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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Kerala Public Service Commission (for short 'the Service Commission') issued a notification dated 28.09.2007 inviting applications from the qualified candidates for appointment to the posts of Sub-Inspector (Trainee). The notification did not specify the number of posts sought to be filled up but mentioned that the posts are sought to be filled up from three sources. They are, “(1) “Category No.315/2007 – Open market (2) Category No.316/2007 – Graduate Ministerial Staff of Police and Vigilance Department, Fingerprint Experts, Fingerprint Searchers of the Finger Print Bureau. (3) Category No.317/2007 – Graduate Police Constables, Head Constables and officers of the corresponding rank in the police Department.”= The High Court held:- “32. Reading of these judgments would show that in none of these cases, Supreme Court had occasion to consider a rule similar to Rule 14(e) or the third proviso to Rule 4 of the Rules of Procedure. On the other hand, the Apex Court had generally dealt with the legal position that when relaxation or concession is given at the preliminary stage, which has no impact on the final ranking, the relaxation so given cannot have any relevance in so far as the final ranking is concerned. While we respectfully follow these principles, in our view, having regard to the fact that Rule 14(e) of the 3rd proviso to rule 4 of the Rules of Procedure govern the selection in question, the general principles laid down by the Apex Court in the judgments relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioners cannot be applied to the facts of these cases.” and distinguished three earlier judgments of this Court Chattar Singh & Others v. State of Rajasthan & Others, (1996) 11 SCC 742, Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission v. Baloji Badhavath & Others, (2009) 5 SCC 1 and Jitendra Kumar Singh & Another v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Others, (2010) 3 SCC 119. In our opinion, the conclusion reached by the High Court is erroneous. The preliminary examination for shortlisting candidates who would be eligible to take the Rule 3 examinations has no statutory basis. Neither the Kerala S&S Rules nor the Rules of Procedure contemplate such preliminary examination. However, this Court recognized[4] existence of a legal authority to conduct a preliminary examination wherever an unmanageably large number of applications are received for filling up a limited number of posts. Rule 14(e) of the Kerala S&S Rules and Rule 4 of the Rules of Procedure relied upon by the High Court refer to ‘ranked list’ - a defined expression under Rule 2(g) of the Rules of Procedure. Such ‘ranked-list’ is prepared only pursuant to the Rule 3 examinations. A preliminary screening test is outside the purview of the Rule 3 examinations. Therefore, irrespective of the content of Rule 14(e) of the Kerala S&S Rules or the 3rd proviso to Rule 4 of the Rules of Procedure relied upon by the High Court, these Rules can have no application in the context of preparation of a ‘shortlist’ pursuant to a preliminary examination.Therefore, the basic premise on which the High Court sought to distinguish the three judgments relied upon by the appellants (referred to supra) is legally untenable. The impugned judgment rightly understood the 3 judgments relied upon by the appellants herein as laying down a principle that a relaxation or concession given at the preliminary stage cannot have any relevance in determining the merit of the candidate.In the circumstances, we are of the opinion that the impugned judgment is unsustainable and is accordingly set-aside. The appeals are allowed with no order as to costs

                                                              Non-Reportable

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.8536 OF 2015
      (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.28428 of 2014)

Ajithkumar P. & Others                       ...  Appellants
            Versus
Remin K.R. & Others                          …  Respondents


                                  WITH

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8537  OF 2015
      (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.28743 of 2014)

Girilal D.                                        ...  Appellant
            Versus
Nidheesh B. & Others                         …  Respondents



                               J U D G M E N T


Chelameswar, J.

1.    Aggrieved by the common judgment dated 08.08.2014 of  the  High  Court
of Kerala in O.P.(KAT) No. 239 of 2014 and O.P.(KAT) No. 112  of  2014,  the
unsuccessful  petitioners  therein  preferred  these   two   special   leave
petitions.


 2.   Leave granted.

 3.   The above-mentioned Original Petitions  (writ  petitions)  were  filed
aggrieved by the order dated 20.02.2014 passed by the Kerala  Administrative
Tribunal (for short 'the Tribunal') by which the Tribunal  disposed  of  the
three original applications O.A. Nos.2395/13, 2587/13 and 58/14.

