State Service Examination rule prohibiting meritorious reserved category candidates from merging general seats Discriminatory: MP High Court

On Thursday, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh struck down Rule 4(3)(d)(III) of the MP State Service Examination Rules, 2015, which barred deserving candidates in reserved categories from obtaining the birth as non-reserved candidates at the preliminary and main examination stage. , as unconstitutional.

Noting that the disputed rule led to an “artificial ranking”, the division bench of Judge Sujoy Paul and Judge DD Bansal called it an “arbitrary, discriminatory and contrary to equality clause enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution” –

Meritorious reserve category applicants may not be placed at a comparative disadvantage because of their birthmark if they are otherwise equal or more meritorious than the last UR category applicant. The challenged amended rule, for no good reason, deprives such a candidate of the reserved category and, therefore, the challenged rule deserves to be declared ultra vires.

The Court dealt with a batch of petitions, 49 of which challenged the constitutionality of Article 4(4) of Madhya Pradesh Lok Seva (Anusuchit Jatiyon, Anusuchit Jan Jatiyon Aur Anya Pichhade Vargon Ke Liye Arakshan) Adhiniyam, 1994 (“Adhiniyam”) as others prayed to declare Rule 4(3)(d) III of Amendment dated 17.02.2020 in Madhya Pradesh State Service Examination Rules, 2015 (Rules exam) like ultra vires.

The facts of the case were that the Public Service Commission of Madhya Pradesh (PSC) issued an announcement on 14.11.2019 for the conduct of the Civil Service Examination, 2019. As a result of this, the claimants have submitted their application in the prescribed form to sit for said examination. On 12.01.2020, a preliminary examination was carried out by the PSC. Shortly thereafter, the disputed amendment to the Regulations entered into force by publishing it in the Official Gazette on 17.02.2020. The result of the said examination was pronounced on 21.12.2020 based on the amended regulations of 2020. Injured by the same, the batch of requests was filed.

In these petitions, the State was put on notice and in turn filed a response. After receiving opinions in the petitions, another amendment dated 20.12.2021 was published in the Official Gazette of 20.12.2021, amending said examination regulations. On 31.12.2021, the PSC declared the result of said examination (sector) and then proceeded to interview the candidates.

Constitutionality of Article 4(4) of Adhiniyam

The Court observed that Article 4(4) of the Adhniyam, which provides that a candidate of a reserved category selected on the basis of merit shall not be adjusted according to vacancies for his respective category, could not be declared unconstitutional. The Court relied on the decision of a Divisional Bench of the Court in Smt. Rajshri Tiwari v. State of the deputywhere it was held that the said provision was in accordance with the interpretation of Article 16, paragraph 4, of the Constitution given by the Supreme Court in the case Indra Sawney & Ous. v. UoI & Ors.

The Court reviewed the decision of another divisional bench in Hemraj Rana v. State of the deputy, on which the State relied heavily while opposing the petitions, which had interpreted the term “selected” in Article 4(4) of the Adhniyam as the final stage of selection, not during preliminary and main examinations. The Court noted that the observations made in the Hemraj case were within the scope of the examination regulations of 2001-

At the cost of repetition, it should be noted that in paragraph 4 of the judgment of Hemraj Rana (supra), this Court considered the word “selected” as it appears in subsection (4) of Article 4 of Adhiniyam whereas in paragraph 6, the Court considered Subsection (4) of Adhiniyam Section 4 in light of the 2001 Rules…Pertinently, subsequent events show that the new Rules of Adhiniyam review of 2015 have emerged. In accordance with these rules, the State itself has decided to apply the said principle in favor of those candidates of the reserve category, who obtained marks equal to or higher than the candidates of the general category at all levels of selection, including preliminary and main examination. It is well established that the judgment of a tribunal must be treated as a precedent for the principle which was actually decided by it and not for something which follows logically from it..

