The Director General,
Indian Council for Agricultural Research & Others Vs D. Sundara Raju
J U D G M E N T
Dalveer Bhandari, J.
appeal emanates from the judgment and order of the Division Bench of the High Court
of Karnataka at Bangalore delivered in Writ Petition No. 19516 of 2004.
facts which are relevant to dispose of this appeal are recapitulated as under:
controversy in this appeal pertains to the promotion to the post of Principal Scientist
under the "Career Advancement Scheme" formulated by the Indian Council
for Agricultural Research (hereinafter referred to as `ICAR'). There are two
streams from which selections are made to the post of Principal Scientist: (i) Direct
recruitment; and (ii) Promotion from the post of Senior Scientist on the basis of
ICAR had formulated the "Career Advancement Scheme" in consultation with
the Department of Personnel & Training and Ministry of Finance, Government
of India laying down guidelines for promotion of a Scientist from one grade to
another in the Agricultural Research Services (ARS) cadre, which were made
effective from 27.7.1998. The promotion of scientist to the next higher grade (Principal
Scientist) is independent of the occurrence of vacancies and is based only when
the applicant secures the requisite merit.
procedure for promotion to the post of Principal Scientist is contained in Para
2.4 of the Career Advancement Scheme. The relevant rule is set out as under: 2"In
addition to the sanctioned posts of Principal Scientists as per cadre strength
already fixed, which is to be filled through direct recruitment through All
India advertisement, promotions will be made from posts of Senior Scientist to the
posts of Principal Scientists after 8 years of service as Senior Scientist. This
promotion will be personal to the Scientist who is promoted. A senior Scientist
will be promoted to the post of Principal Scientist if he/she:i. has completed
8 years of service; andii. he/she presents himself/herself before the Selection
Committee constituted by ASRB with some of the following:
a. Self appraisal
b. Research contribution/books/
articles/ research papers published.
c. Any other academic contributions.
The best three written contributions of the Sr. Scientist (as defined by him/her)
may be sent in advance to the experts to review before coming for the selection.
The candidate should be asked to submit these in 3 sets with the application.
d. Seminars /
e. Contribution to teaching/academic
environment/institutional corporate life.
f. Extensions and filed outreach
Selection Committee was constituted under the Career Advancement Scheme for considering
eligibility of applicants for promotion from the post of Senior Scientist to Principal
Scientist. The Selection Committee consisted of a Chairman, Agricultural
Scientists Recruitment Board (hereinafter referred to as "ASRB"), Director
General, ICAR or his nominee, three experts and the Director of the Institute
of the applicant. For different disciplines, different Selection Committees were
constituted with three experts from the relevant discipline so that the merit
of the applicant could be comprehensively and accurately assessed. The said Selection
Committee allocated marks for the assessment procedure for promotion as under:-
Research Publication/Achievement 30 marks Recommendation of Superiors 20 marks Personal
Interview 50 marks
minimum required marks to qualify for promotion to the post of Principal
Scientist was 60 marks out of 100 marks. The candidates were accordingly assessed
and the recommendation for promotion or otherwise was submitted to 4the
Minister of Agriculture for his approval in his capacity as the President of
respondent is a Senior Scientist in the service of the ICAR at the National Research
Centre for Cashew at Puttur, Karnataka. Upon the respondent submitting information
as per the prescribed assessment proforma, the ASRB addressed a letter to the
Respondent calling upon him to present himself for assessment and interview for
the Career Advancement Scheme. Accordingly, the respondent appeared for an interview
before Selection Committee on 3.5.2001. However, the respondent secured only 49
marks out of 100 and was found unfit for promotion to the post of Principal Scientist.
The recommendation of the Selection Committee was approved by the competent authority,
i.e., the Union Minister for Agriculture. The respondent was accordingly
intimated of his non-promotion as a Principal Scientist on 14.8.2001.
respondent made representations to the appellant Institute for review of the
decision of not promoting him, but, when the respondent did not get any relief
from the appellant 5institute, he filed a case (original application) before the
Central Administrative Tribunal, Madras Bench. The Tribunal clearly held that
the ICAR had acted in an arbitrary manner to allocate 50% marks for a personal interview
and on this ground alone the non-selection of the applicant ought to be set aside.
