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Giving Extra Chance For A Few In UPSC Exams Will Have A Cascading Effect On Other Examinations :SC

Radhika Roy
24 Feb 2021 1:15 PM GMT
Giving Extra Chance For A Few In UPSC Exams Will Have A Cascading Effect On Other Examinations :SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a writ petition seeking for an additional chance for Civil Services candidates who had exhausted their last attempt in October 2020 at giving the UPSC examination. The judgement, authored by Justice Ajay Rastogi, notes that the Petitioners had approached the Court for an additional attempt when they failed to achieve their goal of...

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a writ petition seeking for an additional chance for Civil Services candidates who had exhausted their last attempt in October 2020 at giving the UPSC examination.

The judgement, authored by Justice Ajay Rastogi, notes that the Petitioners had approached the Court for an additional attempt when they failed to achieve their goal of qualifying the Civil Services Examination, 2020, which had been held on October 4th, 2020, and were barred from attempting the exam in the future on account of exhausting of available attempts or due to the age bar.


It has been stated that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UPSC had postponed the preliminary examination, which was to be held on 31st May, 2020, to October 4th, 2020. Objections had been submitted by several candidates and accordingly, UPSC allowed the candidates to submit their revised choice of examination centre and even extend the window for withdrawal of application.

"The Court can take judicial notice of the fact that after a second opportunity was afforded to the candidates for withdrawal of the application, only such of the candidates were left who had made up their mind and were mentally prepared to appear in the ensuing preliminary examination which was scheduled to be held on 4th October, 2020".

Pleas had also been filed seeking postponement of the examination and for relaxation in upper age limit as well as an additional attempt. However, the Court did not issue any directions to UPSC, but it did express the possibility of the same being explored by the concerned authorities.

Post the examination, the candidates who had failed to qualify the exam approached the Court and the Court took note of the fact that decision pertaining to an additional attempt was still pending before the authority.

On 5th February, a decision was taken by the Centre and placed for perusal "in which it was agree in principle to give one time restricted relaxation, limited to CSE 2021 to only those candidates who appeared in Examination 2020 as their last permissible attempt and otherwise are not age-barred from appearing in CSE 2021…".


The Petitioners had submitted before the Court that the "sudden and strict lockdown due to the unprecedented pandemic in March 2020" had disrupted the lives of a common man and had created impediments in the preparation of the aspirants, with many being rendered with no choice but to give the exam despite inadequate preparation, basic facilities and infrastructure.

Arguments were made by Senior Advocate Shyam Divan who submitted that the Court had the power as well as the duty to relax the restrictions.

Further, especially in the case of last attemptees, there was no choice left for them to leave the exam and take care of their health, but to sit for the exam "despite the lack of opportunity to prepare which is in violation of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India".

It had also been contended by the Intervenors that the decision to not provide relaxation to age-barred candidates was not a rational decision and no such classification could be made amongst the group of candidate who had appeared for CSE 2020, and that there was a need to take a holistic and lenient view of the situation, and that it would not affect the integrity of the examination.

The Respondents, per contra, submitted that the syllabus of the examination has not changed since 2015, and that an examination of this nature is not possible for a candidate to prepare at the last moment. Further, going by the age-limit, a candidate appearing for their last attempt would have adequate experience.

It was also to be noted that UPSC had already provided five additional months to prepare for the examination and to compensate for the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that granting an extra attempt would result in hardships being caused to those candidates who are appearing for CSE 2021, resulting in discrimination.

These submissions were made by ASG SV Raju who opposed the granting of an extra chance for last attempt candidates in the CSE.


The Court observed that the question before them was whether the Petitioners/Intervenors and other similarly placed candidates are entitled to another/additional chance for CSE 2021 on account of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

The Judgement states that while what is prayed by the Petitioners "in the first blush appears to be attractive but it lacks legal strength and foundation for various reasons".

Present Petitioners' complaint cannot be taken into isolation

The Judgement states that the State Commissions/recruiting agencies must have conducted their examinations/recruitment tests for various services and merely because the present Petitioners have made a complaint to the Court, their prayer cannot be taken into isolation and does not give them a legitimate right to claim additional attempt/benefit, which is otherwise not permissible under the scheme of Rules 2020.

Further, it has been observed that "…what is being claimed and prayed for under the guise of COVID 19 pandemic is nothing but a lame excuse in taking additional attempt to participate in the Civil Service Examination 2021 to be held in the future…".

"The data furnished to this Court by the Commission clearly indicate that various selections have been held by the Commission for the Central Services…, if this Court shows indulgence to few who had participated in the Examination 2020, it well set down a precedent and also have a cascading effect on examinations in other streams, for which we are dissuaded to exercise plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution."

Solely providing relaxation to candidates who are not age-barred is discriminatory

The Judgement goes on to record that Rule 4 and Rule 6 of the Rules for Competitive Examination, 2020 prescribe the eligibility with regard to number of attempts and age respectively, with Rule 6 categorically stating that the age-limits prescribed can in no case be relaxed.

"So far as the candidates who appear in the general category and have crossed the age of 32 years, no discretion is left with the authority to grant any relaxation in upper age limit prescribed for the candidates appeared in the instant Examination 2020".

When the Centre decided to provide a one-time relaxation to candidates who were not age-barred, it had been opposed by the Petitioners on the ground that excluding those who were age-barred was discriminatory.

The Court has found in the submission of the Petitioners and noted that all attemptees, irrespective of the nature of attempts, must have faced the same consequences as a result of the pandemic and consequently, it would be advisable to avoid any concession that is not envisaged by the Rules.

"….we are also of the view that it is advisable to avoid this situation and any relaxation which is not permissible either in attempt or age under the scheme of Rules 2020 apart from being in contravention to the rules, it may be discriminatory and it is advisable not to exercise discretion in implementing what is being proposed by the 1st respondent in compliance of the order of this Court dated 30th September, 2020".

No substance in submission of Petitioners that Respondent has exercised discretion in earlier selections

The Court observed that there was no substance in the submission of the Petitioners that the Respondent had exercised discretion as a matter of policy in earlier selections and that the Petitioners had a legitimate expectation that the Government would do the same in the instant matter in view of the unprecedented situation.

This was rejected "for the reason that the policy decisions which had been taken by the executive on earlier occasions of which a reference has been made always depend on the facts and circumstances at the given point of time and has to be tested independently in the circumstances in which it has been exercised by the competent authority or the 1st respondent as in the instant case".

Judicial review of policy decision and issuing mandamus to frame policy in a particular manner are absolutely different

The Court has held that while it is within the realm of the executive to take a policy decision based on the prevailing circumstances for better administration and in meeting out the exigencies but at the same time, it is not within the domain of the Courts to legislate. Therefore, in the given situation, no assistance can be claimed by the Petitioners in seeking mandamus to the Centre to come out with a policy granting relaxation.

'Life has to move on in COVID'

The court also observed :

"..the Covid­19 pandemic has left its footprints for us to learn from the unprecedented situation, which everyone has come across and suddenly changed the lifestyle of every individual in the society, his way of working, from social security to individual human rights, from macro economy to household income and has made us more stronger to face, if any difficult situation arises in future and this is what by experience we learn. There is an old saying "there is good in every evil". Still life has to move on in all situations, and this is what this country has faced, but resiliently fought back this unprecedented situation and the economy and life of the common man is on the path towards normalcy in a short period of time than expected"

In light of the above, the Supreme Court has dismissed the writ petition.

Case Details

Title : Rachna v Union of India

Coram : Justices AM Khanwilkar, Ajay Rastogi and Indira Banerjee

Citation : LL 2021 SC 110

Click here to read/download the judgment

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