The Delhi High Court while dealing with a batch of petitions has recently directed the Centre to fill the vacancies for posts in SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal) and CAPF (Central Armed Police Force) that arose due to the non-joining of candidates and leftover seats being advertised in the years 2016 and 2018 respectively.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna held –

"A read-through of the afore-noted extracts of the advertisements pertaining to the examination of the years 2016 as well as 2018 in Sashstra Seema Bal as well as CAPF shows that specific criteria for selection and appointment has been laid down. In the peculiar facts of these petitions, keeping in view that in both the advertisements, respondents had not mentioned with regard to panel list/ wait list in the event of seats lying vacant; but had clearly mentioned the criteria for selection and appointment, we direct the respondents to fill the unfilled vacancies having arisen due to non-joining of candidates as well as left over seats for the examination of the year 2016 conducted by the Sashatra Seema Bal and examination of the year 2018 conducted by the CAPF; in order of merit, category and domicile of the candidates; who meet the criteria mentioned in the respective advertisements, if not already filled."

The Bench further directed that the Centre shall ascertain such candidates and offer them an appointment within four weeks of passing the judgment with notional seniority but without back wages.

Advocate Neetu Kumari appeared for the petitioners while Senior Advocate Farman Ali appeared for the respondents.

In this case, in the year 2016, applications to fill up 872 posts of Sub-Inspector, Assistant Sub-Inspector, and Head Constable in SSB, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India were invited through an advertisement. The process of selection comprised three stages i.e., physical test, document verification, and written examination, wherein the minimum qualifying marks were 50%. The result of the examination was declared after three years in the year 2019 and due to inordinate delay in completing the recruitment process, many candidates could not join the department. The petitioners who scored above the qualifying marks of 50% but were not appointed approached the High Court seeking a direction to the respondents to fill up the leftover or unfilled vacancies, in order of their merit.

Similarly, an advertisement to conduct open examination to the post of "Constables (GD) in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), NIA & SSF and Rifleman (GD) in Assam Rifles (AR) Examination, 2018" to fill up 54,953 vacancies was published in the year 2018 and in 2019, consolidated revised vacancies for the post of Constable (GD) was released increasing the vacancies from 54,953 to 60,210. Thereafter, the result of PET/PST was declared wherein a total of 1,52,226 candidates including the petitioners, qualified for the Detailed Medical Examination (DME) and got selected for the same. A few of the candidates, who could not make their appointments in the result declared on filed petition stating that respondents will release the fresh advertisement to conduct a similar examination, which would cause serious prejudice to these petitioners if the leftover vacancies are advertised afresh. Subsequently, a few more petitions seeking similar relief were filed in the Court pertaining to the said examination. The matter was therefore before the High Court.

The counsel for the petitioners submitted before the Court that the petitioners have patiently waited for three years for the result, which was declared in 2019, and that 72 vacancies were pending against the post of Head Constable. On the other hand, the counsel for the respondents argued that the candidates who qualified at all the stages of the recruitment process have been appointed and the entire selection process has been conducted in a transparent manner.

The High Court on the first contention raised by the petitioners that the process of appointment in the advertisements notified in respect of examination for the year 2016 as well as 2018 went at a snail's pace noted, "Though we do not dispute to the aforesaid contention, however, keeping in view that for filling up 746 post of Head Constable in Sashatra Seema Bal and for filling up 30,41,284 posts in CAPF, multiple rounds of selection had to be undertaken by the respondents which is no doubt a time taking process and, therefore, this objection deserves to be rejected."

With regard to the issue relating to the pending 72 vacancies the Court said, "A perusal of above-noted advertisements shows that it is quite descriptive about the vacancies and process of selection, however, it is silent on the aspect of leftover vacancies in the event of non-joining of the candidates as well as unfilled vacancies. These advertisements/Notice nowhere mention that in the eventuality of non-filling of vacancies; whether any wait list/ select list of the candidates on the basis of their merit will be prepared and considered."

The Court further agreed with the respondents that the appointment process consists of multiple rounds of selection which is a time taking process and observed that the appointment should be made from the pending list based on merit and category.

The Court also stated, "… we find that it would not only be in favour of meritorious candidates to get appointments against the unfilled seats, due to non-joining of candidates as well as left-over vacancies; but also in the interest of respondents to prevent them to undergo an exhausting and laborious recruitment process of vacancies pertaining to the year 2016 and 2018. It has already been held that mere selection does not give an indefeasible right to a candidate for appointment; however, it has also been held that if the posts advertised are lying vacant, appointments can be made through wait/panel list and in the absence of panel list/ wait list, any seat lying vacant due to non-joining of a candidate or leftover vacancy, can also be filled from candidates who meet the selection criteria."

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the petitions and pending applications.

Cause Title – Subhash Chhilar and Others v. Union of India & Anr. (Neutral Citation: 2022/DHC/005706)

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