Central Administrative Tribunal, Madras Bench quashed the order of the ICAR and
the appellants were directed to consider the case of the respondent for
promotion to the higher grade of a Principal Scientist with effect from 27.07.1998.
The Tribunal also observed that the respondent would be entitled for notional
fixation of pay but would not be entitled for arrears of back wages.
appellants, aggrieved by the said order of the Tribunal filed a writ petition
before the Karnataka High Court. The High Court observed that it is not in dispute
that the respondent was entitled to be considered for promotion to the post of Principal
Scientist under the Career Advancement Scheme. It was also not in dispute that he
was invited for 6such consideration by the concerned authorities. The only question
which, according to the High Court, fell for consideration was whether the claim
of the respondent was considered was in consonance with the Scheme? The Selection
Committee constituted by the appellant had devised a method of evaluation of
the candidates according to which it had allocated 30 marks for research
publication/achievement, 20 marks for recommendation of superiors and 50 marks
for personal interview out of a total of 100 marks.
High Court held that the Career Advancement Scheme does not however sanction any
such procedure. It does not refer to or even remotely indicate that an
interview of the candidate can provide a basis for determining his entitlement
to promotion. The High Court also observed that the Central Administrative Tribunal,
Madras was justified in allowing the petition of the respondent. The High Court
relied on a judgment of this Court in the case of Ashok alias Somanna Gowda and
Another v. State of Karnataka (1992) 1 SCC 28 in which it has been laid down that
50% 7marks in the interview was excessive and rendered the process of selection
High Court has also observed that the Central Administrative Tribunal, Bangalore,
correctly came to the conclusion that the Scheme did not envisage holding of any
High Court also relied on para 2.4(ii) of the Scheme and observed that Senior
Scientists are eligible to the post of Principal Scientist if they have
completed eight years of service and if he/she presents himself/herself before the
Selection Committee constituted by ASRB with the documents indicated therein. The
fact that the eligible officer appears before the Selection Committee with the relevant
documents does not necessarily imply that the process of evaluation of his merit
has to be on the basis of an interview nor does it indicate that the weightage
to the interview can go to the extent of 50% of the total marks. The High Court
upheld the judgment of the Tribunal.
appellants, aggrieved by the order of the Tribunal, as upheld by the Division
Bench of the High Court, has preferred this appeal on the following grounds
before this Court.
a. Whether the Division Bench
erred in holding that award of 50% of marks for interview was excessive and rendered
the selection process arbitrary?
b. Whether the inclusion
of an interview process is a material irregularity that vitiated the selection
c. Whether the Division Bench
was justified in holding that the Career Advancement Scheme precluded the
Selection Committee from adopting an appropriate method of evaluation?
d. Whether a distinguished
body of experts constituting the Selection Committee appointed under the Career
Advancement Scheme had no power to assess and interview the applicants for promotion?
e. Whether the High Court
was justified in not appreciating that appointment to the post of a Principal Scientist
was not on the basis of seniority but on the basis of merit alone through a process
of assessment by a high powered Selection Committee.
f. Whether, under the Career
Advancement Scheme, the promotion to the post of a Principal Senior Scientist
is merely upon the completion of 8 years of service or is based exclusively on the
individual merit of the applicant?
g. Whether the Central Administrative
Tribunal, Bangalore was bound to follow an erroneous Order rendered by the Central
Administrative Tribunal, Madras.
counsel appearing for the appellants submitted that the Division Bench erred in
directing the appellants to reconsider the case of the respondent as he had secured
only 49 out of 100 in the selection process and was not found fit for promotion
to the post of Principal Scientist under the Career Advancement Scheme.
impugned judgment was also challenged on the ground that the Division Bench
ought to have appreciated that the Career Advancement Scheme provides for an interview
procedure in para 2.4 (ii), where it states that "the applicant shall
present himself/herself before the Selection Committee".
appellants also submitted that the Division Bench has erred in holding that
award of 50% of marks for interview was excessive and rendered the entire selection
process arbitrary. The appellant further submitted that Division Bench 10erred
in holding that the inclusion of an interview process is a material
irregularity that vitiated the selection process.
appellants further submitted that the Division Bench of the High Court ought to
have appreciated that the post of Principal Scientist is a very senior post which
requires many personal and intellectual qualities and attributes which can be
evaluated only through a personal interview of the applicant.
impugned judgment was also challenged on the ground that the Division Bench of the
High Court ought to have appreciated that the weightage to be given for the
interview procedure had been determined by a body of experts constituting the Selection
Committee based on the post for which promotions were being considered.
