSE) is conducted by the UPSC to recruit eligible officers for various top Government posts such as the IAS (Indian Administrative Service), the IPS (Indian Police Service), the IFS (Indian Foreign Service), etc. It is considered to be the most lucrative as well as prestigious of all competitive exams in India. 

Despite being one of the toughest exams to clear, it sees close to nine lakh candidates appear for it every year. That is because it is one of the few jobs which combines the benefits of job security, job diversity, work-life balance, personal growth and prestige for self and family. More importantly, it provides immense amount of self-satisfaction resulting from being able to be of service to those who need it the most. 

EXAM PATTERN 

The CSE takes place in three stages – the Preliminary Examination(objective type questions), the Main Examination(subjective type questions) and the Personality Test(interview). 

At the second stage, there is one Essay paper, four General Studies papers and two Optional subject papers. Each of these papers has a weightage of 250 marks. Thus, the choice of the optional subject becomes a very crucial decision as it can be a deal maker or deal breaker in this exam. Also, it is the only area where UPSC gives the candidates an option to choose a subject of their choice. Thus, it is imperative to make the best choice at this stage and what better option would a law graduate have than opting for law optional and maximising his/her chances of clearing this exam. 

LAW SYLLABUS

Law optional has a finite and limited syllabus which is predominantly of a static nature. Thus, once a candidate covers the syllabus, it only requires repeated revision cycles rather than any updation at regular intervals.  

The syllabus of law optional is divided into two parts. Paper I consists of Constitutional Law and International Law. Paper II consists of Law of Crimes, Law of Torts, Law of Contracts, Mercantile Laws and Contemporary Legal Developments. Thus, you would be tested on just two subjects in the Law 1 paper and more than five subjects in the Law 2 paper. 

FORMAT

The format for both the papers is the same. Each paper is of 250 marks and each consists of some short questions which need to be compulsorily answered and some options of long questions from which choices can be made. For more details you can look up the official website www.upsconline.nic.in 

OVERLAP WITH GENERAL STUDIES SYLLABUS 

Almost 40% of the General Studies syllabus has a direct link with the law optional syllabus and the percentage goes even higher if one considers the indirect linkages. It also helps immensely in writing better essays and better answers in the GS-IV paper on Ethics. 

CANDIDATES APPEARING FOR CSE WITH LAW OPTIONAL

Law is increasingly becoming a popular optional subject both for law background students as well as non-law background students. More and more students are opting for this subject after realising its advantages not just during the preparation stage but also upon joining the service after successfully clearing the exam.

PERFORMANCE OF OPTIONAL IN PAST YEARS

It is a scoring optional with top scores of 300+ commonly achieved on an every year basis. In the past decade, many toppers with single digit ranks have cleared the exam with law as their optional subject, quite a few of them even being from non-law background. Law has consistently been one of the best performing optional subjects in terms of success rates and conversion ratios of candidates, second only to that of medical science. 

FEATURES OF LAW AS A SUBJECT 

Law has a direct or indirect link with almost everything happening around us in society. Thus, it is not only interesting to study but it also helps in establishing the right linkages and developing a holistic understanding of even the most complex issues with utmost conceptual clarity. 

Law is based on common sense and it trains one’s mind to think differently. It helps in developing key critical thinking skills and probes one to ask relevant questions and seek answers in a conclusive way. It helps in better articulation and expression of ideas and arguments. This in turn leads to better communication of keypoints both in the written as well as verbal formats. 

STRATEGY FOR PREPARATION

Law is the most predictable part of an otherwise highly unpredictable exam. Thus, it requires a calculative and smart strategy to leverage its advantages to the maximum. 

  • The first and most important step is to understand the syllabus of the paper. Not all subjects have equal weightage. 
  • At the same time, not all syllabus topics within a subject have equal weightage. Thus, analysing the previous years’ question papers would help students get a better understanding of the important topics and important themes within those topics. 
  • The above mentioned step would enable students to prioritise their preparation according to the prevailing trends and patterns of the questions likely to be asked in the exam. 
  • The sources for preparation should be kept to a basic minimum and the approach should be to revise well from one source per subject.
  • The main focus should be on consolidation of the content in the form of self-prepared short notes, while keeping in mind the answer-writing perspective. 
  • One must practice writing answers of previous years’ questions. Once a student feels confident about the overall approach and quality of his/her answers, the next step would be to practice full length mock tests and get valuable feedback on the performance. 

IMPORTANT TAKEAWAYS FROM PAST EXPERIENCES

There is no doubt that almost all students start their law optional preparation in the UPSC journey with the best of intentions and with the zeal to work hard and put in all the required efforts. However, it is commonly seen that they lose the zeal or lose their way and feel quite lost just after a few months. To avoid meeting the same fate, it is important to ensure that the hard work is accompanied with good amount of smart work also. It is here that I would want to share some of my past experiences in terms of hits and misses in this arduous journey. 

My list of common mistakes includes: 

  • Trying to follow the law school/college approach in preparing for the syllabus. The topics need not be covered in too much detail, rather the focus should be on having multi-dimensional and comprehensive coverage of the topics. Ultimately, you need to know how much of what you have read, can you actually write in the exam, given the time and space constraints. 
  • Not consolidating the content prepared in the form of short self-made notes. Skipping this one last step before moving on to the next topic, ultimately leads to revisiting the entire content from scratch in the next revision cycle and thus requires double and unnecessary time and efforts. 
  • Leaving answer writing practice till the very end. The preparation of any syllabus topic cannot be considered complete unless you write an answer on that topic. The art of writing relevant yet concise content in the answers is a special skill which needs to be acquired by practising answer writing before actually attempting a full length mock test or directly the mains exam. 
  • Not revising at regular intervals. The lengthy and detailed syllabus of law optional cannot be studied and retained in just one study cycle. Thus, one must space out their revision cycles at a gap of every fortnight or month in order to brush up the content multiple times. It is here that the consolidated short notes prove to be extremely useful. 
  • Never feeling content and confident about the topics already covered. The fear of missing out makes many students to constantly be on the lookout for more and more content from different books and online sources. The truth is there will never come a point when any topic can be 100% prepared. So, one must not let the best become the enemy of good. The focus should be on having sufficient relevant content on all syllabus topics rather than do a mastery in few and leave others underprepared. 

COACHING OR JUST SELF STUDY: THE PERPETUAL DILEMMA

The exam can be cleared with self-preparation and there are many success stories in support of this. Coaching is not required in most cases, however, it can help in saving valuable time and effort and guide the preparation in the right direction from the start to the end. But even then, a lot depends on the students’ sincere and diligent efforts as there is no substitute for hard work. Eventually, it is going to be a personal choice and would depend on the individual needs of the students.

CONCLUSION

There are some myths and ill-conceived notions of the law optional preparation which deter many students from taking up this subject. However, the advantages far outnumber the challenges involved and a good strategy from the very start can help keep the preparation on track and clear the exam with flying colours.


Shalka Kumar is an experienced mentor of Law Optional for IAS aspirants and a RMLNLU alumna. She guides students through various courses under CHRYSALIS IAS ACADEMY (https://chrysalisias.com) ; E-mail: info@chrysalisias.comWhatsapp: 8260930294. Register for a free counselling session: https://forms.gle/CaRqs2G3XA3zX8tb9   

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where the last attemptees of the UPSC Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2020 had sought an extra attempt to clear the exam in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi*, JJ has refused the plea and has held that allowing extra attempt in such a case would set a precedent and also have cascading effect on examinations in other streams.

“The data furnished to this Court by the Commission clearly indicate that various selections have been held by the Commission for Central Services in the year 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic and selections must have been held by State Commissions and other recruiting agencies, if this Court shows indulgence to few who had participated in the Examination 2020, it will set down a precedent and also have cascading effect on examinations in other streams, for which we are dissuaded to exercise plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution.”

The Court, however, left it to the Government to exercise its discretion in meeting out the nature of difficulties, if come across in future in dealing with the situation, if required.

What was being claimed?

