Singh & Ors Vs. State of Punjab & Ors  INSC 277 (1 May 2000)
R.C.Lahoti R.C. Lahoti, J.
common judgment shall govern the disposal of C.A.
C.A. No. 6751/1999, C.A. No. 6752/1999, C.A. No. 6753/1999 & C.W.P. No.356/1999
filed in this Court.
advertisement dated 12.1.1996, the Departmental Selection Committee (Teaching),
Education Department, Punjab invited applications for
appointment of 3025 teachers. The relevant part of the notification is
extracted and reproduced hereunder :- xx xx xx
Applications on prescribed form given below are invited for various categories
of teachers. Applications must be reached on or before dated 15.02.1996.
xx xx xx
xx Sr.No. 1. Masters/Mistresses (S.S. & Allied) Total number of posts :
3025 Pay Scale : 1640-2925 Subject Subject Code Number of posts i) Social
Studies 0201 3000 ii) Fine Arts 0203 10 iii) Music 0204 10 iv) Home Science
0205 05 Total 3025 __________________________________ Educational Qualification
Social Studies Masters/Mistresses : B.A./B.Ed.
the combination of two subjects out of the following seven subjects History
Economics Political Science Geography Public Administration Psychology
Sociology with relevant teaching subject in B.Ed.
For Fine Arts Masters/Mistresses : B.A. in Fine Arts with B.Ed.
For Music : B.A. in Music with B.Ed.
For Home Science : B.A./B.Sc. Home Science with B.Ed. (Applicant must have
relevant teaching subject in B.Ed.) xx xx xx xx Note :- 1) All the applicants
must have passed Punjabi at the level of Matriculation.
all categories of teachers the minimum age is 18 years and maximum limit of age
is 36 years on the dt.
Age concession will be admissible under rules to the reserved classes.
On 7th October, 1996 a corrigendum was issued whereby
the upper age limit was increased to 42 years as on 1.1.1996. The corrigendum
read as under :- In the advertisement for selection of School Master/Mistresses
published on 12.01.96 and for ETT/JBT teachers on 08.01.96, upper age limit has
been increased upto 42 years as on 01.01.96. Those candidates who could not
apply earlier due to overage may now apply. Application complete in all
respects as per advertisements dated 12.01.96 and 8.1.96, must reach before 30.10.96
at the following office with requisite fee.
large number of applications were filed. It appears that some of the applicants
did not fulfill the requisite educational eligibility qualifications on the
date of making of the applications and not even on 15.2.1996 i.e. the last date
for making applications appointed by the advertisement dated 12.1.1996.
However, the fact remains and has not been disputed during the course of
hearing before this Court that by 30.10.1996, the last date for making the applications,
as appointed by the corrigendum dated 7.10.1996, they had all acquired the
requisite educational eligibility qualifications. There may be a case or two
where the applicants had acquired the requisite educational eligibility
qualification on the date of interview. The fact remains that the applications
filed by all such applicants were scrutinised, found in order and entertained
as validly filed applications. Call letters were issued.
appellants before us, who had also approached the High Court by filing several
writ petitions, were all selected.
were allowed to join and given posting orders. There are others who were not
allowed to join pursuant to letters of appointment and were not given posting
orders by the District level officers on the ground that they were not
qualified for appointment on the last date appointed for making applications
17.3.1997 the Director of Public Instructions issued a memo to all Circle
Education Officers to the following effect :- Government have decided that the
candidates who have acquired requisite qualification at the time of interview
and have been selected by the Selection Committee be issued P.P.Os immediately.
Accordingly, you are hereby directed that all such candidates who have been issued
appointment letters be issued P.P.Os. immediately and intimation be sent to the
above controversy was going on, there was another development. Two candidates,
Rajesh Kumar & Paramjit Singh, had filed a writ petition registered as C.W.P.
7159/1997 wherein they had laid challenge to the process of selection on the
ground that ineligible persons were selected while the two petitioners who were
eligible and more meritorious than some of the persons selected, were not so
selected and their names did not figure in the list of selected candidates as
released by the Director of Public Instructions (Schools), Chandigarh on 30th
judgment dated 22.5.1997 the High Court dismissed the petition forming an
opinion that the cut off date for determining the eligibility of the aplicants
by reference to the advertisement was 15.2.1997 and if anyone was not
educationally qualified so as to be eligible to make an application on 15.2.97,
his application could not have been entertained. As to the corrigendum dated
7.10.96 the High Court formed an opinion that it had the effect of extending
the cut off date by reference to which age eligibility was to be determined but
rest of the eligibility requirements were to be judged by reference to 15.2.96.
The memo dated 17.3.97 was beyond the power of the Government, in the opinion
of the High Court and could not have been issued.
