Read Order: State of Haryana through its Secretary (Legal), Haryana Staff Selection Commission v. Subhash Chander and Others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, May 23, 2022:  The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held it is a settled principle that persons who are affected parties, need to be impleaded in the litigation, as their interest is affected. 

The Division Bench of Justices G.S. Sandhawalia and Vikas Suri while dealing with appeals in the matter of recruitment for the post of Shift Attendants, UHBVNL/ HVPNL/DHBVNL wherein candidates who scored less in their written exams reached the Court with the argument that the marks obtained for their work experience were not added to the marks obtained by them in their written exam, held, “The writ petitioners having taken a chance and accepted the call for scrutiny of documents would not then turn around and allege that candidates were being called, who had lesser experience. Apparently, writ petitioners are those set of persons, who had not scored well in the written test, but were aggrieved and wanted to come within the zone of consideration, on the basis of weightage for the experience.”

Essentially, writ petitions were filed challenging the notice by which candidates were being called for an interview for the post of Shift Attendants, UHBVNL/ HVPNL/DHBVNL. Based on the written examination and on account of scrutiny of documents, twice the number of candidates against 2426 posts advertised, were called for interview provisionally, subject to the fulfillment of their eligibility conditions. The advertisement notifying 2426 vacancies, specifically provided that the Commission was to shortlist the candidates by holding a written examination. It further provided that the decision of the Commission in all matters relating to acceptance or rejection of an application, mode and criteria for selection etc. was to be final and binding on all candidates. 

In pursuance of this notification, a notice specifying the date and marks bifurcation for the written examination was prescribed. For experience, 16 marks were to be granted and for viva-voce/interview 24 marks were to be awarded. The writ petitioners sat for the written examination and were called for scrutiny of their documents. During this time, the impugned notice was issued wherein twice the number of candidates against the vacancies were called for interview on the basis of scrutiny of documents and after preparing the merit list. It was at that point of time the writ petition came to be filed before the High Court. The Single Judge of the High Court directed the respondent-Commission to add marks obtained by candidates for experience to the marks obtained in the written examination and if candidates are found to have obtained higher marks than those who had already been interviewed on the basis of marks obtained in the written exam, those number of candidates be called for interviews.

Resultantly, it was directed that for all posts advertised by the respondent-Commission, the criteria adopted by the Commission including assignment of fixed marks, on the basis of various certificates such as academic qualifications, experience etc., such marks be determined for the scrutiny of documents and they be added to the marks obtained in the written examination and thereafter, a merit list be prepared for the purpose of calling the candidates for interviews. Hence, the present LPAs (thirteen in number) were filed against the Single Judge Bench decision.

The Court noted that the State never got an opportunity as such to put forward its case and project facts of its side of the picture, in spite of the fact that a policy issue was involved as to whether the weightage marks were necessary to be added for the purpose of calling the candidates for interview. 

Thus, the Court called for the affidavit by the Secretary of the Commission wherein it was stated that the written examination is the first stage of the entire process, which was open to the candidates, who have experience. It was also stated the Commission did not fix the cut-off marks for ascertaining the eligibility, but the same was indirectly fixed by the number of posts advertised for recruitment on the basis of marks obtained by the last short-listed candidate for the interview since twice the number of actual vacancies for the interview had to be called. 

It was further stated in the affidavit that if weightage of experience was given, it would amount to giving more marks as per the experience to the said person along with the marks obtained in the written examination. Therefore, there would be two different categories of persons i.e. experienced and inexperienced.

In light of the above, the Court opined that undoubtedly, the criteria prescribed for selection were in pursuance of the requisition sent by the Nigams, based on which the advertisement was issued. The Court noted that the eligibility criteria were already prescribed by the notifications of 2016 (issued in pursuance of Section 56 (3) (vi) of the Haryana Electricity Reforms Act, 1997 read with Electricity Supply Act, 2003) providing that the interview marks weightage would be 12% of the total marks and the written examination was to be 80% of the total marks. The weightage of experience was to be to the extent of 8%. 

Thus, the Court observed that the writ petitioners took the exam being fully aware that the Commission granted 16 marks for the experience, thereafter, they submitted their documents for scrutiny, which were duly done and only on account of the fact that they were not called for interview for the first time raised the issue that the marks of experience are to be added for the purposes of scrutiny of candidates for interview. 

In the considered view of the Court, the Commission was within its right to fix the criteria (clearly specifying it in the advertisement). Merely because the same was not suitable to the writ petitioners, would not give them the cause of action to challenge the same, in the absence of any malafide or malice on the part of the Commission, the Bench asserted. 

It further added that the Commission being an expert body was well within its right, which is the methodology to be adopted as to whether the benefit of weightage is to be given specifically after the interview or not. 

Additionally, the Court opined that the writ petitioners having taken a chance and accepted the call for scrutiny of documents could not turn around and allege that candidates were being called, who had lesser experience. Rather, the Court noted that writ petitioners were those set of persons, who did not score well in the written test, but were aggrieved and wanted to come within the zone of consideration, on the basis of weightage for the experience. 

“The candidates were thus bound down by the conditions of the advertisement and could not thus turn around to challenge the same having sat in the same”, held the Court. 

Regarding the decision of the Single Judge Bench, the Court was of the view that without even issuing notice to other candidates, who did well in the written test, the Single Judge Bench pushed them out of the zone of consideration without even calling for a response from the State by way of a written statement and keeping in view the fact that it is a policy decision and method of selection is best to be left to the experts. 

Thus, in view of the above, the Court held that it is a settled principle that persons who are affected parties, need to be impleaded in the litigation, as their interest is affected and that the writ petitioners had only a right of consideration and not an absolute right of appointment, as per the settled principle of law. Thus, in the absence of malice or malafides, it was not within the jurisdiction of the Single Judge to have passed such directions, which would upset the applecart of the selection process, the Court held. 

Also, on the contention of the writ petitioners that experienced candidates were not considered, the Court held that the eligibility criteria of age were also from 18 years to 42 years and, therefore, even the persons with experience were brought within the zone of consideration and the benefit of experience was to be granted. Still, it could not be said that it would be at the cost of merit. Accordingly, the appeals filed by the Commission were allowed. 

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