The petitioners were unable to qualify in their last attempt in the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2020, held on 4th October 2020 and approached the Court seeking mandamus to the Government to extend one additional attempt to them as they are being barred from attempting the examination in future on account of exhausting of available attempts or on account of age bar subsequent to Examination 2020.

It was argued before the Court that,

“the sudden and strict lockdown due to unprecedented pandemic in March, 2020 had made a  large disruption in the life of the common man and the measures adopted led to difficulties and impediments in the preparation of the Examination 2020 for many aspirants and the Government failed to take any policy decision for the last attemptees before   holding Examination 2020 to enable them to take an appropriate/suitable decision and noticing precedence from the earlier policy of 1st respondent to grant an extra attempt to last attemptees in the event causing widespread hardships left with no choice except to appear in the examination even though they did not have an adequate opportunity and infrastructure and they were left out blinded with uncertainty.”

Why the Court refused the plea of the petitioners?

The Court noticed that what was being prayed “in the first blush appears to be attractive but it lacks legal strength and foundation for various reasons.”

Adequate opportunity

The scheme of Rules 2020 clearly stipulate that the entry age to participate in this competition is 21 years and the exit age for general candidates is 32 years and at least each candidate gets minimum 11 years to participate in the competitive examination, i.e., CSE, in the instant case. For those who claim reservation vertical/ horizontal, they have numerous/unlimited chances and are also entitled for age relaxations.

No discretion with authority to grant relaxations

It may further be noticed that under Rule 6 of Rules 2020, there is a clear mandate that age limit prescribed in no case can be relaxed subject to the relaxations which have been enumerated for various categories. So far as the candidates who appear in the general category and have crossed the age of 32 years, no discretion is left with the authority to grant any relaxation in upper age limit prescribed for the candidates appeared in the instant Examination 2020.

No change in syllabus and additional time to prepare

The syllabus of the preliminary examination has not changed since 2015 and after the Rules 2020 were notified, the notice for the Examination 2020 was published on 12th February 2020 and the scheduled date of the examination was fixed on 31st May, 2020 but because of the unprecedented situation of Covid¬19 pandemic, the Commission took a policy decision to defer the examination and in the changed situation, after there was a relaxation in the lockdown, ultimately on 5th June, 2020 took a decision to hold the examination on 4th October 2020 and, therefore, instead of three   months, the candidates got additional five months (i.e. eight months) to which one ordinarily can  prepare for appearing in  the examination  in terms of the scheme of Rules 2020.

Already a “second chance” given to candidates

Under the scheme of Rules 2020, mere filling up of the form is not sufficient to avail an attempt.  If someone appeared in either of the paper of the preliminary examination, that was considered to be an attempt availed by the candidate and, in the given situation, after the application form was filled, the candidates who wanted to withdraw their application form at the later stage because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the commission took a policy decision to open the window for the second time, which in the ordinary course is not available under the scheme of rules, for the candidates who intended to withdraw their application from 1st August, 2020 to 8th August, 2020.

“Since the   examination was scheduled for 4th October, 2020 only those candidates were left who were mentally prepared to appear and willing to avail an opportunity of appearing in the Examination 2020 and after appearing in the examination, when they could not qualify, it has given a way to the present litigation on the specious ground of Covid-19 pandemic that they were unable to effectively participate in the process of selection which has been initiated by the Commission in holding preliminary examination on 4th October, 2020.”

No special case of petitioners than those who have appeared in various examinations in the year 2020

A  large number of candidates appeared in the various examinations in the year 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic and everyone must have faced some constraints/impediments/inconvenience in one way or the other,

“… merely because the present petitioners made a complaint to this Court, cannot be taken into isolation for the purpose of seeking additional chance/attempt in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic, which has been faced by not only the candidates appeared in Examination 2020 but by the candidates appeared in the various examinations/recruitment tests held by the State Commissions or by other recruiting agencies and by and large, every member of the society in one way or the other but that does not in any manner give legitimate right to the petitioners to claim additional benefit/attempt which is otherwise not permissible under the scheme of Rules 2020.”

Can the Court issue mandamus to frame policy?

It was argued before the Court that there is always a change in the upper age limit and number of attempts in different spell and that in the year 2015, the Union of India allowed one more attempt in the Civil Service Examination 2015 for the candidates who appeared in CSE 2011.

