SC to decide govt's role in setting job criteria

A five-judge constitution bench will decide whether the government can change specifications like eligibility criteria after recruitment process for a post has already begun.

A three-judge bench presided over by Justice R M Lodha decided to refer the matter to the Chief Justice of India for setting up a larger bench, after noting the absence of an “authoritative” verdict on the subject by the apex court.

“No doubt it is a salutary principle not to permit the state or its instrumentalities to tinker with the rules of the game in so far as the prescription of eligibility criteria is concerned, in order to avoid manipulation of the recruitment process and its results.

“Whether such a principle should be applied in the context of the rules of the game stipulating the procedure for selection, more particularly when the change sought is to impose a more rigorous scrutiny for selection, requires an authoritative pronouncement of a larger bench of this court,” the bench said.

The court was dealing with a petition filed by some unsuccessful aspirants for the post of 13 translators at the Rajasthan High Court in 2009. After the written examination, the chief justice had ordered that only those with more than 75 per cent marks would be selected, leaving just three of the 21 applicants eligible.

Stipulating the minimum criteria after the written examination amounted to “changing the rules after the game was played,” as held by the apex court in the case of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation and others versus Rajendra Bhimrao Mandve and others in 2001 and K Manjusree versus the state of Andhra Pradesh in 2008.

“If the principle of Manjusree’s case is applied strictly to the present case, the high court is bound to recruit 13 of the best candidates of the 21. In our opinion, application of that principle without any further scrutiny would not be in the larger public interest or the goal of establishing an efficient administrative machinery,” the bench said.

The court also noted that under the constitutional scheme, “rule-making with retrospective effect was prohibited in an absolute and non-negotiable” manner only with reference to the creation of crimes.

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