@ Balagandhi Vs. Union of India and Others  Insc 1150 (16 November 2007)
Mathur & Markandey Katju
APPEAL NO. 5274 OF 2007 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition(Civil) No.
16909/2006] MARKANDEY KATJU, J.
This appeal has been filed against the final judgment and order dated 19.9.2006
of the High Court of Madras in Writ Petition Nos. 9521 and 18563 of 2000 and
Writ Petition No. 21870 of 2001.
Heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.
appellant (respondent No. 3 in the Writ Petition) applied for the post of
Deputy Director (Agriculture) in the Agriculture Department, Government of Pondicherry.
That post was to be filled up by direct recruitment in pursuance of the
advertisement issued by the Union Public Service Commission (hereinafter in
short 'UPSC') dated 23.5.1998 inviting applications from eligible candidates.
appellant states that he was fully qualified for the post, but he was not
called for the interview although similarly placed candidates had been so
this connection it may be mentioned that in the advertisement for the post
issued by the UPSC, essential qualifications mentioned therein were as follows:
Educational: M.Sc. Degree in Agriculature from a recognized University or
Experience: Two years experience in extension work/soil/Input Analysis."
was no mention in the advertisement that the experience of two years must be
after obtaining the M.Sc. degree.
appears that the UPSC resorted to short listing and did not call the appellant
for the interview because he did not have two years experience in extension
work/soil/Input Analysis after obtaining the M.Sc. degree in agriculture. He no
doubt had the requisite experience, but that was obtained before he got his M.Sc.
degree. The UPSC called only those candidates for interview who had got the
experience after getting the degree.
appellant was of the view that there was no requirement that the two years
experience should be after obtaining the Masters degree in agriculture. The
appellant undoubtedly had such experience before obtaining his M.Sc. degree in
Since the appellant was not called for the interview he filed OA. No. 1045/97
before the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chennai. By an interim order the
Tribunal allowed the appellant to appear in the interview.
the Tribunal in its final order dated 23.6.2000 observed that since the
appellant had been interviewed in pursuance of the interim order of the
Tribunal, no further direction is required to be given in this connection and
the result of the interview should be published. Accordingly the result was
published and since the appellant was found first in the merit list, he was
appointed as Deputy Director (Agriculture) on 23.3.2001, and has been working
as such since then.
Aggrieved, writ petition was filed by the respondents herein before the Madras
High Court which allowed the writ petition and quashed the appointment of the
appellant. Hence this appeal by way of Special Leave Petition.
One of the reason given by the High Court for setting aside the appellant's
appointment was that the Tribunal should have gone into the question of
eligibility of the appellant herein. Instead of doing so, it disposed off the
O.A. filed before it by directing the UPSC to publish the result. Accordingly,
the appellant herein was appointed by the Government of Pondicherry vide order
dated 23.3.2001 on the post of Deputy Director (Agriculture).
need not go into the question whether the Tribunal should have decided the case
on merits since we are deciding it on merits.
The High Court in the impugned judgment has also observed that it was open for
the UPSC to restrict the number of candidates to be called for the interview by
adopting a short-listing method. The High Court was of the view that there was
no irrationality or illegality in the method of short-listing adopted by the
UPSC. With respect, we cannot agree.
paragraph 3.1 of the advertisement of UPSC dated 23.5.1998, it is stated :
the number of applications received in response to an advertisement is large
and it will not be convenient or possible for the Commission to interview all
the candidates, the Commission may restrict the number of candidates to a
reasonable limit on the basis of either qualifications and experience higher
than the minimum prescribed in the advertisement or on the basis of the
experience higher than the minimum prescribed in the advertisement or on the
basis of experience in the relevant field, or by holding a screening test. The
candidate should, therefore, mention all the qualifications and experience in
the relevant field over and above the minimum qualifications and should attach
attested/self certified copies of the certificates in support thereof."
is well settled that the method of short-listing can be validly adopted by the
Selection Body vide Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission vs. Navnit Kumar Potdar
and another 1994(6) SCC 293 (vide paras 6, 8, 9 and 13), Government of Andhra
Pradesh vs. P. Dilip Kumar and another 1993(2) SCC 310, etc.
Even if there is no rule providing for short-listing nor any mention of it in
the advertisement calling for applications for the post, the Selection Body can
resort to a short-listing procedure if there are a large number of eligible
candidates who apply and it is not possible for the authority to interview all
of them. For example, if for one or two posts there are more than 1000
applications received from eligible candidates, it may not be possible to
interview all of them. In this situation, the procedure of short- listing can
be resorted to by the Selection Body, even though there is no mention of short-listing
in the rules or in the advertisement.
