A Delhi High Court Bench of Justice Jyoti Singh has observed that it is not the decision made in a recruitment that is open to the judicial scrutiny of the Courts, and it is only the decision-making process.

In that context, it was said that, "the inexorable conclusion that is drawn is that it is not within the domain of the Courts, in a judicial review, to adjudicate on selection processes, subject ofcourse to a caveat where it is a case of proven allegations of malafides or violation of Statutory Rules. It is not the decision but the decision making process which is open to judicial scrutiny by the Courts."

Counsel Joby P Varghese and Counsel Upmanyu Sharma appeared for the petitioner, while Central Government Standing Counsel Manisha Agrawal Narain, among others, appeared for the respondents.

In this case, two writ petitions were filed by the petitioner. The petitions prayed for setting aside a list of shortlisted candidates and selection/recommendation list issued by the Public Enterprises Selection Board, recommending the name of certain individuals from their posts. The petitioner also sought a writ of mandamus directing PESB to redraw the list of shortlisted candidates and include the name of the Petitioner for interview for the said post.

The Court was called upon to decide the interplay between the Seniority Guidelines and a "preference clause" incorporated in the Advertisements as part of educational ‘Qualification’ prescribed as eligibility condition.

Subsequently, it was observed that Courts are not appellate authorities over selection processes and have to show deference and consideration to the recommendations and decisions of expert bodies comprising of experts in the field. In that context, it was said that, "These principles will equally apply to the threshold stage of shortlisting and going by the binding dictum of the Supreme Court, judicial restraint applies with a greater vigour in interfering with norms, procedures and guidelines formulated and framed for carrying out the shortlisting/selection and/or the eligibility conditions etc. prescribed in the advertisements, which to my mind is purely the domain of the employer."

On analysing the advertisements, the Court noted that there was nothing in them that contemplated or provided for preference to a candidate based on higher pay scales and/or Board Level positions. In furtherance, it was said that, "It is obvious that the educational qualifications postulated as one of the eligibility conditions were tailor made to align with the nature of the post and its functional requirements. Moreover, it is purely the prerogative and domain of an employer to decide what qualifications are to be prescribed or preferred, as perspicuously addressed and canvassed on behalf of the Respondents and it is not for the Court to examine what parameters must be preferred over the others".

Further, the Court relied on the case of Zahoor Ahmad Rather and Others v., Sheikh Imtiyaz Ahmad and Others, to hold that "it is no part of the role or function of judicial review to expand upon the ambit of prescribed qualifications. While prescribing the qualifications for a post, the State as an employer may legitimately bear in mind several features including the nature of the job, the aptitudes requisite for the efficient discharge of duties, functionality of a qualification and the content of the course of studies which leads upto the acquisition of a qualification. All these are essentially matters of policy and judicial review must tread warily."

In light of the same, under the scope of Article 226, the Court held that it was neither open or appropriate for the Court to question the wisdom of PSEB in making their decision.

Regarding the seniority guidelines, the Court took the considered view that, "Applicants are required to fulfill the criterion of having minimum pay scales and be placed in seniority on that basis but thereafter shortlisting can only be on the basis of educational qualifications and experience, as rightly canvassed by the Respondents."

Cause Title: Geeta Sharma vs Public Enterprises Selection Board & Ors.

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