Reducing Cut-Off Marks For Employment To Particular Category When Others Already Acquired Some Rights Violates Article 14- SC
The Supreme Court in an appeal relating to Reservation for the post of Supervisor Instructor Class III held that reducing the cut-off marks only for the purpose of providing employment to a particular category when the others have already acquired some right is an affront to Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Court was hearing a matter in which the decision of the Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court giving its imprimatur to the decision of the Departmental Selection Committee in reducing the qualifying marks for the post of Supervisor Instructor Class III, after the publication of the result to facilitate the inclusion of candidates constituting horizontal reservation was challenged.
The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice M.M. Sundresh observed, “… the appellants are entitled to get the respective post as per the advertisement issued. … Fixing cut-off marks for a particular category has got a rationale behind it. Reducing it only for the purpose of providing employment to a particular category, when the others have already acquired some right would be an affront to Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
The Bench said that a law that enables a candidate to get a post cannot be changed to facilitate another group of persons.
“It is true that a candidate may not have a vested right to the post, however, it cannot be confused with a right to be considered in accordance with law. A law which enables a candidate to get a post cannot be changed to facilitate another group of persons, since the candidate acquires a vested right to be considered in accordance with law, as held by this Court in N.T. Devin Katti v. Karnataka Public Service Commission, (1990) 3 SCC 157 …”, the Court noted.
Senior Advocate P.S. Patwalia appeared on behalf of the appellants while Senior Advocates Archana Dave Pathak and Vikas Singh appeared for the respondents.
Brief Facts –
Two advertisements were issued to fill up the posts of Supervisor Instructor (Engineering Trade and Non-Engineering Trade) and Supervisor Instructor (Employability skill). Out of 300 marks, cut-off marks were fixed at 60% equivalent to 180 marks for General Category; 57% equivalent to 171 marks for the Socially and Educational Backward Class, and 55% equivalent to 165 marks for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe.
The Selection Committee held a meeting proposing to further relax the cut-off marks fixed only for the candidates belonging to the horizontal reserved categories however, by way of a subsequent meeting the earlier decision was cancelled. The appellants who would otherwise secure selection to the post, approached the High Court and a Single Judge allowed the writ petitions filed. Thereafter, certain individuals who were affected by the order of the Single Judge, having secured the benefit of the Selection Committee, and got selected, filed the appeals before the Division Bench and hence, the said appeals were allowed.
The Supreme Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel asserted, “What was done by way of publishing the selection list after the change is nothing but a ministerial act. … The decision to reduce the cut-off marks is not based upon an objective-criteria, namely, the suitability of the candidate to the post, but for extraneous reason, i.e., to accommodate otherwise ineligible candidates.”
The Court further noted that it is inclined to balance the equities and do justice by exercising the power under Article 142 of the Constitution.
“… the object behind the decision is laudable and the private respondents belong to the special category comprising of women, ex-servicemen and physically challenged. They are waiting to get their appointments for long years with fond hopes. They have the order of the Division Bench to their benefit which was occasioned by the policy decision of the State Government and the Selection Committee”, observed the Court.
The Court, therefore, directed the State to consider accommodating the private respondents in their respective reserved category, provided they do not exceed the percentage of reservation made permissible, without upsetting the appointment of the appellants and others similarly placed and subject to their eligibility.
“… the private respondents are certainly new entrants, and hence cannot seek precedence”, the Court further said.
Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeals and set aside the order of the Division Bench.
Cause Title- Sureshkumar Lalitkumar Patel & Ors. v. State of Gujarat & Ors.