(2021) 5 SCC 638
JUSTICE AM KHANWILKAR
JUSTICE INDU MALHOTRA
JUSTICE AJAY RASTOGI
The Supreme Court in the present case declined to issue directions to the Centre and UPSC to grant an extra attempt to aspirants who had exhausted their last attempt at the prestigious civil service exam.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
Bunch of petitioners were hopeful that they may qualify civil services (preliminary) exam in their last attempt which was to be held on 4th of October 2020. But due to coronavirus it get exhausted and they failed to achieve their goal. So then they approached the court by filing instant writ petition under the article 32 of the Indian constitution and seeking mandamus to the first respondent for extension of one additional attempt pf examination on future account. Gazette Notification dated 12th February, 2020 was published by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions notifying the rules for competitive examination, 2020 which is to be held by the second respondent for the purpose of recruitment to 24 services to be held in three stages:
- personality test.
Thereafter on 30September, 2020, the top Court gave direction to the Respondents to explore the possibility of providing one more attempt to candidates giving their last attempt and those petitioners likely to become age barred for the next examination. Later on, 5th of February 2021, first respondent placed on record their agreement to give one time relaxation, limited to UPSC 2021 candidates who appeared in Examination 2020 as their last permissible attempt and so that they are not age-barred from appearing in UPSC 2021 also no relaxation to the candidates who have not exhausted their permissible number of attempts or who are otherwise age-barred from appearing in UPSC 2021, Thereafter the said decision of 5th of February was challenged as discriminatory on the grounds of Article 14, 19, 21 and 29.
whether the petitioners and other similarly placed candidates are entitled to additional chance for civil service examinations 2021 on account of the unprecedented Covid19 pandemic which as alleged has deprived them from effectively participating in the Examination 2020?
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES:
- That Petitioners are placed in the disadvantageous position with the onset of the pandemic and due to the unprecedented measures imposed in the wake thereof.
- The denial of an additional attempt to the petitioners will make them to suffer serious discrimination it has been stated that due to prevailing conditions in the country in the year 2020 on account of Covid19 pandemic, several decisions were taken by the Commission to reschedule the examinations as a matter of fact, no examination was held during the period of lockdown amongst those who have not faced such barriers as being faced by the petitioners in their preparation during the unprecedented pandemic.
- Other people had a choice of leaving the Examination 2020, while taking care of their health, the last attempters particularly in terms of age were left with no choice and they had to sit for the exam despite the lack of opportunity to prepare which is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
- It was also stated that the candidates who had appeared in the examination had accepted the rules of the Examination 2020 and now having appeared and failed, cannot be permitted to formally approve and reprobate in the same breath after they had failed in the Examination 2020.
- It was stated that due to prevailing conditions in the country in the year 2020 on account of Covid19 pandemic, various decisions were taken by the Commission to reschedule the examinations as a matter of fact and no examination was held during this period of lockdown.
- It was also stated that while reverting to the facts of the instant case of the petitioners, what is prayed by them in the first blush appears attractive but it lacks legal strength and foundation for various reasons.
It was held that since Scheme of Rules 2020 provide enough opportunity of participation to the candidates from 21years to 32 years with further age relaxation to reserved category also Rule 6 clearly make it mandatory that the age limit prescribed in no case can be relaxed except for the leverage already enumerated to the specified categories. Even candidates got additional five months for preparation. Commission also took a policy decision to open window for withdrawal of application from, 1st of August 2020 to 8th of August 2020 which is not the ordinary course available under the stipulated Rules. Since the exam was scheduled on 4th October, 2020, the remaining candidates who didn’t choose to withdraw, were assumed to be mentally prepared and willing to get an opportunity of appearing in the exam. After addressing grievance on relaxation age limit and number of attempts by the Respondent in the year 2015, Court relied over the response of Respondent authority stating change in pattern of the exam which was particular to the case of 2015 and cannot be relied as a precedent or insisted with the aid of Article 14; “It is settled principle of law that policy decisions are open for judicial review by this Court for a very limited purpose and this Court can interfere into the realm of public policy so framed if it is either absolutely capricious, totally arbitrary or not informed of reasons.” [Union of India v. M. Selvakumar and Anr. The Court also noticed that said instance cannot be made to be the basis or a foundation for the petitioners to site as in claiming to seek one additional attempt as a matter of right not permissible under the scheme of Rules 2020 or with the support of Article 14 of the Constitution to take a call in meeting out the difficulties which have been faced as alleged in the given circumstance.
“Judicial review of a policy decision and to issue mandamus to frame policy in a particular manner are absolutely different.”
Further it is within the knowledge of the executive to take a policy decision based on the prevailing situations for better administration and in meeting out the urgent demand but at the same time also it is not within the domain of the Courts to legislate. The Courts also interpret the laws and in that certain creative process is involved that the Courts have the jurisdiction to declare the law as unconstitutional. The Court is asked to consider the validity of a policy decision only when a challenge is made and such policy decision infringes fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution or any other statutory right.
“Merely because as a matter of policy, if the 1st respondent has granted relaxation in the past for the reason that there was a change in the examination pattern/syllabus and in the given situation, had considered to be an impediment for the participant in the Civil Service Examination, no assistance can be claimed by the petitioners in seeking mandamus to the 1st respondent to come out with a policy granting relaxation to the participants who had availed a final and last attempt or have crossed the upper age by appearing in the Examination 2020 as a matter of right.”
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