      4.    The background facts of the instant litigation are as follows:

            The Kerala Public Service Commission  (for  short  'the  Service
Commission') issued a notification dated  28.09.2007  inviting  applications
from the qualified candidates for appointment to the posts of  Sub-Inspector
(Trainee).  The notification did not specify the number of posts  sought  to
be filled up but mentioned that the posts are sought to be  filled  up  from
three sources.  They are,
“(1)  “Category No.315/2007 – Open market
(2)   Category No.316/2007  –  Graduate  Ministerial  Staff  of  Police  and
Vigilance Department, Fingerprint  Experts,  Fingerprint  Searchers  of  the
Finger Print Bureau.
(3)   Category No.317/2007 – Graduate  Police  Constables,  Head  Constables
and officers of the corresponding rank in the police Department.”





5.    It is also specified in the notification that the  vacancies  will  be
apportioned among the three categories mentioned above  in  accordance  with
certain orders issued earlier by the Government of Kerala,  the  details  of
which are not necessary for the purpose of this judgment.

6.    There are  a  set  of  rules  known  as  'The  Kerala  Public  Service
Commission Rules of Procedure' (for short “Rules of Procedure”),  containing
the procedure to be followed by the Service Commission in making  selections
for filling up any posts in the service of the State of  Kerala.   When  the
Service Commission is so called upon, the Service Commission  is  authorised
to conduct one or more of the examinations indicated under  Rule  3  of  the
said Rules  to  assess  merit  of  candidates  who  seek  appointment.   The
relevant portion of the Rule reads:
      “3. The Commission  may  conduct  all  or  any  one  or  more  of  the
following examinations to assess the merits  of  candidates  considered  for
recruitment to a service or post;

(i)   Written Examination
(ii)  Practical Test
(iii) Physical Efficiency Test
(iv)  Oral Test (Interview)
(v)   Any other test or examination, which the Commission may  deem  fit  to
hold.”

      7.    Further, under Rule 4 wherever the  Service  Commission  decides
to conduct either a written examination or a  practical  test  or  both  for
filling up any posts, the Service Commission is  required  to  announce  the
following information:
“(i)  Announce:
(a)   the qualifications required of the candidates for the examination;
(b)   the conditions of admission to the examination including the fees;
(c)   the subjects, Scheme or syllabus of the examination; and
(d)   the number of vacancies to be filled from  among  the  candidates  for
the examination.”


       8.     In  response  to  the  notification,  the  Service  Commission
received about 42,000 (forty two thousand) applications.

       9.     For  the  recruitment  in  question,  the  Service  Commission
admittedly decided to hold a written examination followed by  an  oral  test
(contemplated  under  Rule  3,  hereinafter   referred   to   as   ‘Rule   3
examinations’ for the sake of convenience).  However, in view of  the  large
number of applications received, the Service Commission thought  it  fit  to
shortlist candidates who could  be  permitted  to  appear  for  the  Rule  3
examinations by conducting a preliminary  examination  for  all  the  42,000
applicants.

10.   The Commission initially opined that 2000, out  of  the  total  42000,
applicants could be short-listed through such  examination  process.   After
the examination was conducted, on examining  the  list  of  2000  successful
candidates (who stood at the  top  of  the  list),  the  Service  Commission
reached a tentative conclusion that subjecting only  those  2000  candidates
for the Rule 3 examinations may not  yield  enough  candidates  to  fill  up
vacancies belonging  to  various  reserved  categories  (SC,  ST  and  OBC).
Therefore, the Service Commission decided to  permit  some  more  candidates
belonging to various reserved categories.  The last  of  the  abovementioned
2000 candidates secured 49 marks out of a total of 100 marks for  which  the
examination was conducted.  The Service Commission,  therefore,  decided  to
permit various reserved category candidates, who  secured  marks  above  the
cut-off marks specified in that behalf by the Service Commission.  The  cut-
off marks so specified with respect to each of the reserved  categories  are
as follows:-
            “Ezhava         46
            S.C.            45
            S.T.            32
            Muslim          45
            IC/AI                 45
            OBC             47
            Viswakarma      46
            SIUC Nadar      46
            OX              42
            Dheevara        46
            Hindu Nadar           44”

