21 November 2022


Judgments

Supreme Court

Commissioner Of Police vs. Raj Kumar

MANU/SC/0565/2021

25.08.2021

Service

Courts exercising judicial review cannot second guess the suitability of a candidate for any public office or post

The Commissioner of Police, Delhi (“the Appellant”) is in appeal, aggrieved by a common judgment of the High Court by which the Respondents (“candidates/applicants”) were directed to be considered for appointment to the post of Constable of Delhi Police.

An advertisement was issued in the year 2009, inviting applications from eligible candidates to fill up vacancies in the cadre of constable in the Delhi Police. It is not in dispute that, the Respondent candidates, in their applications, disclosed that criminal cases had been instituted against them – as well as the outcome of those cases. By various orders, which were impugned in separate proceedings by the candidates, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) allowed the applications of the candidates, upholding their pleas, and quashing the orders of the Screening Committees. All the orders of the CAT were impugned by the Appellant before the High Court. They were dealt with and considered by the common impugned order, which rejected the Appellant’s petitions, under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

The main argument by the candidates was that, having regard to the terms of the applicable Standing Order as well as the decisions of this Court, the rejection of their candidature was unsustainable because of non-application of mind and further, the orders were made in a mechanical manner. By the impugned order, the Division Bench allowed the writ petitions and quashed the rejection of the candidatures of the Respondents.

Courts exercising judicial review cannot second guess the suitability of a candidate for any public office or post. Absent evidence of malice or mindlessness (to the materials), or illegality by the public employer, an intense scrutiny on why a candidate is excluded as unsuitable renders the Courts' decision suspect to the charge of trespass into executive power of determining suitability of an individual for appointment.

Public service - like any other, pre-supposes that the state employer has an element of latitude or choice on who should enter its service. Norms, based on principles, govern essential aspects such as qualification, experience, age, number of attempts permitted to a candidate, etc. These, broadly constitute eligibility conditions required of each candidate or applicant aspiring to enter public service. Judicial review, under the Constitution, is permissible to ensure that those norms are fair and reasonable, and applied fairly, in a non-discriminatory manner. However, suitability is entirely different; the autonomy or choice of the public employer is greatest, as long as the process of decision making is neither illegal nor unfair or lacking in bona fides.

The High Court’s approach, evident from its observations about the youth and age of the candidates, appears to hint at the general acceptability of behaviour which involves petty crime or misdemeanour. The impugned order indicates a broad view that, such misdemeanour should not be taken seriously, given the age of the youth and the rural setting. Present Court is of opinion that such generalizations, leading to condonation of the offender’s conduct, should not enter the judicial verdict and should be avoided. Impugned judgment is quashed. Appeals allowed.

Tags : Appointment Direction Legality

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