Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, April 29, 2022: In a case pertaining to a Departmental Examination for Income Tax Inspectors, the Supreme Court has observed that the policy of Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT) of providing grace marks is introduced with  the purpose of enabling the marginally failing candidates to pass in the examination. Such policy is not meant for the students to secure extra marks even after securing requisite marks in the reserved category in order to enable them to shift to general category and seek promotion under the same.

Allowing the appeal against the impugned judgment and order of the High Court allowing the application of the applicant seeking grace marks even after securing requisite marks for his category, the Division Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed that the benefit of the grace marks was not to allow the reserved category candidate to switch over to general category.

The present appeal was preferred by the appellant  against the judgment and order dated February 20, 2015 passed by the High Court of Rajasthan whereby the High Court allowed the petition preferred by the original petitioner by setting aside the judgment passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal Bench, Jodhpur which had dismissed the application preferred by the original applicant.

Brief facts of the case for perusal of the present appeal were that the original applicant belonged to the Scheduled Tribes category. He was appointed as Lower Division Clerk in the Department of Income Tax. Thereafter he was promoted  to the posts of Tax Assistant, Sr. Tax Assistant and Office Superintendent.

To regulate the departmental examination for Income Tax Inspectors, the competent authority introduced new rules which were made applicable for the departmental examination to be held in 1998 and onwards. The departmental examination under the Rules, 1998 consisted of six papers namely viz. Income Tax Law and Assessment, Other Taxes, Bookkeeping, Office Procedure, Examination of Accounts and Hindi Test. A candidate securing minimum 45% marks in five subjects except in Hindi was entitled to be declared as pass. For the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes the minimum marks required to qualify the examination was 40% of the maximum marks. For the benefit of those candidates, who marginally failed to secure minimum marks/percentage irrespective of their category on falling short of passing, upto five marks, the Central Board of Direct Taxes introduced policy of awarding grace marks. 

The original applicant secured more than 45% marks in each subject except the subject of “Other Taxes”. It was the case of the applicant that he was entitled for grace marks in the subject of “Other taxes”, however the same were not granted to him as he belonged to the category of Scheduled Tribes. The same compelled him to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal. 

The case of the applicant before the Tribunal was that he belonged to the ST category and he passed in the examination by securing standard marks required for his category. However, he secured 43 marks in one subject and if he had been given two grace marks in the “Other Taxes Paper” he would have been declared passed in 2007 itself on his own merit and would have attained the benefit of promotion against general vacancies.  The Tribunal dismissed the application preferred by the applicant.

In pursuance of the same, the applicant instituted a writ petition before the High Court and the same was allowed by the impugned judgment by observing that the applicant should be granted grace marks in the subject “Other Taxes” by treating him as a person belonging to general category. The High Court relied upon the decision of this Court in the case of Rajesh Kumar Daria Vs. Rajasthan Public Service Commission and Ors.. Feeling aggrieved by the impugned judgment and order  passed by the High Court, the Union of India and others preferred the present appeal. 

The Counsel for the appellants submitted that the High Court erred by observing that the applicant shall be granted grace marks and failed to consider the objective of the grace marks policy.  It was further observed that the Tribunal rightly observed that the grace marks policy was not applicable to individuals securing passing marks in their own category. 

The Counsel for the respondent per contra submitted that the High Court was right in its ruling and further submitted that  some of the employees were given five grave marks despite the fact  that they secured requisite passing marks of 40 % meant for SC/ST category. 

The Top Court after hearing the submission of the rival parties opined that the objective and purpose of introducing the grace marks policy by CBDT was to enable the marginally failing candidates to pass in their examinations. It was further observed that if the contention of the respondent was accepted then the same shall vitiate the objective of the policy and the same shall be indeed beyond the terms of the policy introduced by CBDT.  Additionally it was asserted that the High Court’s reliance on the case of Rajesh Kumar Darai’s Case(Supra) had no applicability to the facts of the present case. 

Observing that the CBDT introduced the grace marks policy with the purpose of enabling the marginally failing candidates to pass in the examination, the Top Court noted that once the respondent – original applicant passed in his own category, there was no question of allowing/granting him any further grace marks.

The Bench said, “By passing the impugned judgment and order, the High Court has not at all appreciated and/or considered in its true spirit the object and purpose of grace marks policy introduced by CBDT. It was never meant for a person, who has passed in his own category and still to allow him further grace marks to enable him to move to the general category. That was not the object and purpose of the grace marks policy.”

In light of the aforesaid observations, the Apex Court quashed the judgmnet of the Division Bench, restored the order of the Tribunal and allowed the appeal.

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