Read Order: Rakesh Kumar vs. State of Bihar & Others 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 8, 2022: Though accepting that there is no absolute right with the candidate to insist that he should be permitted to join service beyond the prescribed date, the Supreme Court has recently agreed to the entry and continuation of Rakesh Kumar (Appellant – Appointee) in judicial services, noticing that the appellant came from a marginalized community, had been recruited to the judicial services of Bihar and was not able join service on account of lockdown consequent upon the COVID 19 pandemic.    

A Division Bench of Justice K.M Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that there is no law which would support the cancellation of the candidature of the selected candidate if he seeks to join beyond a particular point of time. 

Going by the background of the case, Rakesh Kumar (Appellant) participated in the 30th Bihar Judicial Services Examination conducted pursuant to notification No. 6/18 and came to be appointed as probationary Civil Judge (Junior Division) on January 6, 2020. Pointing out certain personal difficulties which consisted of the delivery date of his wife and the surgery of his father, the appellant sought extension till April, 2020, which was granted. 

Thereafter, it was the case of the appellant that he was prevented from joining consequent upon the COVID 19 pandemic. Accordingly, the appellant sought time from the District Judge, Darbhanga Civil Court, urging that he was stuck in Nagpur and still stranded and that he would join at the directed place as soon as possible. The Registrar General of the High Court however communicated that the prayer did not find favour with the Court. Finally, it culminated in the issuance of notification dated December 10, 2020 wherein appointment of certain candidates stood cancelled since they had not submitted joining in the services. The matter reached the High Court whereby the petitions seeking to quash the impugned notification were dismissed . Hence, the present appeal was filed. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court noticed that there is no statutory provision which declares or commands that beyond a certain point of time, a selected candidate cannot be permitted to join. 

Undoubtedly, the matter appears to be governed by the terms of the notification and it is open to the Court to grant extension and extension was granted by communication dated February 20, 2020 to join by April, 2020, added the Court. 

Being not oblivious of the fact that first representation made by the appellant is on June 8, 2020, even though deadline set by the High Court was that the appellant should join in April, 2020, the Top Court highlighted that it cannot ignore the reality, namely, that restrictions imposed consequent upon COVID 19 enveloping the nation were rather severe and stringent, where travel both by Air and by train was prohibited.

Accordingly, the Apex Court quashed the notification to the extent the appellant’s candidature is cancelled and restored the appointment of the appellant, subject to the condition that the appellant will not be entitled to claim seniority/ backwages as has been, in fact, held out by him in written undertaking.

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