      11.    Pursuant  to  such  exercise,  another  657  candidates  became
eligible to appear in the Rule 3 examinations.







      12.   The decision of the Service Commission to  relax  cut-off  marks
with  respect  to  reserved  category  candidates  came  to  be   challenged
initially before  the  Kerala  Administrative  Tribunal.   In  view  of  the
Tribunal’s  decision  dated  13.09.2012  dismissing  the  applications,  the
matter was further carried by way of writ petition to the Kerala High  Court
unsuccessfully.  Eventually, the matter reached this  Court  in  SLP....(CC)
No. 14564 of 2013, which stood dismissed by an order dated 26.08.2013.


      13.   The  Service  Commission  conducted  the  Rule  3  examinations,
selected 838 candidates and published a “ranked list”[1] on 07.09.2015.

      14.   Thereafter,  candidates  were  sent  for  training.   Those  who
successfully completed the training were appointed and given posting.    The
appellants are among candidates so appointed, belonging to various  reserved
categories.   They  were  appointed   against   open   category   vacancies.
However, they were not among the  top  2000  candidates  identified  in  the
preliminary screening test, but appeared for  the  Rule  3  examinations  by
virtue of the relaxation granted in favour of the  candidates  belonging  to
various reserved classes.

      15.   Meanwhile, various  original  applications,  out  of  which  the
instant appeals arise, came to be filed before  the  Tribunal.   The  relief
sought in one of the applications is:
“(a)  declare that the inclusion of the candidate, who secured less than  49
marks in the preliminary examination, in the main list  of  Annexure  A6  is
illegal.

(b)   direct the 3rd respondent to remove the candidates  who  secured  less
than 49 marks in the preliminary examination from the main list of  Annexure
A6.

(c)   direct the 3rd respondent not to advise and respondents 1  and  2  not
to appoint any candidate who secured less than 49 marks in  the  preliminary
examination  against  the   vacancies   available   for   open   competition
candidates”.


      16.   Prayers in the other two original applications are similar.


17.   By its order dated 20.02.2014, the Tribunal allowed the said  original
applications.

18.   The Service Commission challenged the said order in Original  Petition
i.e. O.P. (KAT) No. 136 of 2014.  The appellants in  SLP  (C)  No.28428/2014
sought a review of the order dated 20.02.2014 of the Tribunal on the  ground
that the said order would adversely affect their interest though  they  were
not  parties  to  the  said  proceedings.   However,  by  an   order   dated
04.04.2014, the review petition was rejected by  the  Tribunal.   Therefore,
the  unsuccessful  review  petitioners  preferred  Original  Petition  (KAT)
No.239 of 2014 challenging the order of the Tribunal dated 20.02.2014.   The
petitioner in SLP (C) No. 28743 of 2014 was the 2nd petitioner  in  Original
Petition (KAT) No.112/2014 filed challenging the order dated  20.02.2014  of
the Kerala Administrative Tribunal.  Both the Original Petitions along  with
other similar petitions were  heard  together  and  dismissed  by  a  common
judgment and order, impugned in the instant appeals.

      19.   The selection and appointment of the  appellants  is  challenged
on the ground that they are not among the 2000  candidates  who  secured  49
marks and above in the preliminary screening test and therefore, they  would
not have been eligible to appear for the Rule 3  examinations  but  for  the
relaxation granted subsequent to the preliminary  examination.    Therefore,
they cannot  be  appointed  to  open  category  posts.    According  to  the
contesting respondents, relaxation was granted only  to  ensure  that  there
are sufficient number of candidates to  fill  up  reserved  category  posts.
By allowing the appellants to compete  for  the  open  category  posts,  the
Service Commission  acted  in  violation  of  Articles  14  and  16  of  the
Constitution of India.


20.    The  posts  in  question  are  governed  by  the  Kerala  State   and
Subordinate Services Rules 1958 (for short  “Kerala  S&S  Rules”),  made  in
exercise of the power under  Article  309  of  the  Constitution  of  India.
Rule 14 enables the State to reserve  some  of  the  posts  in  question  in
favour of the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and other backward  classes.
 Indisputably, some of the posts in question are so reserved.

