The Supreme Court held that the Union of India displayed carelessness by not producing the Amendment Rules and the gazette notification before the Tribunal in a Postal Assistant Recruitment case. The Court held that the third respondent could not be penalized for this negligence and must be given the rightful appointment as a Postal Assistant. The Union of India challenged a series of judgments and orders related to the appointment of third respondent as a Postal Assistant. The dispute revolved around the interpretation of recruitment rules established in 1990 and subsequently amended in 1992.

A two judge Bench of Justice Bela M. Trivedi and Justice Dipankar Datta held that, “There has been utter carelessness on its part in not producing the Amendment Rules and the gazette notification before the Tribunal. The third respondent, therefore, cannot suffer for such carelessness and has to be given what is due to him.

Advocate Aishwarya Bhati appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate Kaushal Yadav appeared for the Respondents.

The appellant contested the appointment based on amended rules, while the third respondent argued that the appointment met the criteria specified in the original requisition and advertisement.

The Supreme Court noted Amendment Rules, excluding candidates from vocational streams, were properly published in the Gazette of India on February 15, 1992 and were applicable during the recruitment process. The Court said absence of specific mention in the requisition letter and advertisement regarding exclusion based on vocational qualifications did not override the statutory qualifications, as per established legal principles.

The Court further said that the appellant failed to present the Amendment Rules adequately during the legal proceedings, leading to a misunderstanding by the Tribunal and High Court. The Court noted that certificate presented by the third respondent contained ambiguous information, with conflicting interpretations regarding vocational and regular streams. The Court added that it was the appellant's responsibility to seek clarification from the issuing authority to resolve this ambiguity.

The Court found that despite being initially selected and sent for training, the third respondent was later excluded from the appointment process based on the certificate's ambiguous interpretation.

The Court held that appellant's decision to exclude the third respondent was arbitrary and lacked proper justification and that he appellant should have given a reason for considering the candidate ineligible based on the certificate's content. The Court added, “The contents of the letter dated 22nd March, 1996, which sounded the death knell for the third respondent, is clearly suggestive of a general direction given to the addressee Postmasters General; they were not called upon to scrutinise each certificate on its merits. As such, there was no individual rejection but a general rejection without applying one’s mind to the contents of the certificate. It was, thus, highly improper for the appellant to reject the candidature of the third respondent outright in the absence of a proper appreciation of the certificate.”

The Court said, “The third respondent, in our view, has been discriminated against and arbitrarily deprived of the fruit of selection. At this distance of time, it would not be worthwhile to order a remand particularly when the appellant is responsible for the lis being prolonged in excess of two decades.”

Considering the prolonged legal process and the appellant's negligence in presenting relevant documents, the Court directed the appellant to offer the third respondent an appointment as a Postal Assistant within a month.

The Court said if no vacancy exists, a supernumerary post should be created. The third respondent will be placed on probation, subject to confirmation based on satisfactory performance. If probationary service is unsatisfactory, the appellant can proceed in accordance with the law.

The Court recognized that due to the delay, the third respondent had crossed the maximum entry age for public employment. Therefore, the Court directed that he be notionally appointed on the date the last of the selected candidates was appointed in 1995 for the purpose of releasing retiral benefits.

The appeal and pending applications were disposed of.

Cause Title: Union Of India v. Uzair Imran & Ors., [2023INSC901]

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