However, as pointed out by the Union of India, there was a substantial change in the pattern of   Civil Service (Preliminary) Examination 2011, in the given circumstances, it was considered appropriate to grant one more attempt in Civil Service Examination, 2015 to such candidates who appeared in Civil Service Examination, 2011 either due to reaching upper age limit or due to exhausting of number of attempts.

The Court, however, noticed that the said instance cannot be made to be the basis or a foundation for the petitioners to site as a precedent in claiming to seek one additional attempt as a matter of right which is not permissible under the scheme of Rules 2020 or with the aid of Article 14 of the Constitution to take a call in meeting out the difficulties which have been faced as alleged in the given circumstance.

“Judicial review of a policy decision and to issue mandamus to frame policy in a particular manner are absolutely different.”

It is within the realm of the executive to take a policy decision based on the   prevailing circumstances for better administration and in meeting out the exigencies but at the same time, it is not within the domain of the Courts to legislate. The Courts do interpret the laws and in such an interpretation, certain creative process is involved. The Courts have the jurisdiction to declare the law as unconstitutional. That too, where it is called for.  The Court is called upon to consider the validity of a policy decision only when a challenge is made that such policy decision infringes fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution or any other statutory right.

“Merely because as a matter of policy, if the 1st respondent has granted relaxation in the past for  the reason that there was  a change in the examination pattern/syllabus and in the given situation, had considered to be an impediment for the participant in the Civil Service Examination, no assistance can be claimed by the petitioners in seeking mandamus to the 1st respondent to come out with a policy granting relaxation to the participants who had availed a final and last attempt or have crossed the upper age by appearing in the Examination 2020 as a matter of right.”

[Rachna v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 140, decided on 24.02.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi

Appearances in the matter by

For petitioners: Senior Advocate Shyam Divan,  

For Respondents: Additional Solicitor General S.V.   Raju and advocate Naresh Kaushik

For intervenors: Senior Advocates P.V. Narasimha and Pallav Shishodia

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Prathiba M. Singh, J., while addressing the grievance of UPSC aspirants in regard to cancellation of interviews to be held by the Selection Committee observed that,

Selection to the civil services, especially the IAS – a coveted service, cannot be a whimsical process. It has to follow certain norms, procedures and discipline.

Background

20 Non-State Civil Service Officers of the State of Rajasthan aspirants for the appointment of Indian Administrative Service of Rajasthan Cadre filed the present petition in the Non-SCS Category.

Purpose of filing the present petition was to challenge the letter issued by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)/ Respondent 1, in accordance to which interviews scheduled by the Selection Committee was cancelled.

Analysis and Findings

Bench stated that it is only considering the question of maintainability of the present petition and three aspects of maintainability i.e.

  • Territorial Jurisdiction of this Court to hear the writ petition
  • Forum non-conveniens
  • Availability of an alternate remedy in the form of CAT under Section 14 of the Central Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985

Territorial jurisdiction:

The primary grievance of the petitioner is against the Central Government and the UPSC and not the State of Rajasthan. Interviews that were to be taken place in Delhi.

This Court clearly had territorial jurisdiction, since the cause of action arose within the territory of Delhi and further because of the fact that both the UPSC and Central Government are within the jurisdiction of this court.

Forum non-conveniens:

Insofar as forum non-conveniens is concerned, the said principle is merely applied in order to determine the most convenient forum, with respect to the dispute.

Bench stated that due to hearings and transmission of records being virtual in any case, because of the pandemic, this Court does not feel compelled to reject this writ petition on the ground of forum non-conveniens.

Availability of alternate remedy:

Whether the Petitioners ought to be relegated to CAT, Jaipur Bench, to avail of their remedies under Section 14 of the Act?