However, for valid short-listing there have to be two requirements
has to be on some rational and objective basis. For instance, if selection has
to be done on some post for which the minimum essential requirement is a B.Sc.
degree, and if there are a large number of eligible applicants, the Selection
Body can resort to short-listing by prescribing certain minimum marks in B.Sc.
and only those who have got such marks may be called for the interview. This
can be done even if the rule or advertisement does not mention only those who
have the aforementioned minimum marks, will be considered or appointed on the
post. Thus the procedure of short-listing is only a practical via-media which
has been followed by the courts in various decisions since otherwise there may
be great difficulties for the selecting and appointing authorities as they may
not be able to interview hundreds and thousands of eligible candidates;
If a prescribed method of short-listing has been mentioned in the rule or
advertisement then that method alone has to be followed.
the present case, no doubt, the UPSC had resorted to an objective and rational
criteria that only those who have two years experience after getting the M.Sc.
degree will be considered, while those who have got such experience but only
before getting the M.Sc. degree will not be called for the interview.
Ordinarily we would not have taken exception to this procedure since it is
based on an objective criteria, and ordinarily this Court does not interfere
with administrative decisions vide Tata Cellular vs. Union of India AIR 1996 SC
11. As observed in the said decision, the modern approach is for courts to
observe restraint in administrative matters.
if the method of short-listing had not been prescribed by the UPSC or in a
statutory rule, it is possible that the argument of learned counsel for the
respondents may have been accepted and we may not have interfered with the
method of short-listing adopted by the UPSC since it appears to be based on a
rational and objective criteria.
However, in this case we have noticed that in paragraph 3.1 of the
advertisement of the UPSC dated 23.5.1998, the method of short-listing has been
given. Hence the UPSC cannot resort to any other method of short- listing other
than that which has been prescribed in paragraph 3.1. In the said paragraph of
the advertisement, it is mentioned that the Commission may restrict the number
of candidates on the basis of either qualifications and experience higher than
the minimum prescribed in the advertisement or on the basis of the experience
higher than the minimum prescribed in the advertisement or on the basis of
experience in the relevant field. In other words, it was open to the UPSC to do
short-listing by stating that it will call only those who have Ph.D. degree in
Agriculture (although the essential degree was only M.Sc. degree in
Agriculture). Similarly, the UPSC could have said that it would only call for
interview those candidates who have, say, five years experience, although the
essential requirement was only two years experience. However, experience after
getting the M.Sc. degree cannot be said to be higher than the experience before
getting the M.Sc degree. Also, the advertisement dated 23.5.1998 does not
mention that two years experience must be after getting the M.Sc. degree.
Learned counsel for the appellant has shown us several advertisements issued by
the Union Public Service Commission in which it was specifically mentioned that
experience must be after getting the post- graduate degree. However, in the
present case, the advertisement does not mention that the two years experience
must be after getting the M.Sc. degree in Agriculture. Hence, we cannot add
words to the advertisement and we must read it as it is.
observed by this Court in Ramana Dayaram Shetty vs. The International Airport
Authority of India and others AIR 1979 SC 1628 (vide para 10):
is a well-settled rule of administrative law that an executive authority must
be rigorously held to the standards by which it professes its actions to be
judged and it must scrupulously observe those standards on pain of invalidation
of an act in violation of them. This rule was enunciated by Mr. Justice
Frankfurter in Vitarelli vs. Seaton (1959) 359 US 535; 3 L Ed 2nd 1012 where the learned Judge said:
executive agency must be rigorously held to the standards by which it professes
its actions to be judged.Accordingly, if dismissal from employment is based on
a defined procedure, even though generous beyond the requirements that binds
such agency, that procedure must be scrupulously observed This judicially
evolved rule of administrative law is now firmly established and, if I may add,
rightly so. He that takes the procedural sword shall perish with the
Court accepted the rule as valid and applicable in India in A.S. Ahluwalia vs. State of
Punjab (1975) 3 SCR 82: (AIR 1975 SC 984) and in subsequent decisions given in Sukhdev
vs. Bhagatram (1975) 3 SCR 619; (AIR 1975 SC 1331), Mathew, J. quoted the
above-referred observations of Mr. Justice Frankfurter with approval. It may be
noted that this rule, though supportable also as emanating from Article 14 does
not rest merely on that Article. It has an independent existence apart from
Article 14. It is a rule of administrative law which has been judicially
evolved as a check against exercise of arbitrary power by the executive
authority. If we turn to the judgment of Mr. Justice Frankfurter and examine
it, we find that he has not sought to draw support for the rule from the
equality clause of the United States Constitution but evolved it purely as a
result of administrative law. Even in England, the recent trend in
administrative law is in that direction as is evident from what is stated at
pages 540-541 in Prof. Wade's Administrative Law 4th Edn. There is no reason
why we should hesitate to adopt this rule as a part of our continually
expanding administrative law."
Had paragraph 3.1 not been in the advertisement of the UPSC it is possible that
we may have taken a view in favour of the respondents since in that case it was
open to the UPSC to resort to any rational method of short- listing of its
choosing (provided it was fair and objective). However, in the present case, a
particular manner of short-listing has been prescribed in paragraph 3.1. Hence,
it is not open to the UPSC to resort to any other method of short-listing even
if such other method can be said to be fair and objective.
For the reasons given above, this appeal is allowed. The impugned judgment of
the High Court is set aside. The appellant has been working as Deputy Director
(Agriculture) since 2001 in pursuance of the judgment of the Tribunal and the
interim order of this Court, and we uphold his appointment. No costs.