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'Decisions Of Expert Bodies Like PSC Should Not Be Lightly Interfered With' : Supreme Court Upholds UP Police Recruitment Process

Sohini Chowdhury
8 Jan 2022 5:19 AM GMT
Decisions Of Expert Bodies Like PSC Should Not Be Lightly Interfered With : Supreme Court Upholds UP Police Recruitment Process
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On Friday, the Supreme Court held that the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board had correctly applied the method of 'Normalisation' of marks at the stage of Written Examination as well as the Final merit list in the process of selection of candidates for the post of Sub-Inspector of Police, Platoon Commander and Fire Officer. A Bench comprising Justices...

On Friday, the Supreme Court held that the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board had correctly applied the method of 'Normalisation' of marks at the stage of Written Examination as well as the Final merit list in the process of selection of candidates for the post of Sub-Inspector of Police, Platoon Commander and Fire Officer.

A Bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit and Vineet Saran allowed the appeals filed challenging the order of the Special Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court, which had quashed the results of the examination of police officials in the State of Uttar Pradesh. The bench held that  'normalisation' was appropriately applied by the Uttar Pradesh Police Recruitment and Promotion Board ("Board") at the stage of written examination.

The Court also said that "the decisions made by expert bodies, including the Public Services Commissions,should not be lightly interfered with, unless instances of arbitrary and mala fide exercise of power are made out".

Factual Background

The Government of Uttar Pradesh issued a notification inviting online application forms from male candidates for filling up 2400 posts of Sub-Inspector of Police, 210 posts of Platoon Commander (Provincial Armed Constabulary) and 97 posts of Fire Officer (Grade-II) in State Police force. Another notification was issued on the same day for filling up posts of Sub-Inspector (Nagrik Police) for female candidates. As a large number of candidates applied for the examination, a further notification was issued on 28.06.2017 whereby it was stated that normalisation of marks would be done as per "Standardised Equi-percentile method" ("normalisation") used in MAH-MBA/MMS CET 2015.

Written examinations were conducted in 29 different sittings and all batches had different question papers. 11741 students went beyond the written rounds to participate in the "Physical Standards Test" and "Physical Efficiency Test". 5461 candidates secured more than 50% actual marks after written examination and 5713 candidates secured more than 50% marks after 'normalisation'.

Some candidates who had secured more than 50% actual marks filed a Writ Petition on October, 2018 in the Allahabad High Court challenging the application of the normalisation process. Their contention was that candidates who had not secured more than 50% actual marks but secured more than 50% marks after normalisation were included in the selection process. In the meanwhile, the results were declared. Accordingly, the petition was amended to seek direction to quash the results. The Single Judge allowed the amendment application. Some unsuccessful candidates challenged the results before the Lucknow Bench and an interim order was passed restraining the Government from issuing any appointment letter till the next date of hearing. The said interim order was challenged by the selected candidate and the Division Bench modified the direction passed by the Single Judge to the effect that the Government could issue appointment letters, which were subjected to the final outcome of the writ petition. Some of the candidates challenged the order of the Division Bench before the Supreme Court, which refused to interfere with the order of the Division Bench, but requested the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to constitute a special bench to hear and dispose of the matters expeditiously.

In view of the order of the Supreme Court two Special Division Benches were constituted - one in Allahabad and the other in Lucknow. The Allahabad Bench allowed the petition challenging the normalisation process.

Contention raised by the Appellants

Additional Advocate General, Mr. Vinod Diwakar, appearing on behalf of the State of Uttar Pradesh, Senior Advocates, Mr. P.S. Patwalia, Dr. A.M. Singhvi, Mr. Vikas Singh, Mr. Vinay Navare, and Advocates Mr. Amit Pawan and Mr. Shoeb Alam, appearing on behalf of the candidates supporting the State argued -

a. The expression "marks" ought to be assigned the same meaning in Rules 15(b) and 15(e) of the Recruitment Rules. If normalisation was not introduced at the stage of Rule 15(b) some rightful claimants would have been eliminated.

b. As the written examination was conducted in 29 sessions and all had different question papers, some papers were tougher than the others and therefore there was a need to put the candidates on even keel, i.e., adoption of the normalisation process.

c. The condition of normalisation was introduced before the selection process had begun and all candidates were aware of the same.

d. There were no allegations of mala fides against the State.

e. The degree of difficulty in the question papers demanded normalisation, which was in consonance with the equality doctrine under Article 14 of the Constitution.

f. Reliance was placed on Sanjay Singh And Anr. v. U.P. Public Service Commission, Allahabad And Anr. (2007) 3 SCC 720 to aver that normalisation would not be permissible only in peculiar fact situations.

g. Wherever a large number of candidates appear for an exam and wherever there are multiple question papers, a normalisation process is introduced to uphold the principles of equality.

h. The respondents did not contend that normalisation should not have been adopted, but they have only opposed the adoption of the same at the level of Rule 15(b).

i. In service matters the extent of review being limited leeway ought to be given to the authorities if their actions are fair, transparent and uniform.

