The Supreme Court observed that, constitutional courts do not have to dismiss writ proceedings on the grounds of their perceived futility if the prayer in the writ petition is unattainable due to the passage of time.

The Court called out a “classic case of arbitrary action” by an educational institute and observed that reserving flexibility in the selection process cannot be read to invest an institute with unbridled discretion.

The appellant had applied for the post of primary school teacher following a vacancy notification issued by Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya Institute for the Physically Handicapped (Institute).

However, the Institute later deviated from the procedure prescribed in the original vacancy circular and issued a notification dispensing with the interview requirement, which was a part of the selection process earlier. Instead, it prescribed the allocation of additional marks for essential qualifications, additional qualifications, essential experience, and a written test.

After the results were declared, the appellant called out the calculation of aggregate marks as ‘illegal and arbitrary.

When the appellant approached the Delhi High Court to remedy the injustice, the Court refused to interfere in the matter citing University Grants Commission v. Neha Anil Bobde (Gadekar) (2013) 10 SCC 519 where it was held that “in academic matters, the interference of the Court should be minimum.

Justice Pamidighantam Sri Narasimha and Justice Sandeep Mehta observed, “When a citizen alleges arbitrariness in executive action, the High Court must examine the issue, of course, within the context of judicial restraint in academic matters. While respecting flexibility in executive functioning, courts must not let arbitrary action pass through.

AOR Ranjit Kumar Sharma represented the appellant, while ASG K. M. Nataraj appeared for the respondents.

The Court explained that the clauses of the vacancy advertisement reserving flexibility in the selection process “cannot be read to invest the Institute with unbridled discretion to pick and choose candidates by supplying new criteria to the prescribed qualification."

The Supreme Court set aside the decision of the High Court and held that “the inherent difficulty in bridging the time gap between the illegal impugned action and restitution is certainly not rooted in deficiencies within the law or legal jurisprudence but rather in systemic issues inherent in the adversarial judicial process.

The Court also took note of the fact that the Institute for which the advertisement was issued was closed and remarked, “This is an unfortunate situation where the Court finds that the action of the respondent was arbitrary, but the consequential remedy cannot be given due to subsequent developments.

The Court to this effect held, “We are of the opinion that while the primary duty of constitutional courts remains the control of power, including setting aside of administrative actions that may be illegal or arbitrary, it must be acknowledged that such measures may not singularly address repercussions of abuse of power.

The Court noted that the temporal gap between the impugned illegal or arbitrary action and their subsequent adjudication by the courts introduced complexities in the provision of restitution.

The Court provided a monetary compensation of Rs. 1,00,000/- to the appellant as an alternative restitutory measure stating that "it is incumbent upon the courts to address the injurious consequences arising from arbitrary and illegal actions."

Accordingly, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal.

Cause Title: Manoj Kumar v. Union Of India & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 126)


Appellant: AOR Ranjit Kumar Sharma

Respondents: ASG K. M. Nataraj; AOR Amrish Kumar; Advocates Sharath Nambiar, Indira Bhakar, Vinayak Sharma, Vatsal Joshi, Anuj Srinivas Udupa, Shailesh Madiyal, Navanjay Mahapatra, Apporv Kurup, T.A. Khan, T.S. Sabarish, Arun Kanwa, P. Bajpai, Satvika Thakur, Aayush Saklani and Yogya Rajpuroshit

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