A Supreme Court Bench of Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna has held that a candidate cannot challenge the interview process after attending it simply because they believe that more marks should have been granted to them. In that context, it was said that "simply because the result of the selection process is not palatable to a candidate, he cannot allege that the process of interview was unfair or that there was some lacuna in the process."

Senior Counsel Ranjit Kumar, Senior Counsel Sanjay Hegde and Senior Counsel PS Patwalia appeared for the Appellants. ASG Madhavi Goradia Divan appeared for the Board, and Counsel S Janani appeared for the Respondents.

In this case, the batch of appeals was concerned with the selection process conducted for the appointment of drug inspectors in the State of Jammu Kashmir. The selection was challenged on several grounds, including that the authorities had acted arbitrarily while granting marks in the interview process.

The High Court had allowed the appeals, and subsequently, the matter was brought before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court analysed a catena of judgments, including Ashok Kumar vs. State of Bihar, to stress that "It is therefore trite that candidates, having taken part in the selection process without any demur or protest, cannot challenge the same after having been declared unsuccessful. The candidates cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time."

In the same context, the Court observed that "the writ petitioners in these cases, could not have questioned before a Court of law, the rationale behind recasting the selection criteria, as they willingly took part in the selection process even after the criteria had been so recast. Their candidature was not withdrawn in light of the amended criteria. A challenge was thrown against the same only after they had been declared unsuccessful in the selection process, at which stage, the challenge ought not to have been entertained in light of the principle of waiver and acquiescence."

Further, the Court perused the selection process followed in the present case, and subsequently took the considered view that "we are unable to hold that the same was mechanical or casual or suffered from irregularities which were so grave or arbitrary in nature so as to justify quashing the entire selection process. Further, we are unable to trace the requirement of individual rolls being signed and verified by the members of the Selection Board, to any statute or rule. Therefore, we cannot sustain the finding of the High Court that the entire selection process was vitiated by such irregularity. The High Court was not justified in quashing and setting aside the entire selection process, more so when sixty-four candidates including the appellants had been serving on the said post for over a decade."

The Apex Court also affirmed the eligibility of a pharmacologist as an interviewer for the post of a drug inspector.

Regarding the contention of marks being granted in an arbitrary manner during the interview, the Court observed that "The reallocation of marks based on the educational qualification was in recognition of the higher qualification of the candidates which cannot be termed to be arbitrary. It is a no brainer that any candidate who was aggrieved by the recast of marks would either withdraw his candidature or challenge the Corrigendum dated 12th June, 2009 at a preliminary stage in the selection process. However, the writ petitioners did not do so. Having participated in the selection process without any demur or protest, the writ petitioners cannot challenge the same as being tainted with mala fides, merely because they were unsuccessful."

In light of the same, the appeals against the order of the High Court were allowed and the order of the High Court was set aside.

Cause Title: Tajvir Singh Sodhi & Ors. v. The State of Jammu Kashmir & Ors.

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