Kumar Sharma Vs. State of Punjab & Ors  INSC 227 (24 February 1997)
MOHAN PUNCHHI, K.T. THOMAS THOMAS.
was one of the candidates before the Punjab Public Service Commission for
selection to the cadre of Deputy Superintendent of Police. He was found fit in
all respects except the height factor for which he was found deficient by 1.20 cms.
However, he was selected as Government of Punjab relaxed the requirement of
physical fitness as for him in special consideration of the meritorious service
rendered by his brother (one Satish Kumar Sharma, IPS) during the time when
State Government was involved in a massive exercise for containing terrorism in
Punjab. Third respondent challenged the
said selection as he could secure only a post of Deputy Superintendent of Jail.
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed the
selection of the appellant as Deputy Superintendent of Police and directed the
Government to make appointment in the consequential vacancy from among the
candidates who have been selected. The said judgment is now under challenge
more facts are necessary to decide the question raised before us. Punjab public Service Commission published
an advertisement on 12.6.1996 as follow up of a requisition made by the
Government of Punjab, inviting applications for 20 posts of Deputy
Superintendent of Police and 6 posts of Deputy Superintendents of Jail/District
and third respondent were among the various candidates who submitted
applications for the aforesaid posts. In the written test conducted on
25.2.1994 appellant was found short in height by 1.20 cms. In the meanwhile,
Government formulated a policy on 6.2.1994 to show special consideration
towards "relatives of those who have either suffered due to terrorism or
have faced terrorism boldly and have contributed towards overcoming it".
It appears that Government felt that "on account of their background and
circumstances such individuals are bound to be more dedicated and
committed". When appellant was found deficient to fit in with the
requirements very marginally he moved the Government for relaxation of the
Specification regarding height in his case. Government passed an order on 14.5.1994,
the operative part of which reads thus:
this view of the matter it has been considered to give minor relaxation in
physical standard, provided such persons possess prescribed qualifications and
qualify in the written test conducted by the Punjab Public Service Commission
and are suitable in all other respects. The latest request dated 13.5.1994 of Shri
Sandeep Kumar Sharma (younger brother of Shri Satish Kumar Sharma, IPS) who is
presently posted as SSP, Ferozepur and who has rendered useful service in
tackling terrorism and brining normalcy for giving relaxation in height 1.20 cms.
for recruitment to the post of Deputy Superintendent of Police has been
considered and acceeded to." Thereupon,, appellant was called for vivavoce
and he was included in the list of selected candidates and was later appointed
as Deputy Superintendent of Police on 10.8.1994. Third respondent was selected
with first rank in the list for the post of Deputy Superintendents,
Jail/District Probation Officers and he was appointed as Deputy Superintendent,
Jail on 8.9.1994.
respondent and another person challenged the selection and appointment of the
appellant before the High Court mainly on the ground that appellant did not fulfil
the requirement enumerated in the advertisement issued by Punjab Public Service
Commission and that the Government have no power to relax without specifically
indicating in the advertisement itself that specifications are liable to be
relaxed. Another ground taken up was that power of relaxation contained in Rule
14 of Punjab Police Service Rules 1959 (`Service Rules' for short) cannot be
invoked in the case of one individual.
Division Bench of the High Court Examined the file relating to the impugned
selection and found that relaxation was granted by the Government only in the
case of appellant and that the policy was evolved by the Government solely to
help the appellant which is nothing but an act of sheer favoritism. Learned
Judges of the High Court observed that Rule 7 and Rule 14 of the Service Rules
cannot be regarded as empowering the Government to grant relaxation in physical
standard as a measure of favoritism. On the above premises the Division Bench
quashed the selection of the appellant and directed the State Government to
fill up the vacancy within thirty days.
we proceed to consider the merits of the case, we may point out that none of
the parties before us disputed about the worthiness in formulating a policy by
the Government of Punjab for showing recognisition to the services rendered by
those police personnel who bravely faced the dastardly acts unleashed by the
terrorists. If so, there is nothing improper in giving special consideration to
the kith and kins of such policemen and those who suffered on account of
terrorists' activities. We may also point out that before the High Court
neither the Government nor the third respondent disputed the factual position
that Satish Kumar Sharma, (appellant's brother) had rendered efficient and
useful service as a Police Officer in tackling terrorists' menace. (of course,
a faint attempt was made by the third respondent before us to dispute that
fact, but as he did not raise any dispute us to dispute on that aspect before
the High Court, we are not inclined to countenance the said contention now).