Kush Chaturvedi, learned counsel appearing for the appellants submitted that
the inclusion of an interview could not be treated as material irregularity that
vitiated the entire selection process. Mr. Chaturvedi further submitted that
the Division Bench seriously erred in holding that award of 1150% of marks for interview
was excessive and rendered the selection process arbitrary.
Chaturvedi also submitted that the interview Board consisted of academicians and
they were justified in formulating the criteria which should not be disturbed
by the court. He submitted that according to the Career Advancement Scheme, the
promotion to the post of Principal Scientist is not dependant merely on completion
of 8 years of service. He placed reliance on the judgment of this court in K.A.
Nagamani v. Indian Airlines and Others (2009) 5 SCC 515 to strengthen his
submission. According to him, for the post of Upper Managerial cadre, allocation
of 50% marks for interview cannot be termed as arbitrary. In this case, 25%
marks were kept for viva voce which were not found to be excessive. This case has
no application to the facts of the instant case because in the instant case, 50%
marks have been kept for interview. This case does not support the case of the
appellants in any manner.
counsel for the appellants also placed reliance on the judgment of this court
in Kiran Gupta and Others v. State of U.P. and Others (2000) 7 SCC 719. In this
case, this court has taken the view that it is difficult to accept the omnibus contention
that selection on the basis of viva voce only was arbitrary and illegal since allocation
of 15% marks for the interview was not held to be arbitrary by this court, this
case also provides no assistance to the appellants because in the instant case 50%
marks have been kept for the interview.
Manu Mridul, the learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the Career Advancement
Scheme did not envisage conducting of any interview for the eligible candidates
and introduction of interview itself was arbitrary and against the Career
also submitted that the candidates were never informed that 50% marks would be allocated
for interview. Therefore, there was no occasion for the respondent to have 13challenged
the aspect of allocating marks for interview before his appearing for the
also contended that allocation of 50% marks for interview out of a total of 100
marks was highly excessive, hence arbitrary. He submitted the allocation of 50%
marks for interview is clearly contrary to a large number of judgments of this
Mridul further contended that the respondent was considered for selection to the
post of Principal Scientist on the basis of his work and performance from 1985 to
1998. According to him, the nature, work, duties and responsibilities of a Senior
Scientist and Principal Scientist are almost identical in nature, but in order to
remove stagnation, the promotion is envisaged under the Career Advancement
Scheme. He submitted that the stand of the respondent is fortified, reinforced and
strengthened by the Career Advancement Scheme 2004 and 2005 of the appellants.
According to the `Information Handbook of Agricultural Scientists' Recruitment
Board under Right to Information Act, 2005, the criteria for promotion is that the
Board evaluates the contribution made by the concerned Scientist in academic
research. The Board also evaluates the confidential reports for the last eight
years while granting benefit of the scheme.
to the procedure of the Career Advancement Scheme of 2004, the allocation of
marks for personal interview has been reduced from 50% to 10% because the appellants
themselves realized that allocation of 50% marks was highly excessive and in
clear contravention to the series of judgments of this court.
also submitted that in 2007, the Career Advancement Scheme has undergone a further
change and for personal interview, 20% marks have been allocated. According to
him, in any event, allocation of 50% marks was highly excessive and in contravention
of the law declared by this court in a series of judgments.
