12 Feb 2024 5:35 AM GMT
Recently, the Supreme Court has observed that the courts should not give a hypertechnical interpretation to the clause(s) that would nullify the effect of the corrigendum/instructions. Reversing the findings of the High Court, the Bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Satish Chandra Sharma, directed the Union to consider the selection of a female candidate, who was selected as a Sales...
Recently, the Supreme Court has observed that the courts should not give a hypertechnical interpretation to the clause(s) that would nullify the effect of the corrigendum/instructions.
Reversing the findings of the High Court, the Bench comprising Justices Vikram Nath and Satish Chandra Sharma, directed the Union to consider the selection of a female candidate, who was selected as a Sales Tax Officer, in a 'female reserved category' in place of open general category and provide benefits thereon.
The gist of the dispute was that the advertisement was published calling for the recruitment of person(s) to the gazetted post of 'Group A' and 'Group B' officers under the Government of Maharashtra. The Advertisement contemplated the benefit of inter alia female reservation subject to certain prerequisites which included (i) that the candidate must be a domicile of Maharashtra; and (ii) that the candidate must belong to the Non-Creamy Layer (“NCL”).
The female candidate (appellant) belonging to the NCL category had submitted her application for the aforesaid examination under the 'Open General Category' on account of her inability to produce a valid NCL Certificate as on the last date of submission of the application form. However admittedly, and undoubtedly the Appellant was otherwise eligible to apply under 'Reserved Female Category' qua the underlying examination being conducted according to the Impugned Advertisement.
After clearing the preliminary and mains examinations, the appellant was selected as a Sales Tax Officer in the GST Department. Thereafter, a corrigendum was released by the government which enabled the appellant to submit an NCL Certificate as against an NCL Certificate which had to have been valid as on the last date of submission of the application form i.e., 01.06.2022.
In light of a change due to corrigendum, the appellant sought that her selection would be considered in the 'female reserved category' in place of the open general category. But, her application was turned down by the department, and subsequently by the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal and High Court.
The High Court dismissed the Writ Petition of the appellant on the note that if the appellant is allowed to change her category, it will open a floodgate of litigation, as observed by the Tribunal.
"merely because a corrigendum is issued, the Petitioner cannot be allowed to change the category at this stage, more so, on background of the general instructions to the candidate contained in paragraph Nos.184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11, which does not permit to make any changes once the form is filled in. If the Petitioner was desirous of making an Application for general women category, she ought to have obtained the NCL in advance showing diligence, which she has failed." the High Court observed.
Assailing the impugned order of the High Court, the appellant has preferred the civil appeal before the Supreme Court.
At the outset, after perusing the advertisement and corrigendum pertaining to recruitment, the court noticed that the corrigendum has enabled the appellant to furnish an NCL Certificate pertaining to the current financial year.
“Upon a perusal of Paragraph 5.10 read with Paragraph 5.14 of the Impugned Advertisement, it is clear that any application under the 'Reserved Female Category' was to be supported by an NCL Certificate that was valid as on the last date of submission of the application form i.e., 01.06.2022. Subsequently, vide the issuance of the Corrigendum, the aforenoted position changed; and candidates were now eligible to furnish an NCL Certificate pertaining to the current financial year.”
The court held that the change in the application submitted pursuant to the Impugned Advertisement, could not have been interpreted in such a manner so as to nullify the effect of the Corrigendum.
The court disagreed with the government's contention that the appellant wouldn't be allowed to function in the 'female reserved category' as she didn't mark 'Yes' in front of question asking whether the applicant possessed the NCL certificate.
“The aforenoted conduct of the Appellant is bona-fide. Accordingly, in our view the Appellant cannot be unfairly deprived of the benefit of female reservation merely on account of the Appellant's honesty and restraint which did not allow her to mark 'yes' against a column inquiring about a prospective candidates' status as a person belonging to the NCL, in the absence of the underlying supporting document.”
Further, the court expressed displeasure with the hyper-technical interpretation adopted by the High Court while rejecting the claim of the appellant based on corrigendum to be selected in the 'female reserved category' rather than the open general category.
“In our considered opinion, the High Court adopted a hypertechnical interpretation of the Instructions without appreciating that such an interpretation would nullify the effect of the Corrigendum. Such an interpretation ought not to have been adopted especially in light of the fact that other persons have been granted the benefit of the Corrigendum; and that the Respondent has relaxed the Instructions qua such persons so as to enable valid NCL Certificates to be furnished.”
“Accordingly, taking note of the peculiar facts of the case; and that the Appellant is a meritorious candidate who has cleared the main examination under the 'Open General Category' despite being deserving of the benefit of female reservation, we are inclined to balance the equities and do justice by exercising our power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly, we direct the Respondent to forthwith treat the Appellant as a candidate under the 'Reserved Female Category'.”, the court noted while setting aside the impugned/underlying order.
PRIYANKA PRAKASH KULKARNI VERSUS MAHARASHTRA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Citation : 2024 LiveLaw (SC) 107
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