14 Sep 2023 2:30 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday held that candidates under ‘reserved categories’ could be considered for vacancies against ‘unreserved’ seats even if they had opted to avail for fees and age relaxations statutorily available to them, as members of reserved categories.A division bench of Justice Debangshu Basak and Justice Md Shabbar Rashidi while quashing an order of the...
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday held that candidates under ‘reserved categories’ could be considered for vacancies against ‘unreserved’ seats even if they had opted to avail for fees and age relaxations statutorily available to them, as members of reserved categories.
A division bench of Justice Debangshu Basak and Justice Md Shabbar Rashidi while quashing an order of the WB Administrative Tribunal (“WBAT”) held,
Relaxation in age and fees cannot be construed to be obtaining a benefit in the course for ascertainment of merit of a candidate. It is merely an enabling provision to enable designated section of the society, an opportunity to complete. Facilitating a designated section of the society to partake in a selection process cannot be equated to grant of privilege during ascertainment of merit in the selection process. [It] does not mean that any advantage has been granted to the reserved category candidates so as to disentitle them to be considered in unreserved category in accordance with merit.
These observations came in pleas challenging orders of the WBAT setting aside the recruitment conducted by the WB Public Service Commission (“WBPSC”) for the post of Sub- Inspector in the Subordinate Food and Supply Service, Grade III, under 3 Food and Supplies Department, Government of West Bengal, 2018, wherein it allowed unreserved vacancies to be filled by reserved category candidates.
The WBAT in its order had held that people from reserved categories, who took advantage of age and fee relaxations, could not be placed in the unreserved category against available vacancies, and set up different panels for reserved and unreserved candidates.
Arguments of unsuccessful candidates
Candidates who were unsuccessful in the recruitment process, argued that once reserved category candidates had taken benefit of the relaxations available to them, they could not be treated the same as unreserved candidates who did not get to avail of such benefits.
It was argued that there were certain irregularities with the conduct of the test, and that the writ petition itself, which had been filed at the behest of the WBPSC was not maintainable, since the PSC being a recommending body, could not file a writ, since it had earlier accepted similar decisions of the WBAT pertaining to recruitment of police constables.
Arguments of Public service commission
Counsel for WBPSC argued that the commission had advertised for the aforesaid position, and had mentioned the relaxations for reserved candidates in that advertisement.
It was argued that only age and fee relaxation was availed by reserved category candidates, who were interviewed and wrote a written test, like all other candidates.
Counsel pointed out various Apex Court decisions, wherein it had been held that a candidate who had obtained age relaxation but had participated with the unserved category, can be placed in the unreserved category according to their merit.
Arguments of State
Advocate General for the State argued that the action of the PSC to put candidates from reserved categories in vacant unreserved seats was a decision that could not be faulted.
It was argued that age relaxation only enabled the reserved candidates to be on an equal footing with general category, and that at the time such concession was sight, the competition on merit had not commenced, which it only did after all candidates fulfilled the eligibility criteria.
AG submitted that the grant of age relaxation did not result in relaxation in standard for selection of candidates based on the written test and interview, and that the unsuccessful candidates only after not being able to clear the test had objected to the selection process.
AG argued that the PSC was a constitutional body under Article 315 of the Constitution, and that it would not be amenable to the control of the State, unless an order issued by it was illegal.
Arguments of selected candidates who joined service
Selected candidates’ counsel argued that age relaxation was not a relaxation in standards or concession, but only to enable the reserved candidates to participate in the process, after which the competition was uniform for everyone.
Counsel argued that in this case, the PSC had taken a uniform decision, which need not be interfered with, and that none of the unsuccessful candidates had received higher marks than any of those who had been selected.
Arguments of selected candidates yet to join service
Counsel for selected candidates who had not yet joined service, argued that the PSC under the WB Schedule Cast & Schedule Tribe (Reservation of Vacancies) Act, 1976 had not committed any mistake in preparing a merit list by considering candidates irrespective of their categories.
It was argued that the unsuccessful candidates had not raised any objections throughout the selection process, and that more than 7 lakh candidates had appeared for the written test.
FINDINGS OF THE COURT
In looking at the particulars of the advertisement issued by the WBPSC for selection of candidates to the present post, as well as the impugned selection process, the Bench observed that only reserved category candidates who had secured higher or equal marks when compared with the marks obtained by the last qualified candidate in the unreserved category in the Written Test were accommodated in the unreserved category.
Accordingly, in setting aside the order of the Tribunal and affirming the selection process carried out by the WBPSC of allowing reserved candidates to avail of unreserved vacancies, the Court concluded:
In such circumstances, we are of the view that, since the reserved category candidates should have been placed in the unreserved category having taken no benefit in the selection process excepting those which have been extended to them under the statute and since, there being no prohibition for the reserved category candidates being considered merit wise in the unreserved category, after they take the statutory relaxation that they are entitled to, the Tribunal erred in upsetting the plausible view taken by the Public Service Commission. Tribunal had read a prohibition akin to one obtaining in the State of Gujarat when for this State no such prohibition exists.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 281
Case: Sahim Hossain & Ors. Vs. The State of West Bengal & Ors. and connected applications
Case No: WBST 34 of 2022 & connected applications
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