Mridul fairly submitted that in exceptional cases if the nature of job is such
then even 50% allocation of marks for 15interview could be justified. But, in the
instant case, the promotion to the post of Principal Scientist is primarily
dependant on the length of service as Senior Scientist, publication and evaluation
of confidential reports. The promotion to this post is granted predominantly to
remove stagnation. For the selection to the post of Principal Scientist, by no
stretch of imagination, 50% marks can be justified. He placed reliance on the
judgment of this court in Dr. S.M. Ilyas and Others v. Indian Council of Agricultural
Research and Others (1993) 1 SCC 182. In the Career Advancement Scheme, the
seniority is the important criteria apart from the publication and the evaluation
of the confidential reports. Therefore, there cannot be any justification in allocating
50% marks for interview.
Mrudil also argued that the appellants in their wisdom reduced the allocation of
marks for interview from 50% to 10% to eliminate or reduce the arbitrariness for
the subsequent selections for the post of Principal Scientist.
counsel for the respondent, Mr. Mridul submitted that 50% marks allocated for
interview were highly excessive and rendered the selection of the candidates
arbitrary. He placed reliance on a judgment of this court in Ashok Kumar Yadav &
Others v. State of Haryana & Others (1985) 4 SCC 417, wherein the Court observed
as under: "..the object of any process of selection for entry into public service
is to secure the best and the most suitable person for the job, avoiding
patronage and favouritism. Selection based on merit, tested impartially and objectively,
is the essential foundation of any useful and efficient public service. So open
competitive examination has come to be accepted almost universally as the gateway
to public services. But the question is how should the competitive examination be
devised? The competitive examination may be based exclusively on written examination
or it may be based exclusively on oral interview or it may be a mixture of both.
It is entirely for the Government to decide what kind of competitive examination
would be appropriate in a given case. To quote the words of Chinnappa Reddy, J.
"In the very nature of things it would not be within the province or even the
competence of the Court and the Court would not venture into such exclusive thickets
to discover ways out, when the matters are more appropriately left" to the
wisdom of the experts. It is not for the Court to lay down whether interview
test should be held at all or how many marks should be allowed for the
interview test. Of course the marks must be minimal so as to avoid charges of
arbitrariness, but not necessarily always. There may be posts and appointments where
the only proper method of selection may be by a viva voce test. Even in the case
of admission to higher degree courses, it may sometimes be necessary to allow a
fairly high percentage of marks for the viva voce test. That is why rigid rules
cannot be laid down in these matters by courts. The expert bodies are generally
the best judges. The Government aided by experts in the field may appropriately
decide to have a written examination followed by a viva voce test."
Court further observed that the Court does not possess the necessary equipment
and it would not be right for the Court to pronounce upon it, unless to use the
words of Chinnappa Reddy, J. in Lila Dhar v. State of Rajasthan and Others (1981)
4 SCC 159 observed that the exaggerated weight has been given with proven or
obvious oblique motives.
Mridul, learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the controversy is no
longer res integra. According to him, a 4-Judge Bench of this Court in Ashok
Kumar Yadav & Others (supra) has observed 22.2% marks of the total marks
allocated for the viva voice test as infecting the selection process with the
vice of arbitrariness.
Ashok Kumar Yadav (supra), the Court relied on earlier judgment of this Court in
Ajay Hasia and Others v. Khalid Mujib Sehravardi and Others (1981) 1 SCC 722,
wherein the Court took up the view that allocation of as high a percentage as
33.3% of the total marks for the viva voice test was beyond reasonable
proportion and rendered the selection of the candidates arbitrary.
Minor A. Peeriakaruppan v. Sobha Joseph (1971) 1 SCC 38, the Court observed
that earmarking 75 marks out of 275 marks for interview as interview marks prima
facie appears to be excessive. The Court observed that various researches conducted
in other countries particularly in USA show that there is possibility of serious
errors creeping in interviews made on haphazard basis. C.W. Valentine on
"Psychology and its Bearing on Education" refers to the marks given
to the same set of persons interviewed by two competent Boards and that is what
is stated in his book: "The members of each board awarded a mark to each candidate
and then he was discussed and an average mark agreed on. 19 When the orders of merit
for the two boards were compared it was found that the man placed first by Board
A was put 13th by Board B when the man placed 1st by Board B was 11th with
this case, the Court also observed that even when the interviews were conducted
by impartial and competent persons on scientific lines very many uncertain
factors like the initial nervousness on the part of some candidates, the mood
in which the interviewer happens to be and the odd questions that may be put to
the persons interviewed may all go to affect the result of the interview.
