Can cut-off marks be lowered to fill the quota of seats reserved for Special category candidates in the absence of required number of candidates qualifying the written examination? The Allahabad High Court has answered the question in the negative.
Justice Siddharth held that the cut-off marks cannot be lowered to merely fill the seats reserved for the special category and once a candidate has submitted himself to a given procedure of selection, he cannot turn back and challenge the same on his failure to get selected.
The court said so while deciding the petition of one Bhuvnesh Pachuri who belongs to the category of “Dependents of Freedom Fighters” (General) and had sought lowering of cut-off marks after failing to clear the written examination for the post of junior engineers in UP Jal Nigam.
On October 3, 2013, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam had advertised for the post of junior engineers (Civil). Bhuvnesh applied for the same and appeared in Written Examination in the year 2014.
Only 5 candidates belonging to the category of dependents of freedom fighters were called for the interview.
Aggrieved by his exclusion, Bhuvnesh through advocate Kshitij Shailendra, approached the court saying that as per law, 2% seats were required to be reserved for the “Dependents of Freedom Fighters”.
He said since the total seats advertised were 469, 2% of 469 comes to 9.38, hence 9 posts were required to be reserved for the said category, but only 5 candidates were invited for interview and all of them were selected.
UP Jal Nigam and its chief engineer, through their standing counsel QH Siddiqui, filed their reply, stating that in the written examination, the cut-off marks for qualifying for interview was fixed as 42, but the petitioner obtained only 34 marks, therefore he was not called for interview and the remaining 4 posts remained unfilled. As per Section-3(5) of U.P. Public Services (Reservation for Physically Handicapped, Dependents of Freedom Fighters and Ex-Servicemen) Act 1997, when suitable candidates are not found the vacancies are carried over to the next recruitment.
In his rejoinder, Bhuvnesh contended that the cut-off marks of 42 was for the General Category and the same should have been lowered for the Reserved Category.
He relied on the judgment of the apex court in the case of Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation Vs. Union of India, 2014 and All India Confederation of Blind & another Vs. Union of India and another, where relaxation of 5% in cut-off marks was provided by the University Grants Commission to the persons with visual disability for appearing in N.E.T. for Junior Research Fellowship and Lectureship.
He argued that the apex court has taken note of the fact that 5% relaxation was already granted to the SC and ST Candidates, as per the Maintenance of Standard, 1998 of the Universities, and therefore, if the same benefit was extended to the blind / low vision candidates belonging to the general category by the UGC, there should be parity amongst all persons with disabilities, irrespective of their vertical categories.
The Allahabad High Court, however, was of the view that, “Clearly this is not the case of the petitioner that prior to his appearance in the competitive examination, there was some law/rule providing any relaxation in cut-off marks to candidates of any vertical or horizontal category,”
“In the present case, the petitioner is arguing that after he failed to secure the cut of marks of 42, since the post of horizontal category to which he belongs were lying unfilled, therefore, by lowering the cut off marks he should have been called for interview. This argument cannot be accepted in view of the settled law that once the petitioner submitted himself to the procedure of selection and became unsuccessful, he cannot turn around and protest the terms of process of selection. The theory of approbate and reprobate estopps him from doing so,” said Justice Siddharth.
“…no relief can be granted to the petitioner regarding his prayer for lowering of cut-off marks for his social category of reservation. However, it is open for the petitioner to apply for reserved vacancies carried over for the next recruitment as per U.P. Public Services (Reservation for Physically Handicapped, Dependents of Freedom Fighters and Ex- Servicemen) Act, 1997,” said the court while dismissing the petition.