In Savitur Prasad v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 12297, Division Bench observed as under:

“It is also trite to state that the scope of interference by a High Court in service matters and disciplinary proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, is permissible only in cases of demonstrable lack of jurisdiction and perversity.”
Bench in the instant matter observed that High Courts have power to exercise jurisdiction, even if there is an alternative remedy inter alia on several grounds:
  1. If there is a violation of the Principles of Natural Justice;
  2.  If there are unprecedented or extraordinary circumstances that warrant exercise of jurisdiction under Art.226;
  3. The need to render substantial justice;
  4. If the act complained against is patently erroneous or perverse;
  5. If there is demonstrable lack of jurisdiction or perversity;
  6. If relegating the parties to CAT would not render substantial justice.
  7. The exercise of power under Article 226 is discretionary and depends on the question whether circumstances warrant;

While applying the above principles, the decisions of different courts are disparate and depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Court held that in the present case certain unusual and extraordinary circumstances are present.

Further, the Court added that, petitioners were left to suffer as the interviews were cancelled less than 24 hours before the scheduled time. Thus there appears to be some merit in the allegation of breach of Principles of Natural Justice as the Petitioners were never given an opportunity to deal with the allegations.

“…it is the settled position that the alternate remedy has to also be an efficacious remedy.”

Relegating the Petitioners to approach CAT would lead to further delays in their candidature being considered for selection to the IAS.

Supreme Court has in its recent decision on 7-10-2020, in Commissioner of Police v. Umesh Kumar, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 810 observed that irregularities in public recruitment have become a bane, leading to litigation in both Courts and Tribunals across the country.

Court in view of the above analysis made an observation that,

The cancellation of interviews as in the present case is not to be viewed solitarily as a one-off incident. It represents a deeper malaise in the selection, which ought to be conducted fairly and in a transparent manner.

When the Court finds that the selection mechanism is being impeded, successively, it cannot turn a blind eye.

Present case would require interference by the exercise of writ jurisdiction in order to examine as to whether the prescribed norms for selection were adhered to, and if not, then, to consider the remedial measures. The circumstances in the present case accordingly warrant interference under Article 226 of the Constitution. [Akul Bhargava v. UPSC, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1376, decided on 09-10-2020]

Case Briefs

Central Administrative Tribunal, Delhi: A Division Bench of Justice L. Narasimha Reddy, Chairman, and Mohd. Jamshed, Member (A), dismissed the application for lack of merit.

The facts of the case, in precis, are that the applicant filed MA. No. 1250/2020 prosecuting the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi and the same has been ordered under the present application, OA. No. 975/2020. The applicant was employed with the Forensic Science Laboratory, Delhi, on a contractual basis during which the UPSC issued an Advertisement for selection of candidates to various posts on regular basis.

The applicant having crossed the requisite age limit took the aid of the memo of the Government of NCT of Delhi, wherein the age limit for direct recruitment was relaxed up to 5 years as a one time measure for candidates working on a contractual basis. Since the aforementioned advertisement did not provide for any such relaxation, the applicant claimed the same from UPSC basis the memo by the Delhi Subordinate Services Selection Board (DSSSB).

The tribunal heard the arguments advanced by Setu Niket, counsel for the applicant and R.V. Sinha, counsel for the respondent observing that the memo would have been effective only if the posts weren’t governed by Recruitment Rules since the rules have been framed specifically for the posts in question.

The relaxation under recruitment rules is available only to the employees of the Central Government and UTs. It was also noted that the recruitment rules are felicitous hence the UPSC would abide by them alone. Resultantly, the bench was of the opinion that the memo isn’t a legitimate ground for them to compel the UPSC into recognizing the administrative or executive orders.

Therefore, the application being devoid of any merit was dismissed by the bench.[Syed Ahmar Ali Hasmi v. Union Public Service Commission, 2020 SCC OnLine CAT 304, decided on 07-08-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Jyoti Singh, J., refused to entertain a writ petition filed by a member of All India Services holding that the remedy lies with Central Administrative Tribunal.

Petitioner qualified the Civil Services Examination in the year 1986 and was allocated Indian Police Service (IPS) and assigned Haryana Cadre.

Petitioner assailed the empanelment dated 18-02-2019 made by UPSC and the subsequent appointment of respondent 4 as DGP, State of Haryana vide appointment order dated 18-02-2019.

Appointment of respondent 4 was initially challenged by the petitioner in the Supreme Court which was disposed of with the order that petitioner may approach the jurisdictional High Court.