21.   This Court in R.K. Sabharwal & Others v. State  of  Punjab  &  Others,
(1995) 2 SCC 745, held that where certain number of posts  are  reserved  in
favour  of  candidates  belonging  to  socially  and  economically  backward
classes, meritorious candidates belonging to those  classes  should  not  be
appointed to such reserved posts but shall be appointed to posts falling  in
the open category.

22.   The said principle is reiterated in Ritesh R. Sah v. Dr. Y.L. Yamul  &
Others, (1996) 3 SCC 253, in the context of admissions  to  the  educational
institutions (medical colleges)  where  seats  are  reserved  in  favour  of
students belonging to socially  and  economically  backward  classes.   This
Court on examination of various judgments including R.K.  Sabharwal  (supra)
held;
“17.  …. In view of the legal position  enunciated  by  this  Court  in  the
aforesaid cases the  conclusion  is  irresistible  that  a  student  who  is
entitled to be admitted  on  the  basis  of  merit  though  belonging  to  a
reserved  category  cannot  be  considered  to  be  admitted  against  seats
reserved for reserved category. ..”


23.   It is application of the above principle which is the  subject  matter
of dispute in the instant appeal.  As already  noticed,  appellants  secured
good marks in the Rule 3 examinations, therefore  they  should  be  entitled
for appointment against open category posts by operation  of  the  principle
of  law  laid  down  in  the  above-mentioned  judgments.   The   contesting
respondents however disputed application of  the  above-mentioned  principle
of  law  on  the  ground  that  appellants  could  appear  for  the  Rule  3
examinations  only  pursuant  to  a  concession  granted  by   the   Service
Commission, and cannot therefore be treated as more  meritorious  candidates
who are entitled to be appointed to open category posts.

24.   This submission found favour with the Administrative Tribunal and  the
High Court.   In substance, both the fora held that but for  the  concession
the appellants would not have  been  able  to  participate  in  the  Rule  3
examinations at  all,  consequently  whatever  be  the  performance  of  the
appellants in the  examination,  their  chance  appearance  in  the  Rule  3
examinations does not confer any right on them to claim open category  posts
and they are entitled to compete only for those posts which are reserved  in
favour of the respective class to which  each  of  the  appellants  belongs.
For reaching such a conclusion, the High Court relied upon Rule 14(e)[2]  of
the Kerala S&S Rules and Rule 4[3] of the  Rules  of  Procedure.   The  High
Court held:-
“32.  Reading of these judgments would show that in  none  of  these  cases,
Supreme Court had occasion to consider a rule similar to Rule 14(e)  or  the
third proviso to Rule 4 of the Rules of Procedure.  On the other  hand,  the
Apex Court had generally dealt with the legal position that when  relaxation
or concession is given at the preliminary stage, which has no impact on  the
final ranking, the relaxation so given cannot have any relevance in  so  far
as the final ranking is  concerned.   While  we  respectfully  follow  these
principles, in our view, having regard to the fact that Rule  14(e)  of  the
3rd proviso to rule 4 of the Rules of  Procedure  govern  the  selection  in
question, the general  principles  laid  down  by  the  Apex  Court  in  the
judgments relied on by the learned counsel for  the  petitioners  cannot  be
applied to the facts of these cases.”

and distinguished three earlier judgments of  this  Court  Chattar  Singh  &
Others v. State of Rajasthan & Others, (1996) 11  SCC  742,  Andhra  Pradesh
Public Service Commission v. Baloji Badhavath & Others, (2009) 5 SCC  1  and
Jitendra Kumar Singh & Another v. State of Uttar Pradesh &  Others,   (2010)
3 SCC 119.

