The Karnataka High Court, Dharwad Bench has held that scrutiny of credentials of candidates is in the realm of the Selection Authority and that the Writ Court would not sit in the arm chair of experts and decide who is better unless the selection is contrary to law.

The Court was deciding a writ petition filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution praying to issue a writ of certiorari and quashing the notification issued by the University of Agricultural Sciences with regard to the appointment to the Cadre of Assistant Professor of Food Engineering.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna observed, “It is no doubt a settled principle of law that this Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution would be loathe to interfere in a selection process. The scrutiny of credentials of candidates, is in the realm of Selection Authority of the University. This Court would not sit in the arm chair of experts and decide who is better – whether the selected candidate or the one who impugned the selection. But, if the selection is contrary to law and is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, the Court would step in and undo any selection process by a State or any other Authority that would be the State under 12 of the Constitution, to set the wrong right.”

The Bench said that the submission that the petitioner is estopped from challenging the selection process is noted only to be rejected.

Senior Advocate Tharanath Poojary appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Advocate Ramachandra A. Mali, HCGP V.S. Kalasurmath, and Advocate Prashant Mathapati appeared on behalf of the respondents.

In this case, the petitioner was before the High Court against the provisional list of selected candidates to the post of Assistant Professor in Food Engineering in the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad by notification. The respondent/University issued a notification to fill up backlog posts in the cadres of Professor and Assistant Professor and hence, the petitioner and the private respondent, finding themselves eligible, applied pursuant to the said notification.

The said respondent was provisionally selected against which the petitioner raised his protest with regard to the Selection Committee deviating from the procedure stipulated and the norms that were necessary to be followed as depicted under the guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC). A select list was notified whereby the respondent emerged as the selected candidate and immediately thereafter, the petitioner approached the Court calling in question the said select list. The University undertook before the Court that no further action would be taken upon the select list and, therefore, the appointment order was not issued to the selected candidate.

The High Court in view of the above facts noted, “The case at hand forms a classic illustration of requirement of judicial review by interfering with the selection process as the selection process is contrary to law. … In the light of the judgment of the Apex Court and the facts obtaining noticed hereinabove, the inescapable conclusion would be that the selection of the 4th respondent, is contrary to law.”

The Court directed that since no appointment order is issued to the selected candidate, the University shall now redo the selection process from the stage at which the illegality is pointed out i.e., in drawing up of the select list by including the score card method, as obtaining under the guidelines of the UGC and adopted by the University for direct recruitment and promotion.

“The University shall undertake such exercise expeditiously and at any rate within eight weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order, regulate its procedure and take the selection to its logical conclusion”, further directed the Court.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the writ petition and quashed the notification issued by the University insofar as it concerned the selected candidate.

Cause Title- Venu S.A. v. University of Agricultural Sciences & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2023:KHC-D:8995)

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