CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5274 OF 2007 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition
(Civil) No. 16909/2006]
Markandey Katju, J. - Leave granted
This appeal has been filed against
the final judgment and order dated 19.9.2006 of the High Court of Madras
in Writ Petition Nos. 9521 and 18563 of 2000 and Writ Petition No. 21870
3. Heard learned counsel for the
parties and perused the record.
4. The appellant (respondent No. 3
in the Writ Petition) applied for the post of Deputy Director
(Agriculture) in the Agriculture Department, Government of Pondicherry.
That post was to be filled up by direct recruitment in pursuance of the
advertisement issued by the Union Public Service Commission (hereinafter
in short 'UPSC') dated 23.5.1998 inviting applications from eligible
5. The appellant states that he was
fully qualified for the post, but he was not called for the interview
although similarly placed candidates had been so called.
6. In this connection it may be
mentioned that in the advertisement for the post issued by the UPSC,
essential qualifications mentioned therein were as follows :
A.: Educational : M.Sc. Degree in Agriculature from a recognized
University or institution.
B: Experience : Two years experience in extension work/soil/Input
There was no mention in the advertisement that the experience of two
years must be after obtaining the M.Sc. degree.
7. It appears that the UPSC resorted
to short listing and did not call the appellant for the interview
because he did not have two years experience in extension
work/soil/Input Analysis after obtaining the M.Sc. degree in
agriculture. He no doubt had the requisite experience, but that was
obtained before he got his M.Sc. degree. The UPSC called only those
candidates for interview who had got the experience after getting the
8. The appellant was of the view
that there was no requirement that the two years experience should be
after obtaining the Masters degree in agriculture. The appellant
undoubtedly had such experience before obtaining his M.Sc. degree in
9. Since the appellant was not
called for the interview he filed OA. No. 1045/97 before the Central
Administrative Tribunal, Chennai. By an interim order the Tribunal
allowed the appellant to appear in the interview. Subsequently the
Tribunal in its final order dated 23.6.2000 observed that since the
appellant had been interviewed in pursuance of the interim order of the
Tribunal, no further direction is required to be given in this
connection and the result of the interview should be published.
Accordingly the result was published and since the appellant was found
first in the merit list, he was appointed as Deputy Director
(Agriculture) on 23.3.2001, and has been working as such since then.
10. Aggrieved, writ petition was
filed by the respondents herein before the Madras High Court which
allowed the writ petition and quashed the appointment of the appellant.
Hence this appeal by way of Special Leave Petition.
11. One of the reason given by the
High Court for setting aside the appellant's appointment was that the
Tribunal should have gone into the question of eligibility of the
appellant herein. Instead of doing so, it disposed off the O.A. filed
before it by directing the UPSC to publish the result. Accordingly, the
appellant herein was appointed by the Government of Pondicherry vide
order dated 23.3.2001 on the post of Deputy Director (Agriculture).
12. We need not go into the question
whether the Tribunal should have decided the case on merits since we are
deciding it on merits.
13. The High Court in the impugned
judgment has also observed that it was open for the UPSC to restrict the
number of candidates to be called for the interview by adopting a
short-listing method. The High Court was of the view that there was no
irrationality or illegality in the method of short-listing adopted by
the UPSC. With respect, we cannot agree.
14. In paragraph 3.1 of the
advertisement of UPSC dated 23.5.1998, it is stated :
"Where the number of applications received in response to an
advertisement is large and it will not be convenient or possible for the
Commission to interview all the candidates, the Commission may restrict
the number of candidates to a reasonable limit on the basis of either
qualifications and experience higher than the minimum prescribed in the
advertisement or on the basis of the experience higher than the minimum
prescribed in the advertisement or on the basis of experience in the
relevant field, or by holding a screening test. The candidate should,
therefore, mention all the qualifications and experience in the relevant
field over and above the minimum qualifications and should attach
attested/self certified copies of the certificates in support thereof."
15. It is well settled that the
method of short-listing can be validly adopted by the Selection Body
vide Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission vs. Navnit Kumar Potdar
and another 1994(6) SCC 293 (vide paras 6, 8, 9 and 13), Government of
Andhra Pradesh vs. P. Dilip Kumar and another 1993(2) SCC 310, etc.
16. Even if there is no rule
providing for short-listing nor any mention of it in the advertisement
calling for applications for the post, the Selection Body can resort to
a short-listing procedure if there are a large number of eligible
candidates who apply and it is not possible for the authority to
interview all of them. For example, if for one or two posts there are
more than 1000 applications received from eligible candidates, it may
not be possible to interview all of them. In this situation, the
procedure of short-listing can be resorted to by the Selection Body,
even though there is no mention of short-listing in the rules or in the
17. However, for valid short-listing
there have to be two requirements (i) It has to be on some rational and
objective basis. For instance, if selection has to be done on some post
for which the minimum essential requirement is a B.Sc. degree, and if
there are a large number of eligible applicants, the Selection Body can
resort to short-listing by prescribing certain minimum marks in B.Sc.
and only those who have got such marks may be called for the interview.