High Court thus found the petitioners before it not entitled to any relief and
directed the petition to be dismissed.
appears that there was yet another writ petition, C.W.P. 7322 of 1997 laying
challenge to the same recruitment process. By an interim order dated 24.10.97
passed therein the Division Bench had directed a list to be prepared of the
candidates who did not possess the requisite academic qualifications on the
last date fixed for the receipt of the applications and were yet selected
and/or appointed. On 18.2.98 the High Court passed a detailed order directing
the Secretary, Department of Education to look into the matter and have an
enquiry conducted into the alleged illegalities committed by the Departmental
Selection Committee. The relevant part of the order read as under:- Prima facie
it appears that the Departmental Selection Committee has made large scale
selections of those candidates who were not qualified up to the last date fixed
for receipt of the applications and this has been done in blatant violation of
the law declared by the Supreme Court xxx xxx xxx xxx Keeping in view the
enormous nature of the illegalities committed by the Departmental Selection
Committee, we direct the Financial Commissioner-cum-Secretary to the Government
of Punjab, Department of Education, to personally look into the matter and get
an enquiry conducted about the illegalities committed by the Departmental
Selection Committee. The responsibility of officers who may have manipulated
the selection of ineligible candidates may also be fixed and, if considered
necessary, case should be registered with the police against the guilty
officials. Such an enquiry be got conducted and finalised within two-and-a-
for hearing on 11.5.1998.
enquiry was set up pursuant to the orders of the High Court. That enquiry has
been completed on 24.12.1998.
the above said interim orders passed by the High Court, have persuaded the
Government to take at least two steps. Firstly, the memo dated 17.3.97 has been
subsequently recalled. Secondly, such of the candidates who, though selected
had not joined till then, were not allowed to join.
this state of affairs several petitions came to be filed before the High Court.
C.W.P. 2830/98, 4633/98, 5657/98, 12495/98, 7322/97 & 13005/98 have been
filed by the petitioners mostly selected but not permitted to join. Some of them
are such candidates who have been selected and have also been joined but whose
appointments are proposed to be terminated by the State Government in view of
the interim orders passed by the High Court. All these petitions have been
directed to be dismissed. C.W.P. 2513/98 was filed by a petitioner who
complained that she was denied the opportunity of joining in the process of
recruitment having been considered to be ineligible though one of the
respondents in the petition filed by her was considered and selected. Another
similar petition registered as CWP 18992/97 was filed by a candidate who was
not called for interview having been considered to be ineligible. These
petitions have also been dismissed holding the petitioners therein not entitled
to any relief in view of their own ineligibility. The petitioners in C.W.P.
2513/98 and 18992/97 have not pursued the matter further though some of the
respondents therein have come up in appeal feeling aggrieved by their
ineligibility also having been adjudged by the judgment of the High Court
though they were selected.
these petitions having been disposed of by the High Court by a common judgment
dated 21.9.98 several appeals referred to herein above have been filed in this
Court. C.W.P. 356/99 has been filed in this Court by four petitioners
submitting that in view of the judgment dated 21.9.98 delivered by the High
Court it would be futile for them to approach the High Court. All the
petitioners were eligible for applying for the advertised jobs by 30.10.96, the
extended date for making applications. All the four petitioners have been
selected. The petitioners no. 1, 2 & 3 were holding other Government jobs
which they have resigned in view of their having been selected as teachers.
Singh, petitioner no.1, was JBT teacher working with the Punjab Government. He
has resigned from the previous job on 3.11.97 to join the new job. Sukhbir
Singh, petitioner no.2, was serving as Panchayat Secretary wherefrom he has
resigned consequent upon his having been selected as a teacher. Ramakant Katara,
petitioner no.3, has also similarly resigned from a Government service to take
up the employment as a teacher. Jatinder Kaur, appellant in CA 6752/99 has
joined as teacher on 6.1.98 and is continuing in such employment.
Kumar and Gagandeep Kaur, the appellants in Civil Appeal No. 6753/99 have,
consequent upon their appointment, joined as teachers respectively on 15.12.97
& 14.10.97 and they are working ever since then.
the appeals and the writ petitions have been taken up for hearing analogously.
The only question arising for decision in this case is by reference to which
date the eligibility of the several candidates is to be judged and the
consequences flowing from failure to satisfy the eligibility test in the facts
& circumstances of the case.
reliance on the decisions of this Court in Chandra & Ors. 1990 (4) SLR 235;
The Distt. Collector and Chairman, Vizianagaram (Social Welfare Residential School University of Rajasthan & Ors. JT 1993 (1) SC 220; Dr.
U.P. Public Service Commission, U.P., Allahabad & Anr.
the cut off date by reference to which the eligibility requirement must be
satisfied by the candidate seeking a public employment is the date appointed by
the relevant service rules and if there be no cut off date appointed by the
rules then such date as may be appointed for the purpose in the advertisement
calling for applications; ii) that if there be no such date appointed then the
eligibility criteria shall be applied by reference to the last date appointed
by which the applications have to be received by the competent authority. The
view taken by the High Court is supported by several decisions of this Court
and is therefore well settled and hence cannot be found fault with.
there are certain special features of this case which need to be taken care of
and justice done by invoking the jurisdiction under Article 142 of the
Constitution vested in this Court so as to advance the cause of justice.
