Emphasising that the high court could not have withheld name of a candidate for appointment to Tripura Judicial Service Grade-I without any specific reasons, the Tripura High Court has directed its Registrar General to recommend the name of a candidate to the state government for appointment to a post of Additional District and Sessions Judge lying vacant.
A bench of Chief Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Arindam Lodh also said the full court cannot make a second opinion on the merits of the candidate once his suitability has been judged through written and oral examinations.
The order of the court came on a petition moved by Yoginder Pal praying for direction to the High Court of Tripura to recommend his name to the State Government for appointment to Tripura Judicial Service Grade-I with consequential benefits.
Pal along with one other candidate named Anshuman had cleared the written examination and viva voce for direct recruitment to two vacancies of Grade-I Tripura Judicial Service advertised by the high court in October, 2018.
Despite being placed at serial number 2 in the merit list, the High Court recommended only the name of Anshuman Chowdhury for appointment to the said post.
Pal made a representation dated 21.05.2019 to the High Court which rejected the same. He then approached the Supreme Court but withdrew the petition with a liberty to approach the High Court.
Pal's counsel Prashant Manchanda submitted that the two vacancies notified by the high court were for reserved category candidates. "Since not a single reserved category candidate was available, as in the case of Anshuman Chowdhury the petitioner should also have been appointed. No reasons are cited for not appointing the petitioner or for rejecting his representation," he contended.
Relying on Malik Mazhar Sultan and another vs Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission and others in which the Supreme Court has stressed on the requirement of timely recruitments in the judicial posts, Manchanda submitted that in the instant case a vacancy as well as suitable candidate were both available despite which the High Court without any justification refused to recommend the petitioner for appointment.
The counsel for the high court opposed the petition contending that the petitioner has no vested right to be appointed merely because his name is placed in the merit list.
She submitted that the Full Court considered the suitability of the petitioner and found that his name should not be recommended for appointment.
The high court took note of Rule 11 of the Tripura Judicial Service Rules according to which no person selected for direct recruitment shall be appointed unless he possesses a good moral character and is medically fit.
After considering the resolution of the full court, the bench said, "The respondents have not pressed in service either the ground of the petitioner lacking in good moral character or physical fitness. His appointment could have been thwarted only on the ground of his unsuitability which had to be based on material on record.
"Once the entire selection process was completed, the task of evaluating the candidates undertaken and the petitioner was awarded marks which warranted his being included in the merit list, the High Court could not have withheld his name from recommendation on the ground that he was not suitable for appointment without any material on record. His suitability on the basis of competence had to be judged only through the written and the oral examinations. The Full Court could not thereafter make a second opinion on his merit to be appointed to the post in question. Reference to his suitability contained in clause (i) of sub-rule (1) of Rule 11 certainly would not include judging of the competence of the candidate for which the Rules envisage full scale written as well as oral examinations".
The court, however, added that the petitioner cannot claim seniority from the back date.
"His recommendation would be prospective. He must, however, get an appointment ahead of any other candidate selected pursuant to subsequent selection process for the post in question. In the result, it is provided that the respondent No.1 shall recommend the name of the petitioner to the Government for appointment to Tripura Judicial Service Grade-I post which we are informed is vacant at present. The State Government thereafter shall act in accordance with such recommendations after completing necessary formalities, such as medical and antecedent verifications. Entire exercise shall be completed within a period of three months from today".
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