25.    In  our  opinion,  the  conclusion  reached  by  the  High  Court  is
erroneous.  The preliminary  examination  for  shortlisting  candidates  who
would be eligible to take the Rule 3 examinations has  no  statutory  basis.
Neither the Kerala S&S Rules nor the Rules  of  Procedure  contemplate  such
preliminary examination.  However, this Court recognized[4] existence  of  a
legal  authority  to  conduct  a   preliminary   examination   wherever   an
unmanageably large number of applications are  received  for  filling  up  a
limited number of posts.  Rule 14(e) of the Kerala S&S Rules and Rule  4  of
the Rules of Procedure relied upon by the High Court refer to ‘ranked  list’
- a defined expression under Rule 2(g) of  the  Rules  of  Procedure.   Such
‘ranked-list’ is prepared only pursuant  to  the  Rule  3  examinations.   A
preliminary  screening  test  is  outside  the  purview  of   the   Rule   3
examinations.  Therefore, irrespective of the content of Rule 14(e)  of  the
Kerala S&S Rules or the 3rd proviso to Rule 4  of  the  Rules  of  Procedure
relied upon by the High Court, these Rules can have no  application  in  the
context  of  preparation  of  a  ‘shortlist’  pursuant  to   a   preliminary
examination.

26.   Therefore, the basic  premise  on  which  the  High  Court  sought  to
distinguish the three judgments relied upon by the appellants  (referred  to
supra) is legally untenable.  The impugned judgment rightly  understood  the
3 judgments relied upon by the appellants herein as laying down a  principle
that a relaxation or concession given at the preliminary stage  cannot  have
any relevance in determining the merit of the candidate.

27.   In the  circumstances,  we  are  of  the  opinion  that  the  impugned
judgment is unsustainable and is accordingly  set-aside.   The  appeals  are
allowed with no order as to costs.


                                                             ….………………………….J.
                                                          (J. Chelameswar)


                                                             ….………………………….J.
                                                    (Abhay Manohar Sapre)

New Delhi;
October 13, 2015
-----------------------
[1]     A  defined  expression  Rule  2(g)  of  the  Kerala  Public  Service
Commission Rules of Procedure, which is reproduced below:
            “'Ranked List' means the list of candidates arranged in the
order of merit either on the basis of the interview
              or examination or by both;
[2]     Rule 14 (d). Notwithstanding anything contained in this rule,  posts
to which, appointments are made by direct recruitment from a  common  ranked
list prepared on the basis of a common test or interview or both,  shall  be
grouped together for the purposes of observance of  the  rules  relating  to
reservation of appoints.
       (e)    A  supplementary  list  of  sufficient  number   of   suitable
candidates, not less than five times the reservation  quota,  if  available,
from each community or group of communities for the  purpose  of  satisfying
the reservation quota, shall be prepared and published.

      Note. ‘Suitable candidates’ for the purpose of this  rule  shall  mean
candidates with notified  minimum  qualifications  and  marks  in  selection
procedure lowered to the extent necessary.”

[3]     Rule 4.  Where a written examination  and/or  a  practical  test  is
conducted by the Commission for  recruitment  to  a  service  or  post,  the
Commission shall –
      Announce:
      the qualifications required of the candidates for the examination;
      the conditions of admission to the examination including the fees;
      the subjects, Scheme or syllabus of the examination; and
      the number of vacancies to be filled from  among  the  candidates  for
the examination.

      Provided that where the exact number of vacancies to be filled is  not
ascertainable, the Commission may either announce the approximate number  of
vacancies to be filled or state that the number of vacancies  has  not  been
estimated.
      [
      invite applications and consider all the applications so received,
      (iii) make all arrangements for the conduct  of  the  examination  for
the candidates whose applications are found to be in order, and
      (iv)  prepare a  list  in  the  order  of  merit  of  such  number  of
candidates as the Commission may determine from time to time.

      Provided that the Commission may also prepare  separate  ranked  lists
in the order  of  merit  of  candidates  coming  under  separate  groups  in
accordance with the qualifications or other conditions as stipulated in  the
notification.

      Provided further that for the  purpose  of  satisfying  the  rules  of
reservation of appointment to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes  and  Other
Backward Classes also the Commission may prepare  such  supplementary  lists
as found necessary  from  time  to  time  in  the  order  of  merit  of  the
candidates belonging to such classes.


[4]     Andhra Pradesh Public  Service  Commission  v.  Baloji  Badhavath  &
Others,  (2009)  5  SCC  1;  Duddilla  Srinivasa  Sharma  &  Others  v.   V.
Chrysolite, (2013) 16 SCC 702

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