Court in R. Chitralekha v. State of Mysore and Others AIR 1964 SC 1823 observed
as under:- "In the field of education there are divergent views as regards
the mode of testing the capacity and calibre of students in the matter of admissions
to colleges. Orthodox educationists stand by the marks obtained by a student in
the annual examination. The modern trend of opinion insists upon other additional
tests, such as interview, performance in extracurricular activities, personality
test, psychiatric tests, etc. Obviously we are not in a position to judge which
method is preferable or which test is the correct one. If there can be manipulation
or dishonesty in allotting marks at interviews, there can equally be manipulation
in the matter of awarding marks in the written examination. In the ultimate analysis,
whatever method is adopted its success depends on the moral standards of the members
constituting the selection committee and their sense of objectivity and devotion
to duty. This criticism is more a reflection on the examiners than on the system
itself. The scheme of selection, however, perfect it may be on paper, may be abused
in practice. That it is capable of abuse is not a ground for quashing it. So long
as the order lays down relevant objective criteria and entrusts the business of
selection to qualified persons, this Court cannot obviously have any say in the
Minor A. Peeriakaruppan (supra), the Court referred to Ajay Hasia's case (supra)
where the Court found that the allocation of more than 15 per cent of the total
marks for the oral interview would be arbitrary and unreasonable and would be liable
to be struck down as constitutionally invalid. The Court observed that the viva
voce test conducted must be held to be fair, free from the charge of
arbitrariness, reasonable and just.
Nishi Maghu & Others v. State of J&K & Others (1980) 4 SCC 95, the Court
observed that 50% marks out of total 150 marks allotted for interview were
Mehmood Alam Tariq v. State of Rajasthan (1988) 3 SCC 241, the question
involved was regarding the validity of certain provisions of the Rajasthan State
and Subordinate Services (Direct Recruitment by Combined Competitive
Examination) Rules, 1962, the Rajasthan Administrative Service Rules, 1954, the
Rajasthan Forest Service Rules, 1962 which contained a provision special to the
said three services and not applicable to other services, that candidates, other
than those belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should secure a
minimum of 33 per cent marks in the viva voce test. The rules further
stipulated that the candidates for these services must also secure 50 per cent
marks in the written examination, but that was not in the area of controversy. While
dealing with the above questions a reference was made to cases Ajay Hasia (supra),
Lila Dhar (supra) and A.K. Yadav (supra). It was observed as under: "The much
desired transformation from patronage to open competition is a later development,
to which, now, all civilised governments profess commitment. However, though there
is agreement in principle that there should be a search for the best talent particularly
in relation to higher posts, however, as to the methods of assessment of efficiency,
promise and aptitude, ideas and policies widely vary, though it has now come to
be accepted that selection is an informed professional exercise which is best left
to agencies independent of the services to which recruitment is made. The `interview'
is now an accepted aid to selection and is designed to give the selectors some
evidence of the personality and character of the candidates. Macaulay had earlier
clearly declared that a young man who in competition with his fellowmen of the
same age had shown superiority in studies might well be regarded as having shown
character also since he could not have prepared himself for the success attained
without showing character in eschewing sensual pleasures. But the interview
came to be recognised as an essential part of the process of selection on the belief
that some qualities necessary and useful to public servants which cannot be found
out in a written test would be revealed in a viva voce examination. In
justification of the value and utility of the viva voce, the committee on Class
I examinations in Britain said: ...It is sometimes urged that a candidate, otherwise
well qualified, may be prevented by nervousness from doing himself justice in viva
voce. We are not sure that such lack of nervous control is not in itself a
serious defect, nor that the presence of mind and nervous equipoise which
enables a candidate to marshall all of his resources in such conditions is not a
valuable quality. Further, there are undoubtedly some candidates who can never do
themselves justice in written examinations, just as there are others who under the
excitement of written competition do better than on ordinary occasions.... We consider
that the viva voce can be made a test of the candidate's alertness, intelligence
and 23 intellectual outlook, and as such is better than any other....