of the Service Rules stipulates the qualifications necessary for direct
recruitment to the service. Sub-clause (iii) of clause (i) of Rule 7 requires
that the candidate should have "a minimum height of 5' 7" (167.5 cms)
and normal chest measurement of 33" with expansion of 1 1/2. The second
proviso to clause (i) is important and it is extracted :- Provided further that
the physical standard prescribed in sub-clause (iii) shall not be relaxed
without special sanction of the Government." Rule 14 contains the general
power of Government to relax rules. It reads thus:
power to relax rules;
the Government is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient so to do, it
may by order, for reasons to be recorded in writing relax any of the provisions
of these rules with respect to any class or category of persons." It is
clear that while Rule 14 permits relaxation for a class or a category of
persons, Rule 7 preserves Government's power to relax the physical standard in
individual cases. In the present case Rule 7 is the appropriate Rule and it was
not necessary to embark on Rule 14 at all. But we have noticed that the Deputy
secretary of Home (Government of Punjab who had sworn to the counter- affidavit
before the High Court for the State Government has sought to justify the
relaxation made by Government by confining to Rule 14 of the Service Rules
alone. Why did he adopt such a stand when there is a specific Rule which
empowered the Government to give relaxation of the physical standard, is
something we cannot understand or appreciate.
should the deponent have by-passed Rule 7 which is so explicit in the context?
Any way since the appellant has referred to Rule 7 as the relevant rule we are
not disposed to consider the amplitute of Rule 14 in the case.
High Court seems to have taken the view that the only beneficiary of the
aforesaid relaxation is the appellant and hence considered it an act of
favoritism shown to him. According to the learned Judges "the so-called
policy was formulated after the result of the written test was announced with
the sole object of securing selection and appointment of the aforesaid
candidate because without clearing the standard of physical fitness he could
not have been interviewed by the Commission. This, in our opinion, is nothing
but an act of sheer favoritism".
cannot be blamed for being the only candidate available at present seeking
relaxation of physical standards. The same benefit could also have enured to
anyone else situated in the same position as the appellant had there been any.
Policy-wise it is not possible to think that appellant would have been the only
kith and kin of those who suffered on account of the activities of the
terrorists in Punjab or those who faced terrorism bravely. Perhaps, in this
particular selection appellant happened to be the only beneficiary of the
policy. Nor can we find any mala fides merely because government evolved the
policy on the occasion when appellant approached for relaxation of the
occasion would have provided to the government an opportunity to recapitulate
the events and thus to remind themselves of the plight of those families which
suffered traumatic experiences when their kith and kin were relentlessly
involved in continued operations fighting the terrorists who using hideouts to
strike blitz against innocent people as well as the police force intermittantly.
government may have to act on some occasion for chalking out a particular
policy. If any particular occasion has alerted the government to the necessity
for taking a policy decision it is hardly sufficient to attribute mala fide of
favoritism to the government.
Atlas Cycle Industries Ltd. Sonepat vs. Their Workmen:  Suppl. 3 SCR 89;
a Constitution Bench of this Court considered the question whether a policy
taken in the wake of an individual's case would offend Article 14 of the
Constitution as the object then would have been to benefit a particular person.
In that case Government of Punjab raised the age of retirement of the Presiding
Officers of Industrial Tribunals from 65 to 67 on 3.6.1957.
incumbent Sri A.N.Gujral would have attained the age of 65 on 4.6.1957). The
Bench repelled the contention and observed thus: "the occasion which
inspired the enactment of the statute might be the impending retirement of sri A.N.Gujral.
But that is not a ground for holding that it is discriminatory and contravenes
Article 14, when it is, on its terms, of general application." It is
useful to refer to the interpretation given to a similar relaxation clause in
service law by a Bench of three judges of this Court that it must be liberally
JC Yadav and ors. vs. State of Haryana and
ors. [1990 (1) SCR 470]. The power of relaxation even if generally included in
the service rules could either be for the purpose of mitigating hardships or to
meet special and deserving situations. Such rule mus be construed liberally,
according to the learned Judges. Of course arbitrary exercise of such power
must be guarded against. But a narrow construction is likely to deny benefit to
the really deserving cases. We too are of the view that the rule of relaxation
must get a pragmatic construction so as policy of the government.
counsel for the third respondent has referred to the decisions of this Court in
District Collector and Chairman, Vizianagram vs. Tripura Sundari Devi [JT
1990(2) SC 169 and Hoshiar Singh vs. State of Haryana and ors. [JT1993 (5) SC 63. The former is relied on by the
Division Bench of the High Court in the latter decision. Those decisions relate
to cases where relaxation of the Rule was made by the selection board. This
Court observed that when advertisement was silent about relaxation of the
standards prescribed therein for selection it was not permissible for the
selection board to relax such standards. Those are not cases where relaxation
was made by the Government in exercise of any statutory rule and hence the
ratio in those two decisions is of no use to support the contention of the
have no doubt that if government had thought it fit to afford marginal
relaxation in the case of the appellant in terms of Rule 7 in particular and
Rule 14 in general by was of implementation of the policy evolved in recognising
the services rendered by the police personnel during the frightful days, it
warrants no interference from judicial side. High Court should not have upset
the appointment made in marginal relaxation of the physical standards
prescribed in the case of this appellant.
therefore, allow this appeal and set aside the judgment under challenge. No
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