DELHI HC: THE COURT CANNOT TURN BLIND EYE WHEN THE SELECTION MECHANISM IS BEING IMPEDED, SUCCESSIVELY
The Single Hon'ble Judge, Justice Prathiba M. Singh held that the writ petition is maintainable filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India by the 20 Petitioners, who are State Civil Service Officers ('Non SCS'), of the State of Rajasthan and all aspirants are for appointment for the Indian Administrative Service ('IAS') of Rajasthan Cadre, for the year 2018.
The Petitioners had challenged the letter dated 31st December 2019 issued by the Union Public Service Commission("UPSC") vide which, their interviews scheduled to be held on 31st December 2019 and 1st January 2020, by the Selection Committee, were cancelled.
No steps were taken to hold these interviews, and the four vacancies, which were declared by the State of Rajasthan, have been subsumed in the vacancies for the next year.
The prayer of the Petitioners was that the Government of India should be directed to nominate its two Members to hold the interviews and the selection process should be allowed to proceed further, at the earliest. With respect to the maintainability of this writ petition on availability of 'alternative remedy' the learned counsel for the petitioners conceded that approaching the Central Administrative Tribunal, Jaipur (CAT) is always an option available, however he urged that there is a considerable urgency in this matter and expediency demands that the petition under Article 226 ought to be entertained as the plenary nature and existence of the alternate remedy does not take away the jurisdiction of this Court from dealing with the issue contained in the said Article.
Dr. Manish Singhvi, ld. Senior Counsel, appearing for the State of Rajasthan arguments were based on four-fold. Firstly, he submits that the main order dated 21st January 2020, which constitutes the real cause of action for the Petitioners, has not been challenged in the present petition.
Secondly, he submits that Section 14 of the Act would bar this court from entertaining this present writ petition. Thirdly, he submits that even if the matter is examined from the point of view of forum conveniens, since all the Officers belong to the State of Rajasthan and their appointment would be to the Rajasthan Cadre. Finally, he submits that this matter, must be filed before the CAT.
The Court considered three aspects while determining the maintainability of this writ petition (i) territorial jurisdiction of this court to hear this writ petition, (ii) forum non conveniens and (iii) the availability of an alternate remedy in the form of CAT under Section 14 of CAT Act, 1985. While assessing the territorial Jurisdiction the court observed "….this Court has territorial jurisdiction to entertain the present petition as the cause of action has arisen within the territory of Delhi, further because of the fact that both the UPSC, which was to conduct the interviews for drawing up the select list, and the Central Government, which failed to send the nominees for the Committee for holding interviews in Delhi, are within the jurisdiction of this Court." As far as forum non conveniens was concerned, the court said, the principle is merely applied in order to determine the most convenient forum, with respect to the dispute. Therefore, due to hearings and transmission of records being virtual in present case, because of the pandemic, the Court did not reject the writ petition on the ground of forum non-conveniens. Thirdly, the court with reference to alternative remedy has to be an efficacious remedy and Relegating the Petitioners to approach CAT would lead to further delays in their candidature being considered for selection to the IAS.
"When the State or any instrumentality thereof fails to follow the said discipline, it can lead to misgovernance and misuse by vested interests. The cancellation of interviews as in the present case is not to be viewed solitarily as a one-off incident. It represents a deeper malaise in selection, which ought to be conducted fairly and in a transparent manner." With these observations the Court holds that the present writ petition is maintainable under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.