to the promise as well as the limitations of the viva voce, Herman Finer says: If
we really care about the efficiency of the civil service as an instrument of government,
rather than as a heaven sent opportunity to find careers for our brilliant
students, these principles should be adopted. The interview should last at least
half an hour on each of the two separate occasions. It should be also entirely devoted
to a discussion ranging over the academic interests of the candidate as shown in
his examination syllabus, and a short verbal report could be required on the subject,
the scope of which would be announced at the interview. As now, the interview should
be a supplementary test and not a decisive selective test. The interviewing board
should include a business administrator and a university administrator. The
interview should come after and not before the written examination, and if this
means some inconvenience to candidates and examiners, then they must remember that
they are helping to select the government of a great State, and a little inconvenience
is not to be weighed against such a public duty....""
Mohinder Sain Garg v. State of Punjab & Others (1991) 1 SCC 662, allocation
of 25 per cent of total marks for viva voce test in selection was held
arbitrary and excessive.
P. Mohanan Pillai v. State of Kerala & Others (2007) 9 SCC 497, 50% marks were
fixed for the interview. The Court observed as under: "16. In this case allocation
of marks for interview was in fact misused. It not only contravened the ratio laid
down by this Court in Ashok Kumar Yadav and subsequent cases, but in the facts
and circumstances of the case, it is reasonable to draw an inference of favouritism.
The power in this case has been used by the appointing authority for unauthorised
purpose. When a power is exercised for an unauthorised purpose, the same would amount
to malice in law. (See: Govt. Branch Press v. D.B. Belliappa (1979) 1 SCC 477, Punjab
SEB Ltd. v. Zora Singh (2005) 6 SCC 776 and K.K. Bhalla v. State of M.P (2006)
3 SCC 581)."
have heard the learned counsel for the parties at length and have carefully
perused the impugned judgment and the orders of the Tribunal.
our considered view, no interference is called for, on account of following
reasons:- (A) Promotion to the post of Principal Scientist pertains to the
"Career Advancement Scheme". Norms, Rules and Guidelines which are 25
employed while granting the benefit of Career Advancement Scheme ought to be applied
in the instant case.(B) It is amply clear that the quinquennial assessment
scheme for the ICAR/ARS Policies and Rules were- a) for providing opportunities
for the career advancement, irrespective of the occurrence of vacancies, through
a system of assessment should lead to each scientist competing with his or her rather
than with colleagues and to the acceptance of the principle the "all the
rights accrue from a duty well done". b) Enable scientists to get the highest
salary possible, within the system while remaining rooted to work in their respective
discipline/field, 26 thereby eliminating both the undue importance attached in the
past to research management policy and the request for such positions purely for
the advancement of salary. c) Link rights and responsibilities and instill through
the five-year assessment system the conviction that dedicated and efficient
discharge of responsibilities alone would be the means of securing professional
respondent was not disclosed by the appellant either that the interview would be
held for evaluating personal or intellectual qualities that attribute a
Scientist and that it shall carry 50% of the total marks. This is
uncontroverted position. Had the appellants disclosed the method of evaluation the
respondent may have challenged the same before participating in the selection
fault can be found in the impugned judgment in view of the legal position which
emerges after proper scrutiny of following cases of this Court, namely, Ashok Kumar
Yadav (supra), Ajay Hasia (supra), Lila Dhar (supra) and Minor A. Peeriakaruppan
(supra). 50% marks allocated for the interview were highly excessive for the post
of a Principal Scientist and contrary to the settled legal position
crystallized from a series of the judgments of this court.
appellants were totally unjustified in allocating 50% marks for the interview particularly
when the appellants did not even disclose to the respondent that the interview would
also be held to evaluate suitability of the candidate for the said post.
procedure evolved by the Selection Committee for evaluating the respondent was
totally arbitrary and contrary to the settled legal position.
appellants themselves have found 50% marks for interview highly excessive, therefore,
now the criterion has 28been changed from 50% to 10%. This is indicative of the
fact that good sense had ultimately dawned on the appellants.
appeal is totally devoid of any merit and is accordingly dismissed with costs which
are quantified as 50,000/-. The costs to be paid to the respondent within four