UPSC Counsel raised an objection to maintainability and submitted that this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the petition.

He contended that, IPS is an All India Service, and thus petitioner is amenable to the jurisdiction of Central Administrative Tribunal.

Senior counsel for the petitioner further submitted that the present petition had been filed in terms of the liberty granted by the Supreme Court and thus it is not open to respondents to raise any objection to its maintainability.

Decision

Petitioner is a member of an All India Service, which is covered under Section 14(1)(b)(i) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985

Section 14(1)(b)(i) of the Act provides that, save as otherwise expressly provided in the Act, the Central Administrative Tribunal shall exercise on and from the appointed day, all the jurisdiction, power and authority exercisable immediately before that day, by all Courts in relation to all service matters concerning a member of any All India Service.

Section 3(q) of the Act defines ‘Service Matters’ as all matters relating to conditions of a service and includes matters with respect to tenure, confirmation, seniority, promotion etc.

Constitution Bench of Supreme Court observed in the case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, (1997) 3 SCC 261, that the Tribunals created pursuant to Article 323-A or under Article 323-B of the Constitution of India are competent to hear matters entrusted to them and will continue to act as only Courts of ‘first instance’ in respect of the areas of law for which they have been constituted.

Insofar as the jurisdiction of the High Courts is concerned, Supreme Court further observed that the jurisdiction conferred upon the High Courts under Articles 226/227 and upon the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, is a part of the inviolable basic structure of the Constitution.

While this jurisdiction cannot be ousted, other Courts and Tribunals may perform a supplemental role in discharging the powers conferred on the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

Thus, in view of the above stated Supreme Court decision, High Court cannot entertain the present petition and remedy of the petitioner lies only before the CAT. [Prabhat Ranjan Deo v. UPSC, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 738 , decided on 13-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: Sangeet Lodha, J., dismissed a writ petition seeking directions from the Court for re-examination of medical test for the position of Assistant Commandment in Central Police Forces.

The present case arose from a challenge by the petitioner against the action of the respondent declaring the petitioner medically unfit for the position of Assistant Commandant in Central Police Forces (CPFs). The respondent Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) had issued an advertisement inviting applications for the recruitment of Assistant Commandant in CPFs. The petitioner, being already employed as Sub Inspector in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), applied for the said post. He underwent the selection process and was declared successful. During the petitioner’s medical examination he was declared unfit on certain grounds. The petitioner was directed to appear before the Review Medical Board, where he was again declared unfit.

The petitioner submitted that he got himself examined separately in his unit by the Medical Officer of CRPF, who certified the petitioner to be fit for appointment on the post of Assistant Commandant. Thereafter, he got himself examined by the Medical Board consisting of civilian doctors who also certified that the petitioner is medically and physically fit and can perform any kind of duty. Thus, it was contended by the petitioner that he was wrongly declared as being physically and medically unfit for recruitment to the post of Assistant Commandant.

A reply was filed on behalf of the respondents, who stated that the petitioner on being found qualified in Physically Efficiency Test (PET), a detailed medical examination conducted by the CPFs Medical Board consisting of three specialists viz. Physician, Surgeon and Ophthalmologist and was thereafter declared as medically unfit. They reiterated that the Review Medical Board also declared the petitioner as medically unfit.

The Court upon perusal of the facts and circumstances of the case stated that the petitioner being declared as medically fit by the Medical Board consisting of civilian doctors merely on the basis of the certificate which does not specify the tests that were conducted by them for examination cannot be considered for the Court to direct for re-examination of the petitioner, more so after a lapse of fifteen years. [Satya Narayan v. Union of India,  2020 SCC OnLine Raj 363, decided on 06-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of V.K. Tahilramani, Acting CJ and M.S. Sonak, J., dismissed a writ petition challenging the judgment of Central Administrative Tribunal wherein the Tribunal declined to interfere with the recommendations for promotion by DPC, Union Public Service Commission.

