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General Category Is Open To All Meritorious Candidates, Regardless Of Them Falling In Reserved Or Unreserved Category: Gujarat High Court

Padmakshi Sharma
11 Jun 2022 6:30 AM GMT
General Category Is Open To All Meritorious Candidates, Regardless Of Them Falling In Reserved Or Unreserved Category: Gujarat High Court
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The Gujarat High Court has held that a reserved category meritorious candidate should be allowed to merge in the class of unreserved category because of his own merits, as depriving such candidate from securing a birth in the unreserved category results into communally dividing a homogeneous class of meritorious candidates. In this case, an advertisement for the post of...

The Gujarat High Court has held that a reserved category meritorious candidate should be allowed to merge in the class of unreserved category because of his own merits, as depriving such candidate from securing a birth in the unreserved category results into communally dividing a homogeneous class of meritorious candidates.

In this case, an advertisement for the post of Sub-Inspector, Class III was issued by the Recruitment Board inviting online applications for a total of 1,382 posts to be filled in. The petitioners are candidates who took the preliminary examination and aspire to appear for the main examination.

As per the Rule 8(f) of the Posts of Sub Inspector, Class III (Combined, Competitive Examination for Direct Recruitment) Rules, 2021, the number of candidates that were to be called for the purpose of appearing in the main examination were three times the candidates of each category i.e. reserved category and general category to the number of vacancies notified.

The petitioners prayed for a direction that the action of the PSI Recruitment Board of including reserved category candidates in the list of general category candidates in the merit list of the preliminary exams is unlawful and in violation of Article 14, 15, 16 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The petitioners further prayed that a fresh merit list of candidates for appearing in the main examination should be prepared by calling upon three times the candidates of each category without including candidates of the reserved category in general category for the purpose of recruitment.

The petitioners submitted that the respondents, rather than calling three times the number of candidates category wise, have included candidates belonging to the reserved category in the general category as well. It was their contention that this has resulted in restricting large number of candidates of general category. Further, the merit cut off for the reserved category has become higher resulting into the exclusion of some of the petitioners who belonged to the reserved category.

It was submitted that by clubbing together general and reserved categories candidates together the respondents have applied the Rule of Migration in preparing the merit list. However, the Rule of Migration is to be applied only after the stage of main examination and not for the purposes of calling of candidates at the preliminary examination stage. Applying the Rule of Migration at the stage of preliminary examination, which is purely for screening purposes and then applying the same for main examination would amount to double reservation.

Petitioners relied upon the case of Sunita Meena v. Rajasthan High Court and S. Jaffer Saheb and others v. State of Andhra Pradesh to establish the same.

Per contra, the Respondents submitted that there is nothing like general categories and reserved categories. As per the respondents, it is settled that the term 'general categories' means a category open to all meritorious candidates, regardless of the fact that they belong to the reserved categories. Reliance was placed upon Bihari Lal Rada v. Anil Jain (2009(4) SCC, 1) and Saurav Yadav and others v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2021 (4) SCC, 542) to establish the same. The respondents further stated that the term "general category" cannot have two different meanings at two stages i.e. one meaning at the time of preliminary examination and different meaning at the time of main examination.

In order to establish their point, the respondents provided three scenarios. In the first scenario, which was sought by the Petitioners, the Recruitment Board would not have to consider reserved category candidates in General category, though meritorious. In the second scenario, consideration of meritorious candidates would be done irrespective of category. Finally, in the third scenario, it was assumed that the Recruitment Board had also considered 'meritorious reserved candidates', who have not availed of any relaxation in terms of age and physical standards, in 'General Category'.

Through these scenarios, the respondents highlighted that as per Rule 8(f), when it comes to choosing the number of candidates to be called for the preliminary examinations, especially when a large number of candidates have appeared, the number lower in the present case i.e. only a figure three times the number of vacancies have to be called. Thus, if all general category male candidates three times the number have to be called, i.e. 1,272 general male, the cut off marks in this category would be 51.25 marks. Considering the category of SC male, 147 top SC male would have to be considered making the cut off marks in this category to 71.25 marks. Since the cut off marks for general male category would be 51.25 lower than 71.25 for the SC male, the cut off for SC male would have to be lowered to 51.25. It is demonstrated from the "Scenario 1" that once the cut off is revised in all categories with the benchmark of 51.25 of the General male, the number of additional candidates to be called for the main examinations would be 19,637 and, therefore, in all 23,788 candidates will have to be called for main examinations for a total posts of 1,382 which would be against the mandate of Rule 8(f) of the examination Rules.

The court opined that–

"Keeping in mind the object of the screening test, which is to eliminate unduly large number of persons to appear for the main examinations, if more candidates are called by declaring the results as conceived by the petitioners, the object of Rule 8(f) would be frustrated. The argument on behalf of the State is that policy of reservation has not been given a go-bye and the concept of reservation in tandem with merit has been followed keeping in mind that as per the Rules when qualifying standards are same for the preliminary examinations and the main examinations, then, there is no separate category like General Category and Reserved Category and persons belonging to all categories as Open Category candidates are called and find their place on the list who are otherwise qualified."

Here, the State has, keeping merit as the foremost principle in mind and also the mandate of the Rules, called all meritorious candidates regardless of the fact that they belong to reserved categories or non-reserved categories.

As per Rule 12 of the Rules, the Court permitted the Board to fix the qualifying standard for the preliminary examinations and the main examinations for the candidates of the respective categories but it further specified that the minimum qualifying standard that may be determined shall not in any case be less than 40% of the marks in the preliminary examinations and main examinations. Therefore, there cannot be two different meanings of the term "General Category," one at the time of preliminary examinations and a different meaning at the time of main examinations.

The court relied upon the case of Tammanaben Ashokbhai Desai v. Shital Amrutlal Nishar which dealt with the concept of horizontal and vertical reservations. In this case, the court held that it was irrelevant whether the reservation provided for was vertical or horizontal; there could not be two interpretations of the words "open categories." The court also relied upon Kishor Chaudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh to state that the principle of merit would apply at all stages of selection. This judgement established the following–

"…both vertical and horizontal, are method of ensuring representation in public services. These are not to be seen as rigid "slots", where a candidate's merit, which otherwise entitles her to be shown in the open general category, is foreclosed, as the consequence would be, if the state's argument is accepted. Doing so, would result in a communal reservation, where each social category is confined within the extent of their reservation, thus negating merit. The open category is open to all, and the only condition for a candidate to be shown in it is merit, regardless of whether reservation benefit of either type is available to her or him."

It was found that the State had evolved the concept of merit while considering the policy of reservation in context of the law laid down by the Apex Court- that is, the open category is open to all candidates based on their merit. Thus, the present petition was dismissed by the court.

Case Title : JATINKUMAR KISHORKUMAR BHATT Versus STATE OF GUJARAT

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Guj) 202

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment

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