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"It Was An Unprecedented Situation" : Supreme Court Reinstates Judicial Officer Whose Appointment Was Cancelled For Not Joining Service During Nationwide Lockdown

Ashok KM
6 March 2022 7:45 AM GMT
It Was An Unprecedented Situation : Supreme Court Reinstates Judicial Officer Whose Appointment Was Cancelled For Not Joining Service During Nationwide Lockdown
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The Supreme Court reinstated a judicial officer whose appointment was cancelled since he could not join the service before stipulated date on account of the nationwide lockdown imposed in view of Covid-19 pandemic."There was considerable confusion also about what a person could do and what a person could not do during the time of the lockdown. It was an unprecedented situation which affected...

The Supreme Court reinstated a judicial officer whose appointment was cancelled since he could not join the service before stipulated date on account of the nationwide lockdown imposed in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

"There was considerable confusion also about what a person could do and what a person could not do during the time of the lockdown. It was an unprecedented situation which affected the nation", the bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy observed. The court added that it cannot ignore the reality that restrictions imposed during lockdown were severe and stringent.

Rakesh Kumar was appointed as probationary Civil Judge (Junior Division) on 06.01.2020. In terms of the notification, he was to join on 31.01.2020, but by considering his representation citing personal difficulties, he was granted time till April, 2020. On 24th March 2020, nationwide lockdown was declared in view of covid-19 pandemic. He filed repeated representations in June 2020 to allow him to join the service. However, his appointment was cancelled. He approached the Patna High Court challenging this cancellation notification, but it refused to interfere.

While considering his appeal, the bench noticed that there is no law which would support the cancellation of the candidature of the selected candidate if he seeks to join beyond a particular point of time. The bench however observed that the orders of the High Court refusing to permit him to join cannot be described as a perverse or totally illegal decision. It said:

It is no doubt true that there is no absolute right with the candidate to insist that he should be permitted to join beyond the date. We reiterate that this would be so even in the absence of statutory rule. We are dealing with services of judicial officer who is expected to undergo training. In fact, there are certain deadlines which have been fixed by this Court in litigation relating to appointment/recruitment of judicial officers. 

However, noticing that this is not a case where there is a complete dearth of any explanation by the candidate, the bench observed thus while allowing the appeal. The court said that it cannot ignore the reality, namely, that restrictions imposed consequent upon COVID 19 enveloping the nation were rather severe and stringent.

"Travel both by Air and by train was prohibited. It is not in dispute that flights were not permitted till 25.05.2020. It is not disputed that there were restrictions in the matter of travel by train and priority was given to migrants. Likewise, it is not in the region of dispute that unlock 1.0 came into effect from 01.06.2020. There were other restrictions in the form of pass to be secured for traveling outside the district where the person was located.", the court said.

The bench, while restoring his appointment, clarified that he will not be entitled to claim seniority/backwages. It said:

"There was considerable confusion also about what a person could do and what a person could not do during the time of the lockdown. It was an unprecedented situation which affected the nation to which Nagpur was certainly not impervious. We would think that, in the facts of this case, besides noticing also the fact that the appellant hailing from a marginalized community has been recruited and has been appointed to the judicial services of the State, we should take a view which conduces to justice in a larger sense and for his entry and for his continuation in service"

Headnotes

Summary - Appeal against Bombay HC judgment which refused to interfere with cancellation of appointment of appellant judicial officer who could not join before prescribed date due to nationwide lockdown imposed in view of covid-19 pandemic - Allowed - It is not a case where there is a complete dearth of any explanation by the candidate - There was considerable confusion also about what a person could do and what a person could not do during the time of the lockdown. It was an unprecedented situation which affected the nation - Impugned notification quashed and appointment restored - The appellant will not be entitled to claim seniority/backwages.

Public Employment - Appointment - There is no absolute right with the candidate to insist that he should be permitted to join beyond the date - But there is no law which would support the cancellation of the candidature of the selected candidate if he seeks to join beyond a particular point of time. (Para 18,16)

Case : Rakesh Kumar vs State of Bihar | CA 1517 of 2022 |  18 Feb 2022

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 250

Coram: Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy

Counsel: Adv M. Shoeb Alam, AOR Fauzia Shakil for appellant, AOR Gaurav Agrawal , AOR Azmat Hayat Amanullah for respondents


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