view of several decisions of this Court relied on by the High Court and
referred to herein above, it was expected of the State Government notifying the
vacancies to have clearly laid down and stated the cut off date by reference to
which the applicants were required to satisfy their eligibility. This was not
done. It was pointed out on behalf of the several appellants/petitioners before
this Court that the practice prevalent in Punjab has been to determine the
eligibility by reference to the date of interview and there are innumerable
cases wherein such candidates have been seeking employment as were not eligible
on the date of making the applications or the last date appointed for receipt
of the applications but were in the process of acquiring eligibility
qualifications and did acquire the same by the time they were called for and
appeared at the interview. Several such persons have been appointed but no one
has challenged their appointments and they have continued to be in public
employment. Such a loose practice, though prevalent, cannot be allowed to be
continued and must be treated to have been put to an end.
reason is apparent. The applications made by such candidates as were not
qualified but were in the process of acquiring eligibility qualifications would
be difficult to be scrutinised and subjected to the process of approval or
elimination and would only result in creating confusion and uncertainty. Many
would be such applicants who would be called to face interview but shall have
to be returned blank if they failed to acquire requisite eligibility
qualifications by the time of interview. In our opinion the authorities of the
State should be tied down to the principles governing the cut off date for
testing the eligibility qualifications on the principles deducible from decided
cases of this Court and stated herein above which have now to be treated as the
settled service jurisprudence.
clear from the facts of the case that not only the applicants, thousands in
number, but the authorities too were also belabouring under an identical wrong
is why the applications were entertained and the applicants called for
interview though not eligible by reference to the last date for receipt of
applications. The selection process is complete. Even the appointment letters
have been issued. The controversy arose because several officers of the
Education Department at the District level refused to join the selected
candidates in spite of their being armed with appointment letters. Admittedly
with a stray exception of one or two, all the applicants have acquired the
requisite eligibility qualifications by 30.10.96, the extended date for making
applications. From the corrigendum dated 17.10.96 it cannot be clearly spelled
out that though the age requirement was to be determined by reference to
30.10.96, other eligibility requirements, i.e.
relating to education, were to be tested by reference to 15.2.96 and not
30.10.96. At least the corrigendum did not specifically say so. There are no malafides
not been the case of anyone aggrieved and certainly not a finding arrived at by
the High Court that satisfaction of eligibility requirement by reference to the
last date of making of the applications was not rigorously insisted on by the
authorities of Education Department or the Selection Board for the purpose of
accommodating or obliging any favoured candidate or candidates. The enquiry set
up pursuant to the orders of the High Court has also not brought out any
finding enabling such an inference being drawn. The action on the part of the
Selection Board and the authorities of the Education Department, though
mistaken and unsustainable in law, was bonafide and a result of loose practice
prevalent till then which has been discontinued now. In our opinion it would
cause grave injustice to the several appellants before us if their selection
and appointment were struck down and they were now asked to seek employment
elsewhere. Most of them, if not all, must have crossed the upper age limit for
seeking public employment and the ghost of unemployment is likely to chase them
for the rest of their lives. It is not the case of the State Government that
the entry of the several appellants before us as teachers in the Education
Department, would be a disservice or cause any discontentment in the services
or any other problem.
of the report dated 24.12.1998 which is an outcome of the enquiry held in
compliance with the order of the High Court dated 18th February, 1998 in CWP
7322/97 has been placed on the record of CWP 356/99. According to the Report
there were 1015 candidates who were ineligible though selected. The break-up is
Candidates not fulfilling prescribed qualifications by 15.2.1996 (due date) 939
Candidates whose subject combination was not appropriate 75
Candidates who have not passed Punjabi 15
Candidates possessing degrees from un-recognised Universities 13
Candidates whose diploma was not from recognised Institution 1
of candidates having more than one type of ineligibility 28 ------ 1015 ------
(Note : Figures and total as given in the report) It is also stated in the
enquiry report that total number of candidates issued appointment letters and
joined was 305 while total number of candidates issued appointment letters but
not joined was 277. There were another 433 candidates who, though selected,
were not issued appointment letters.
conceded during the course of hearing that candidates belonging to category-1
had acquired the requisite eligibility qualifications by the extended date.
category-3 it was conceded that the candidates had given Punjabi examination
before the cut off date and though the results were not declared but their
answer books were evaluated before 30.10.1996 and the results were formally
declared after the cut off date and they had passed the requisite examination
in Punjabi. The appellants and the petitioners before us are either in
category-1 or in category-3. In our opinion in view of the appointment letters
having been issued, the selection and appointment of such candidates should not
be disturbed and that order we make under Article 142 of the Constitution to do
complete justice in the facts and circumstances of the cases before us as
the foregoing reasons all the appeals are allowed.
judgment of the High Court, to the extent of which it has dismissed the writ
petitions filed by such petitioners who were the selected candidates, is set
aside. CWP 356/99 filed in this Court is also allowed. It is directed that such
of the selected candidates as have already been issued appointment letters
shall forthwith be issued posting orders at the earliest, say within a maximum
period of two months from the date of this order. Those who have already been
posted shall continue with their appointments. The appeals and the writ
petition are disposed of accordingly. No order as to the costs.