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The employer, if it is a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution, would have no authority to act in an arbitrary manner and throw the candidate out from the range of appointment, as distinguished from the zone of consideration, without rhyme or reason and the employer-State being bound by Article 14 of the Constitution, the law places an obligation, nay duty, on such an employer to provide some justification by way of reason
The Supreme Court has said it is indisputable that no one has any legal right to claim public employment but a candidate does have a limited right of being accorded fair and non-discriminatory treatment, after his appointment is cancelled following the participation in selection process and appearance in merit list.
A bench of Justices Bela M Trivedi and Dipankar Datta said it is entirely the prerogative of the employer, after applications are received from interested candidates or names of registered candidates are sponsored by the Employment Exchanges for public employment, to decide whether any such candidate intending to participate in the selection process is eligible in terms of the statutorily prescribed rules for appointment and also as to whether he ought to be allowed to enter the zone of consideration to participate in the selection process.
"It is only when evidence of a sterling quality is produced before the court which, without much argument or deep scrutiny, tilts the balance in favour of one party that the court could decide either way based on acceptance of such evidence," the bench said.
The top court, however, said it is important to consider the stage when ineligibility is cited for not offering employment.
"In terms of Article 16 of the Constitution, a candidate has only a right to be considered therefor. Once a candidate is declared ineligible to participate in the selection process at the threshold and if he still wishes to participate in the process perceiving that his candidature has been arbitrarily rejected, it is for him to work out his remedy in accordance with law," the bench said.
"However, if the candidature is not rejected at the threshold and the candidate is allowed to participate in the selection process and ultimately his name figures in the merit list - though such candidate has no indefeasible right to claim appointment - he does have a limited right of being accorded fair and non-discriminatory treatment," the bench added.
The court said in view of stages of the process that the candidate has successfully crossed, he may not have a vested right of appointment but a reasonable expectation of being appointed having regard to his position in the merit list could arise.
"The employer, if it is a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution, would have no authority to act in an arbitrary manner and throw the candidate out from the range of appointment, as distinguished from the zone of consideration, without rhyme or reason. The employer-State being bound by Article 14 of the Constitution, the law places an obligation, nay duty, on such an employer to provide some justification by way of reason. If plausible justification is provided, the courts would be loath to question the justification but the justification must be such that it is rational and justifiable, and not whimsical or capricious, warranting non-interference," the bench said.
The court dismissed a plea by the Union government against the Allahabad High Court's order which upheld the direction to appoint Ankur Gupta to the post of Posting Assistant and Sorting Assistant initiated in 1995. The candidate appeared in the selection process, after having figured high in the merit list and participated in the induction training for 15 days.
His appointment was, however, held back on a communication that direct recruitment should be on the basis of certificate of 10+2 issued by the Board of High School and Intermediate Education, unless “these are marked as vocational stream or vocational”.
The Union government contended the candidate fell short of the prescribed eligibility qualifications for being directly recruited, as specified in the relevant recruitment rules and as a sequel thereto, his selection made by mistake, can be rectified.
The court, however, found the candidate has succeeded in the relevant examination through “vocational stream”, thereby attracting ineligibility. However, the authorities did not consider the effect of the remark ‘Regular’ at the foot of the certificate.
"It was, thus, highly improper for the appellant to reject the candidature outright in the absence of a proper appreciation of the certificate," the bench said.
The court found that the candidate has been discriminated against and arbitrarily deprived of the fruit of selection.
Coming to the issue of relief, the bench ordered the Union government to appoint the candidate, who is now 50-year old, to the post within a month, using its extraordinary power to do complete justice under Article 142 of the Constitution.
The court ordered the appellant to treat him to have been notionally appointed on the date the last of the selected candidates was appointed pursuant to the process of 1995 only for the purpose of release of retirement benefits in accordance with law. The candidate would neither be entitled to arrears of salary nor should he be entitled to claim seniority, the bench said.
Case Title: Union of India Vs Uzair Imran
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