Contentions raised by the Respondents

Senior Advocates, Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, Mr. Kapil Sibal, Mr. V. Giri, Ms. V. Mohana, Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, Mr. Pallav Shishodia, and Advocates Ms. Bansuri Swaraj and Mr. Anand Verma, appearing on behalf of the Respondent candidates argued -

a. Parameters ought to be clear and well defined rather than undergoing modification depending on the level of difficulty that the other candidates have to face.

b. Normalisation process was not to be introduced at the level of Rule 15(b) and the requirement ought to have been 50% of the actual marks (percent) and not normalised marks (percentile) in the written examination.

c. Normalised score is to be relied upon only to decide the inter se merit amongst candidates and not for disqualification.

d. When the rule making authority had set the condition to be 50% of the actual marks, the Board as a sub-delegate had no power to modify the requirement.

e. The candidates were not made aware of the factors to be considered in the process of normalisation.

f. The written exam was for 400 marks comprising four subjects. It might be so that one paper is tougher while the other papers are simpler.

Analysis by the Supreme Court

Adoption of the process of Normalisation is justified

The Court observed that the governing law, Uttar Pradesh Sub-Inspectors and Inspectors (Civil Police) Service Rules, 2008 was amended by the Uttar Pradesh Sub-Inspector and Inspector (Civil Police) Service Rules, 2015 on 19th August 2015 and by the Uttar Pradesh Sub-Inspector and Inspector (Civil Police) Service (First Amendment) Rules, 2015 on 03rd December 2015. As per the amended rules the Board has been given the power to decide the manner in which written examination is to be conducted. The Court noted that the Board was well within its powers under Rule 15(b) of the Amended Rules to publish the order for normalisation after considering the large number of applications. The candidates were also informed well in advance about the adoption of the method of normalisation. The Court relied on U.P. Public Service Commission v. Subhash Chandra And Ors. (2013) 12 SCC 701, wherein it had upheld 'scaling' and identified it as a recognised method to bring actual marks in different subjects to a common scale. Citing Mahinder Kumar And Ors. v. High Court of Madhya Pradesh And Ors. (2013) 11 SCC 87, the Court noted that therein it had affirmed the decision of the High Court to adopt the process of normalisation. Considering the facts that 6.3 lakh applications were received; the candidates were tested on different days; in 29 different batches; through different sets of question papers, which differed in quality and approach, the Court opined that the 'Scaling of Marks'/normalisation had to be adopted.

Normalisation would be applicable at the level of Written examination [Rule 15(b)] as well as the Final Merit List [Rule 15(e)]

The Court observed that both Rule 15(b) and Rule 15(e) referred to the expression "marks".

"Rule 15(b) of Recruitment Rules requires every candidate to obtain minimum 50% marks in each of the subjects and states, "candidates failing to obtain 50% marks in each of the above subjects shall not be eligible for recruitment". Rule 15(e) requires the Board to prepare a select list of each category of candidates, "on the basis of marks obtained by each candidate in written examination under clause (b)"."

It was the opinion of the Court that if "marks" is considered as actual marks it would go against the essence of normalisation and the principle of equality. Further, it noted that if the argument of the respondent is considered and the normalisation is permitted only at the level of Rule 15(e) then it can result in three incongruent situations.

a. A person, in the final analysis, may have failed to secure more than 50% normalised score in a subject or subjects and yet be part of the Select List;

b. Those who have secured more than 50% normalised score but less than 50% actual score will not be considered as they cannot pass the level of Rule 15(b);

c. The expression "Candidates failing to obtain 50% marks in each of the above subject shall not be eligible for recruitment" in Rule 15(b) will have to be treated differently as against the preparation of a select list in Rule 15(e) "on the basis of marks obtained by each candidate in written examination under clause (b)".

Upon close scrutiny, it was held by the Court that the Board was justified in adopting the process of normalisation at the initial stage i.e. at the level of Rule 15(b) of Recruitment Rules as it was consistent with the requirements of law.

However, it observed that both candidates who had secured more than 50% actual marks and those who got more than 50% normalised scores were permitted to participate in further stages, but some candidates belonging to the former category were finally disqualified. The Court instructed the State to consider giving some weightage and/or age relaxation to such candidates in the next selection process.

Case Name: State of Uttar Pradesh And Ors. v. Atul Kumar Dwivedi And Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 20

Case No. and Date: Civil Appeal No. 228 of 2022 | 7 Jan 2022

Corum: Justices U.U. Lalit and Vineet Saran

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment



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