The Supreme Court has held that once a person took part in the process of selection and was not found fit for appointment, the said person was estopped from challenging the process of selection. This was in a contest between two Music Teachers claiming appointment in a school under the management of Church of South India. There were two schools under the management- Samuel LMS High School, and Light of the Blind School, which was meant for visually challenged students.
One Helen Thilakom was working as a part-time music teacher in the Light of the Blind School. Selection process for direct recruitment for full-time music teacher in Samuel School was notified. Helen participated in the selection process. But she was rejected, and one Sarojakumari got selected. Thereupon, Helen challenged the selection process contending that the vacancy in Samuel School could not have been filled up by direct recruitment. She contended that she was entitled for promotion to the post, reckoning her service in Light of Blind School.
The Departmental Authorities did not accept the challenge of Helen, on ground that both the schools could not be treated as falling under one unit, as Light of Blind School was a special school catering to the needs of visually challenged. So, it was pointed out that there could not be any common seniority list for both schools, though they were under same management.
However, the High Court accepted the challenge of Helen, and held that she was entitled to promotion, treating both schools as falling under same unit. Sarojakumari had resisted the challenge stating that Helen was estopped from contending that no direct recruitment could be held, after having taken part in the selection process. But the said contention was rejected, and Sarojakumari was shown the door by HC.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal of Sarojakumar, accepting her contention based on estoppels. Drawing support from D.G. Sarna v. University of Lucknow (1976) 3 SCC 585, Madan Lal v. State of J&K (1995) 3 SCC 486 and Manish Kumar Shahi v. State of Bihar (2010) 12 SCC 576, it was held that an unsuccessful participate cannot turn around and challenge the selection process, after participating in it without any challenge. It was observed as follows :
Respondent No.1 did not raise any objection at that stage that the post could not be filled in by direct recruitment and she should be considered for promotion. Not only that, she in fact, applied for the post and took part in the selection process. After having taken part in the selection process and being found lower in merit to the appellant, she cannot at this stage be permitted to turn around and claim that the post could not be filled in by direct recruitment. The reasoning of the learned Single Judge in rejecting the objection is not in consonance with the law laid down by this Court.