The Court therefore found that the introduction of the 2015 examination rules changed the scenario and a joint reading of para-7 of Hemraj’s The Judgment and Unamended Review Rules of 2015 allowed the court to uphold the constitutionality of Adhiniyam Section 4(4)-

…the combined reading of Subsection (4) of Section 4 with the unamended Rules 2015 obliges the Respondents to apply the principle desired by the Petitioner, namely at all stages of the selection, the Category reserve received grades greater than or equal to UR applicants are entitled to obtain a birth in the UR category. Thus, we are unable to persuade ourselves that the contested provision of Adhiniyam should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Constitutionality of Rule 4(3)(d)(III)

The Court wrote a comparative analysis of the 2015 Rules and its subsequent amendments dated 17.02.2020 and 20.12.2021 and noted that the challenged amendment in the form of Rule 4(3)(d)(III) had become an obstacle for meritorious Reserved Category applicants to be treated as UR/Open Category applicants –

The disputed amendment dated 17.02.2020 as per argument of Shri Bernard learned that the additional Advocate General was needed in view of the divisional bench order passed in the case of Vishal Jain (above). Upon careful examination, we find no merit in the assertion that the judgment of Vishal Jain (supra) may become grounds for amending the Regulations with effect from 17.02.2020. A careful reading of the order of Vishal Jain (supra) leaves no doubt that this issue was decided after the 2015 Rules came into force. The Court did not consider the impact of the Rules, if read with sub- section (4) of section 4 of the Adhiniyam.

The Court found substance in the applicants’ argument that, in the absence of consideration of the statutory rules (2015 examination rules), the decision in MPPSC v. Vishal Jain & Ous. could not become a reason for introducing the contested modification of 17.02.2020. The Court further observed that it was bound by the decision of the panel of nine judges of the Supreme Court in the case Indra Sawhney case which became the “law of the land under Section 141 of the Constitution”. Therefore, the Court ruled that it was not necessary for the State to introduce the amendment of 17.02.2020 because it went against the justification set out in Vishal Jain case.

Validity of the modification as of 17.02.2020 after the start of the selection process

While dealing with the respective issue, the Court noted that according to the unamended examination rules, candidates in the reserved category were entitled to obtain a birth in the UR category if they obtained the same or more points than a UR candidate. This norm/rule of the game has certainly been modified to the detriment of the Applicants by making the contentious amendment-

Since the petitioners scored equal to or better than the last applicants in the UR category, they had a valuable right to obtain a position in the UR category. It is sought to remove this right of consideration and to occupy a place in the UR category by making the contested amendment, which in our opinion is arbitrary, inadmissible and irrational.

Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Budhan Choudhary & Ous. v. State of Bihar, the Court noted that, when the constitutionality of a provision is called into question, it is necessary to examine whether there is a link between the basis of the qualification and the object of the disputed provision examined. In this case, the Court noted that the State had not established the connection between the objective sought and the impugned amendment, and therefore the Court could not put its stamp of approval on the amendment. disputed.

Since then, it goes against the binding precedent of Indra Sawney (supra) systematically monitored until Saurav Yadav (supra), the impugned amendment cannot sustain judicial review. Without any stretch of the imagination, despite a judgment by the bench of nine judges of the Supreme Court in Indra Sawney (supra), it was open to the Government to amend the Examination Regulations contrary to the principles set out in Indra Sawney (supra) under cover of an order of the Division Bench of this Court in Vishal Jain (above).

The Court then observed that, in order to enforce the decision in Indra Sawhney casethe benefit should be extended to reserved category applicants selected on merit to guarantee UR category births –

We believe that the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court in Indra Sawney (supra) can only be translated into reality when the candidate of the reserved category obtained equal or higher marks with the candidate of the category UR was born in the category UR at all stages of the selection, including the preliminary examination and the main examination. Any other interpretation would run counter to the purpose and constitutional scheme deriving from Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. Jthere is no justifiable reason to deprive a deserving candidate of the reserved category who competed with a candidate of the UR category and obtained the same or more points than him from being treated as a UR candidate.

The Court further considered-

To deprive such a candidate of the fruits of obtaining a birth in the UR category results in dividing a homogeneous class of deserving candidates. The artificial classification that results from the contested rule is arbitrary, discriminatory and violates the equality clause enshrined in Article 14 of the ConstitutionAccordingly, we declare Section 4(3)(d)(III) of the Amended Regulations to be unconstitutional.

With the above observations, the Court upheld the constitutionality of Article 4(4) of Madhya Pradesh Lok Seva (Anusuchit Jatiyon, Anusuchit Jan Jatiyon Aur Anya Pichhade Vargon Ke Liye Arakshan) Adhiniyam, 1994. However, he declared rule 4(3)(d)(III), introduced by amendment in the examination regulations on 17.02.2020 as ultra vires and was therefore cancelled.

The Court further ordered the state that the recruitment process be conducted and completed in accordance with the unamended examination rules of 2015.

Case Title: Kishor Choudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr., with related issues

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