This can be done even if the rule or advertisement does not mention only
those who have the aforementioned minimum marks, will be considered or
appointed on the post. Thus the procedure of short-listing is only a
practical via-media which has been followed by the courts in various
decisions since otherwise there may be great difficulties for the
selecting and appointing authorities as they may not be able to
interview hundreds and thousands of eligible candidates; (ii) If a
prescribed method of short-listing has been mentioned in the rule or
advertisement then that method alone has to be followed.
18. In the present case, no doubt,
the UPSC had resorted to an objective and rational criteria that only
those who have two years experience after getting the M.Sc. degree will
be considered, while those who have got such experience but only before
getting the M.Sc. degree will not be called for the interview.
Ordinarily we would not have taken exception to this procedure since it
is based on an objective criteria, and ordinarily this Court does not
interfere with administrative decisions vide Tata Cellular vs. Union of
India AIR 1996 SC 11. As observed in the said decision, the modern
approach is for courts to observe restraint in administrative matters.
19. Hence, if the method of
short-listing had not been prescribed by the UPSC or in a statutory
rule, it is possible that the argument of learned counsel for the
respondents may have been accepted and we may not have interfered with
the method of short-listing adopted by the UPSC since it appears to be
based on a rational and objective criteria.
20. However, in this case we have
noticed that in paragraph 3.1 of the advertisement of the UPSC dated
23.5.1998, the method of short-listing has been given. Hence the UPSC
cannot resort to any other method of short-listing other than that which
has been prescribed in paragraph 3.1. In the said paragraph of the
advertisement, it is mentioned that the Commission may restrict the
number of candidates on the basis of either qualifications and
experience higher than the minimum prescribed in the advertisement or on
the basis of the experience higher than the minimum prescribed in the
advertisement or on the basis of experience in the relevant field. In
other words, it was open to the UPSC to do short-listing by stating that
it will call only those who have Ph.D. degree in Agriculture (although
the essential degree was only M.Sc. degree in Agriculture). Similarly,
the UPSC could have said that it would only call for interview those
candidates who have, say, five years experience, although the essential
requirement was only two years experience. However, experience after
getting the M.Sc. degree cannot be said to be higher than the experience
before getting the M.Sc degree. Also, the advertisement dated 23.5.1998
does not mention that two years experience must be after getting the
21. Learned counsel for the
appellant has shown us several advertisements issued by the Union Public
Service Commission in which it was specifically mentioned that
experience must be after getting the post-graduate degree. However, in
the present case, the advertisement does not mention that the two years
experience must be after getting the M.Sc. degree in Agriculture. Hence,
we cannot add words to the advertisement and we must read it as it is.
22. As observed by this Court in
Ramana Dayaram Shetty vs. The International Airport Authority of India
and others AIR 1979 SC 1628 (vide para 10):
" It is a well-settled rule of administrative law that an executive
authority must be rigorously held to the standards by which it professes
its actions to be judged and it must scrupulously observe those
standards on pain of invalidation of an act in violation of them.
This rule was enunciated by Mr.
Justice Frankfurter in Vitarelli vs. Seaton (1959) 359 US 535; 3
L Ed 2nd 1012 where the learned Judge said:
"An executive agency must be rigorously held to the standards by which
it professes its actions to be judged .Accordingly, if dismissal from
employment is based on a defined procedure, even though generous beyond
the requirements that binds such agency, that procedure must be
scrupulously observed This judicially evolved rule of administrative law
is now firmly established and, if I may add, rightly so. He that takes
the procedural sword shall perish with the sword".
This Court accepted the rule as
valid and applicable in India in A.S. Ahluwalia vs. State of Punjab
(1975) 3 SCR 82: (AIR 1975 SC 984) and in subsequent decisions given in
Sukhdev vs. Bhagatram (1975) 3 SCR 619; (AIR 1975 SC 1331), Mathew,
J. quoted the above-referred observations of Mr. Justice Frankfurter
with approval. It may be noted that this rule, though supportable also
as emanating from Article 14 does not rest merely on that Article. It
has an independent existence apart from Article 14. It is a rule of
administrative law which has been judicially evolved as a check against
exercise of arbitrary power by the executive authority. If we turn to
the judgment of Mr. Justice Frankfurter and examine it, we find that he
has not sought to draw support for the rule from the equality clause of
the United States Constitution but evolved it purely as a result of
administrative law. Even in England, the recent trend in administrative
law is in that direction as is evident from what is stated at pages
540-541 in Prof. Wade's Administrative Law 4th Edn. There is no reason
why we should hesitate to adopt this rule as a part of our continually
expanding administrative law."
23. Had paragraph 3.1 not been in
the advertisement of the UPSC it is possible that we may have taken a
view in favour of the respondents since in that case it was open to the
UPSC to resort to any rational method of short-listing of its choosing
(provided it was fair and objective). However, in the present case, a
particular manner of short-listing has been prescribed in paragraph 3.1.
Hence, it is not open to the UPSC to resort to any other method of
short-listing even if such other method can be said to be fair and
24. For the reasons given above,
this appeal is allowed. The impugned judgment of the High Court is set
aside. The appellant has been working as Deputy Director (Agriculture)
since 2001 in pursuance of the judgment of the Tribunal and the interim
order of this Court, and we uphold his appointment. No costs.
Print This Judgment