The dispute related to seniority and promotion of the petitioners as well as respondents. The petitioners contended that in the year 2000, the DPC had applied the yardstick of seniority-cum-fitness for promotions. However, in 2003, it applied some other yardstick, which, according to the petitioners, vitiated the proceedings of DPC. The Tribunal dismissed the original applications filed by the petitioners. Aggrieved thus, the petitioners filed the instant petition.

The High Court was unable to accept petitioners’ contention that DPC had adopted any unequal yardstick. In the affidavit filed by UPSC, it categorically stated that for the period in question, the selections were held in strict compliance of the regulations then in force. The petitioners failed to show that the procedure was in breach of the regulations. The Court relied on Supreme Court decision in Nutan Avind v. Union of India, 1996 (2) SCC 488, to observe that UPSC being a statutory body, and in absence of the petitioners demonstrating any statutory breach or mala fides, ordinarily it is not for the tribunals and courts to second-guess decisions of such expert bodies. For the said reasons, the High Court dismissed the petition. [Sadanand J. Koche v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1916, dated 12-07-2018]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): In a landmark case CIC held that a candidate can seek answer sheets of other candidates and that this is not marred by Section 8(1)(e) and Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act. However, it is subject to Sections 3 and 6.

The departmental examination which was conducted to decide the promotion on the job for the post of EO/AO comprised of four papers, out of which three were objective and one was descriptive in nature. Since the fourth paper was descriptive, no model answers were prepared. Around 3,000 candidates appeared in the exam out of which only 5 candidates were selected and this appellant was qualified but was not in the final list of four selected candidates as there were only four vacancies while the appellant stood at Number 5. Appellant wanted model answers for the Fourth Question paper also. The public authority has disclosed the questions and answers of all the candidates regarding three papers but refused to give four answer-sheets of four qualified candidates to the appellant. The appellant claimed that he wanted to check the answers given by four who topped above him and where he lacked in and if he was really ineligible to secure promotion.

The legality of demanding answer sheet in the examination is in principle upheld by the Supreme Court in CBSE v. Aditya Bandhopadhyay, (2011) 8 SCC 497 provided that the request is made during a reasonable time in which the authorities are expected to retain the answer scripts. SC held that answer book also does not fall under any of the exemption provided under (a) to (j) of sub-section 1 of Section 8 of RTI Act. So, an examining body does not hold the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship under Section 8(1)(e).

In Kewal Singh Gautam v. State of Chhattisgarh, AIR 2011 Chh 143, Chhattisgarh High Court held that conduct of examination by the departmental agency for promotion in Govt. department, are not private activities, but in public domain and the checking and evaluation of answer sheet by an examiner and the marks given by him upon assessment of performance has nothing to do with the privacy of either the examiner or those who are responsible for conducting the examination so Section 8 (1)(j) is not attracted.

In Centre of Earth Science Studies v. Dr. Mrs. Anson Sebastian 2010 SCC OnLine Ker 541, where one employee sought information pertaining to documents relating to domestic enquiry against another employee and also for getting entries in confidential report of six other employees of the appellant, repelling the claim of exemption under Section 8(1)(j) of the Act of 2005, the Division Bench of High Court of Kerala held that provision of Section 8(1)(j) are not attracted.

CIC analysed that in CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhya, (2011) 8 SCC 497 the Supreme Court said no, but on certain practical issues. The CBSE pleaded that if it has to share certified copies of answer-sheets of other to each and every candidate seeking under RTI, it would lead to chaos and divert substantial resources. In UPSC v. Angesh Kumar,  (2018) 4 SCC 530,  the Court read the inherent limitation in Sections 3 and 6 as pertaining to revelation of information that is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information. The Supreme Court referred to the problems in showing evaluated answer sheets in the UPSC Civil Services Examination in Prashant Ramesh Chakkarwar v. UPSC, (2013) 12 SCC 489.

CIC observed that the most important point was that the rejection in CBSE and UPSC cases was not based on any exception under Section 8(1) including (e) & (j). CIC concluded that no such difficulty exists in the present case and the appellant was entitled to get copies of answer sheet of the four candidates who topped. [Shailendra Kumar Singh v. PIO, EPFO, CIC/EPFOG/A/2018/614958, decided on 08-06-2018]