4 Aug 2022 5:33 AM GMT
The Sikkim High Court recently dismissed a petition challenging the Sikkim State Subordinate Fisheries Service (Amendment) Rules, 2019 which did away with the age relaxation given to the ST, SC, MBC and OBC candidates by the Fisheries Rules, 2008. Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan observed that it is open for the government while framing rules under the proviso to Article 309 of...
The Sikkim High Court recently dismissed a petition challenging the Sikkim State Subordinate Fisheries Service (Amendment) Rules, 2019 which did away with the age relaxation given to the ST, SC, MBC and OBC candidates by the Fisheries Rules, 2008.
Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan observed that it is open for the government while framing rules under the proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India to prescribe such age limits or to prescribe the extent to which any relaxation can be given.
"The issue whether the State has the power to frame rules under the proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India to prescribe age limits or the extent of relaxation to be given has been lucidly explained by the Supreme Court holding inter alia that it is open for the government while framing rules under the proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India to prescribe such age limits or to prescribe the extent to which any relaxation can be given. The Supreme Court further held that prescription of such limit or the extent of relaxation to be given cannot be termed as arbitrary or unreasonable. Thus, the challenge to the Amendment Rules, 2019 is rejected."
Article 309 empowers framing of Rules for recruitment and conditions of service of persons serving the Union or a State.
The present writ petition was filed by four petitioners. All of them were aspiring to join the Sub-ordinate Fisheries Service as Fisheries Block Officer. The controversy in the present case relates to the eligibility condition for the said post.
Fisheries Rules, 2008 stipulated age between 18 years to 30 years as an eligibility condition with relaxation of 5 years for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates and 3 years for Most Backward Classes (MBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) candidates. Petitioners 1 and 2 are SC and Petitioners 3 and 4 are OBC.
The 2019 Amendment Rules did away with this relaxation and subsequently, an advertisement was issued on 26.08.2021 for recruitment.
On 12.01.2022 the Public Service Commission published the rejected list of 96 candidates in which the petitioners featured. The rejection list stated that they were overage. The petitioners claimed that they had the necessary educational qualification and challenged the Amendment as being violative of Article 14, 16 and 335 (Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to services and posts) of the Constitution of India.
Petitioners submitted that although Article 335 of the Constitution of India is not enforceable however, it is the paramount duty of the welfare state to ensure that it achieves its purpose.
The Respondent-authorities argued standardization of age for all categories of candidates was a policy decision of the government which cannot be challenged by the writ petitioner more so when they themselves have participated in the selection process by making their online applications which were rejected.
It argued that the petitioners have failed to display how their rights under Article 14 or 16 were violated and in case the writ petition was to be allowed and a direction issued to give age relaxation, flood gates would open.
The respondent also argued that Article 335 of the Constitution of India must be read in consonance with Article 16 (4) of the Constitution of India.
After hearing both the sides the court was of opinion that there is a presumption that the notification was validly made by the government unless proved that it was not.
"The burden laid down by Section 101 and 102 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 has not substituted by the petitioners. Neither in the pleadings in the writ petition nor during arguments by the learned counsel for the petitioners it was shown that the Amendment Rules, 2019 was ultra vires the Constitution of India or any other law."
It added that the posts and services for recruitment in specific departments including any other posts and services which have specifically prescribed upper age limit lower than 30 years in their recruitment rules are kept outside the purview of the notification.
"The Amendment Rules, 2019 which amended the schedule seems to be in line with the policy decision of the Government when it prescribed that the incumbent should have attained the age of 21 years and should not have exceeded 30 years for all communities. The prayer of the petitioners for a direction upon the State respondents to relax the age prescribed in the Amendment Rules, 2019 with the strength of the judgment passed by the Jharkhand High Court cannot also be accepted as the circumstances prevailing in the State of Jharkhand when the judgment was passed cannot be equated with what has been pleaded in the present proceedings."
In view of the above the court was of opinion that scope of judicial review of policy decision of the government is very narrow and the present writ petition does not qualify as the exceptional one calling for interference. Accordingly, the writ was dismissed.
Case Title: Tshering Samdup Bhutia and Ors. v. State of Sikkim and Ors.
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw ( Sik) 7
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment