HARKIRAT SINGH GHUMAN VERSUS PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT & ORS.

HARKIRAT SINGH GHUMAN VERSUS PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT & ORS.

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.  5874     OF 2022
(@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) NO.5079 OF 2020)
HARKIRAT SINGH GHUMAN … Appellant(s)
VERSUS
PUNJAB & HARYANA HIGH COURT & ORS. … Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
Ajay Rastogi, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. The instant appeal is directed against the judgment and
order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab
and   Haryana   dated   23rd  January,   2020,   dismissing   the   writ
petition at the motion stage. 
3. The appellant is one of the applicants who had participated
in   the   selection   process   initiated   by   the   respondents   holding
selections   for   direct   recruitment   to   Punjab   Superior   Judicial
Service/Haryana Superior Judicial Service. 
1 | P a g e
4. That two separate advertisements came to be published for
holding   competitive   examination   for   direct   recruitment   for   8
vacancies   in   the   Punjab   Superior   Judicial   Service   and   11
vacancies   in   the   Haryana   Superior   Judicial   Service,   2019   by
notifications   dated   30th  May,   2019   and   7th  August,   2019
respectively   and   the   recruitment   was   made   in   terms   of   the
procedure   prescribed   under   the   Punjab   Superior   Judicial
Services Rules, 2007/ Haryana Superior Judicial Services Rules,
2007.
5. It   may   be   relevant   to   note   that   the   posts   came   to   be
separately   advertised   under   the   Punjab/Haryana   Superior
Judicial Service  Rules, 2007 but the process of selection is on
the same standards except that language paper is separate and
the applicants have to first qualify the written test followed with
viva­voce with a restriction that candidate has to secure 40% or
more marks in each paper and such of the qualified candidates
who fall within three times of the number of vacancies are called
for viva­voce but only such of the candidates will be considered to
have   successfully   qualified   the   Punjab/Haryana   Superior
Judicial Service Examination unless in open category candidate
obtains 50% marks and in reserved category candidate obtains
2 | P a g e
45% marks in the aggregate out of the total marks fixed for the
written test and viva­voce.  The format/pattern of examination is
the   same   for   both   the   recruitments   held   under   the   Punjab
Superior   Judicial   Service   Rules,   2007   and   Haryana   Superior
Judicial Service Rules, 2007.  
6. The appellant also applied pursuant to advertisement dated
30th  May,   2019   and   7th  August,   2019   with   regard   to
Punjab/Haryana   Superior   Judicial   Service   Examination,   2019
and a common written examination was held for both the States
of   Punjab   and   Haryana,   except   Language   Paper   separately
conducted from 29th November, 2019 to 1st December, 2019 and
it reveals from the record that 118 candidates appeared in the
State of Punjab and 230 in the State of Haryana.   
7. Thus, in total 348 candidates participated in the selection
process and appeared in the common written examination.  The
result of the written examination was declared on 18th December,
2019.   In Punjab Superior Judicial Service, 3 candidates from
open category and 1 candidate from backward category cleared
the examination and qualified for viva­voce.   At the same time,
under the Haryana Superior Judicial Service, 11 candidates from
3 | P a g e
open   category   out   of   which   3   candidates   were   common   who
qualified in both the States for viva voce.   
8. The appellant, being disappointed of not being qualified in
the written examination declared on 18th December 2019, filed a
writ petition before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at
Chandigarh under Article 226 of the Constitution with his threefold grievance :
(i) That   in   Punjab/Haryana   Superior   Judicial   Services
Rules, there is no condition regarding securing minimum
marks in the main written examination and the condition
in the advertisement of securing minimum 40% or more
marks   in   each   paper   for   qualifying   for   viva­voce   is
contrary to the Scheme of Rules;
(ii) Paper V (Criminal Law) was of 200 marks but at the
commencement of the examination, the question paper
handed  over  to   the  candidates  was  incomplete and  it
contained only 4 questions whose aggregate came out to
be 160 marks instead of 200 marks as shown on the
overleaf of the question paper, but when the candidates
made complaint of the alleged discrepancy to the notice
4 | P a g e
of   the   invigilator,   after   approx.   one   hour   of   the
commencement   of   examination,   question   no.4   was
handed over as supplementary question paper to all the
candidates and apart from this being a procedural defect,
it created a panic among the candidates and no extra
time was given for answering the additional question and
this was one of the manifest procedural defect in Paper V
(Criminal Law) and has caused grave prejudice to the
appellant. 
(iii) Despite repeated demands, the respondents have failed to
provide   the   marks   obtained   by   the   appellant   in   the
written examination.     Even the application filed by the
appellant under the Right to Information Act came to be
rejected.
9.             All the three objections raised by the appellant were
repelled by the High Court at the motion stage, without calling for
the written response from the respondents under the judgment
and   order   impugned   dated  23rd  January,   2020,   which   is   the
subject matter of challenge in appeal before us.
5 | P a g e
10. It will be relevant to note that while entertaining the present
appeal   and   calling   upon   the   respondents   for   their   written
response,   this   Court   permitted   the   respondents   by   an   Order
dated   26th  February,   2020   to   continue   with   the   process   of
interview with a further direction that the result would not be
declared in the meantime. It is informed to this Court that in
terms of the liberty granted by this Court, respondents held the
interview, but result has not been declared because of the interim
order of this Court. 
11. The   appellant,   who   appeared   in­person   before   us,   has
primarily raised four objections in reference to the procedure
adopted by the respondents in holding written examination by
the   respondents   pursuant   to   the   advertisements   for   Punjab/
Haryana Superior Judicial Service Examination, 2019, as follows:
(i) Criminal Law Paper (Paper V), which was of 200 marks
contained only four questions(1,2, 3 and 5) and question
no.4 was missing and it was of 160 marks which was
made   available   to   the   candidates   and   after   the
discrepancy was brought to notice of the Invigilator, a
supplementary question paper was supplied indicating
6 | P a g e
question no.4 in the midst of examination calling upon
the candidates to attempt question no.4 and objection of
the   appellant   is   that   the   procedure   which   has   been
adopted by the respondents itself creates a doubt in the
process of selection that from where this question no.4
was   generated  and   how  it  was  made   available   to   the
candidates in the midst of the examination is a mystery
and   no   justification   has   been   tendered   by   the
respondents even in the counter affidavit filed before this
Court and  this fact has not been disputed that question
no.4 of Paper V (Criminal Law)  was made available to the
candidates   during   course   of   the   examination.   Thus,
according   to   him,   the   procedure   followed   by   the
respondents   is   neither   transparent   nor   fair   and   the
written examination may be cancelled or at least this
question   paper   deserves   to   be   cancelled   and   the
respondents be directed to hold Paper V (Criminal Law)
afresh and only thereafter the merit list be declared of the
candidates who qualified the main examination.
(ii) The   second   objection   of   the   appellant   is   that   in   the
question paper of General Knowledge (Paper VI), which
7 | P a g e
was of multiple choice/objective type paper, there were
no instructions on the overleaf of the examination paper
as   to   how  and   in   what   manner  the   paper   has   to  be
attempted by the candidates and the OMR sheet was not
supplied and the candidates were called upon to make a
circle out of the four multiple choices, which according to
them is correct option and the question paper supplied
has to be returned back to the Invigilators.   
12. The   submission   of   the   appellant­in­person   is   that   in
absence   of   the   multiple­choice   question   paper   being   made
available to the candidates to retain, it may not be possible to
respond as to which option out of the four options, is the correct
option.  According to him, the question paper, for the first time, is
made available to the appellant along with the counter affidavit
filed   before   this   Court   and   it   reveals   to   him   that   there   are
discrepancies in eight questions and in some questions either of
the four options are not correct. 
13. His   submission   is   that   even   till   today,   the   provisional
answer key has not been uploaded to make the candidates aware
of  the  right  option  out of  the  four options available  and  the
8 | P a g e
candidate has no liberty to raise any objection and if the answer
key is uploaded after the final result is declared, obviously after
the viva­voce is over, no one is going to entertain the objection, if
any, to be raised at the later stage and that became fait accompli.
(iii) Further objection of the appellant is that Bare Acts were
made available to the candidates but this fact was not
indicated in the advertisement, which, according to him,
is contrary to the Scheme of Rules. 
(iv) Further apprehension of the appellant is that the answer
scripts were examined by the examiners in haste and the
reason to support is that, the last examination was held
on 1st  December, 2019 and within a short period of 17
days, the result was declared of the written examination
on 18th December, 2019 which was not humanly possible
and to support his submission, the appellant submits
that when he applied for obtaining the marks which he
had secured in the written examination, under the right
to   information,   that   was   declined   and   his   application
came to be rejected by the competent authority under the
right to information by an order dated 6th January, 2020.
9 | P a g e
14. Noticing the four objections indicated above to its logical
conclusion, the appellant submits that the procedure followed by
the respondents is neither fair nor transparent and so many
infirmities have been committed in the process of selection and
the only inevitable solution is to cancel the written examination
held by the respondents pursuant to the advertisements issued
by the States of Punjab and Haryana holding common selection
for Punjab/Haryana Superior Judicial Service Examination, 2019
and to hold the written examination afresh in accordance with
the Scheme of Rules 2007.  
15. To sum up further, the appellant states that the High Court
has   even   noticed   his   submission   so   far   as   the   manifest
discrepancy pointed out in Paper V (Criminal Law) is concerned,
but still non­suit the claim of the appellant for the reason that he
has not raised any objection during the interregnum period after
the written examination was held and the result was declared on
18th December, 2019.  
16. The   appellant   further   submits   that   the   advertisement   is
completely silent of the mechanism to be adopted if the candidate
who   had   participated   in   the   selection   process   is   having   any
10 | P a g e
grievance, no in­house remedy is provided in the advertisement
which is available to the candidates.  In the given circumstances,
the reason assigned by the High Court to non­suit the claim of
the appellant is not sustainable and needs to be interfered with
by this Court.
17. Various applications were filed by such other candidates
who had qualified the written examination and appeared for vivavoce under the interim order of this Court, but since the result
has not been declared, they are also under dilemma as to what
will be their fate, this Court by various orders permitted all of
them to intervene in the proceedings.
18. Per contra, counsel for the respondents while supporting
the   finding  recorded   by  the   High  Court   under   the   impugned
judgment submits that Paper V (Criminal Law) was held on 1st
December, 2019 from 9.00 a.m. to 12 noon and the paper was
distributed   to   the   candidates   5   minutes   before   time   and
immediately thereafter, it was noticed that question no.4 was
missing from the question paper.   Within one hour and before
10.00   a.m.,   question   no.4   was   made   available   to   all   the
candidates by way of supplementary question paper and as such,
11 | P a g e
no   prejudice   was   caused   to   any   of   the   candidates   due   to
inadvertent   human   error   committed   by   the   respondents.
Counsel   further   submits   that   such   a   discrepancy   certainly
cannot be countenanced, but as the level playing field was the
same   for   all,   no   prejudice   has   been   caused   to   either   of   the
candidates who had participated in the process of selection.  
19. Learned counsel further submits that so far as the grievance
in reference to Paper VI of General Knowledge is concerned, no
such objection was raised by the appellant before the High Court,
but the fact is that it is a multiple­choice question paper and
instructions   are   made   available   to   all   the   candidates   on   the
overleaf indicating the manner in which the questions have to be
attempted.  It was specifically mentioned that the correct answer
has to be encircled with a pen and encircling more than one
option or any over­writing/cuttings etc. would entail cancellation
of the said question with no negative marking and to be answered
in two hours duration and there is no reason for the appellant of
making complaint to this Court for the first time and in support
thereof, counsel further submitted that the result was declared
after almost 17 days on 18th  December, 2019, but neither he
made any representation nor filed any complaint either to the
12 | P a g e
Registry of the High Court or being a lawyer was aware of this
fact that the remedy is available to him to approach the High
Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, but no grievance was
raised   and   he   was   awaiting   for   outcome   of   the   written
examination,   and   when   he   could   not   succeed,   all   sorts   of
complaints are filed by him of filing a writ petition which cannot
be permitted to be raised at a belated stage and this what the
High Court has observed in the judgment impugned.
20. So   far   as   the   objection   with   regard   to   his   application
submitted under the Right to Information Act, 2005 is concerned,
learned   counsel   submits   that   the   marks   of   the   written
examination could not be made available until the process of
selection   is   finalised   and   that   was   the   reason   which   was
communicated to him by the Public Information Officer (PIO) by a
communication dated 6th January, 2020 taking recourse to Rule
4(2)   of   the   High   Court   of   Punjab   and   Haryana   (Right   to
Information) Rules, 2007 and, if at all, he is aggrieved by the
communication   made   dated   6th  January,   2020,   inbuilt
mechanism has been provided under the Right to Information
Act, 2005 and even if the marks are not made available, it would,
13 | P a g e
in   no   manner,   defeat   the   process   of   selection   held   by   the
respondents.  
21. Counsel further submits that so far as the apprehension of
undue haste in declaring the result of written examination is
concerned, the alleged apprehension has no legs to stand and the
answer sheets have been examined by the examiners authorised
by the High Court and evaluated within a reasonable time, no
adverse inference can be drawn and such like objections deserve
to be outrightly rejected.
22. Ms.   Malvika   Kapila,   counsel   for   one   of   the   intervenors,
Aashish Saldi s/o Hans Raj Saldi, brought to our notice that the
applicant   is   in­service   officer   who   is   presently   serving   as
Additional Civil Judge (Senior Division) and had participated in
the   limited   competitive   examination   against   10%   of   quota
reserved for in­service officers and he had participated in the
selection   process   initiated   by   the   State   of   Punjab   under   the
limited competitive examination for the eligible judicial officers
held by the respondents in terms of Rule 7(3)(b) of the Punjab
Superior   Judicial   Service   Rules,   2007   and   he   was   the   only
candidate   who   qualified   in   the   written   examination   and   was
14 | P a g e
called for viva­voce but the final fate is not known to him and the
fact is that he is not even remotely concerned with the present
grievance which has been raised by the appellant in the instant
proceedings   and   despite   been   appeared   in   the   interview,   his
result has been withheld under the interim orders of this Court.
23. Learned counsel submitted that at least the respondents be
directed to declare the result of the applicant who is not even
remotely concerned with the complaint in reference to which the
present appellant has approached this Court and this fact has
not been disputed by either of the parties.
24. We   have   heard   counsel   for   the   parties   and   with   their
assistance perused the records of the case. 
25. We  deal with  the  first  objection  later and  would  like  to
observe that so far as Paper VI (General Knowledge) is concerned,
it is a multiple­choice question paper having 100 questions and
all instructions were made available to the candidates specifically
indicated   on   the   overleaf   of   the   question   paper   and   all   the
candidates   have   attempted   the   paper   including   the   present
appellant.   
15 | P a g e
26. That   all   the   candidates   who   had   appeared   in   Paper   VI
(General Knowledge) had a common level playing field and in the
absence of any material on record in rebuttal, the submission is
not sustainable and deserves rejection.  But to keep transparency
in the process of holding examination, particularly in such cases
where  there  is  a  multiple­choice  question  paper,  it  is always
advisable that for such question papers, there shall always be an
OMR sheet which may be provided to the candidates so that the
question paper can be retained by each of the participants and
after the examination is held, a provisional answer key is to be
uploaded   inviting   objections   from   the   candidates   who   had
participated in the selection process, to be furnished within a
reasonable time and after collating such objections, the same be
placed before a subject expert committee to be constituted by the
recruiting/competent authority and after the report is submitted
by the subject expert committee, the same be examined by the
recruiting authority and thereafter the final answer key is to be
uploaded.   We make it clear that no presumption is to be drawn
that the result has to be declared, but at least the candidates
may be provided the final answer keys to enable them to make
their own assessment.  This is one of the mechanisms by which
16 | P a g e
fairness and transparency which is a sine qua non in the public
employment can be resorted to.
27. So far as the other two objections in reference to Bare Acts
made available to the candidates and the apprehension of haste
in declaration of result are concerned, both the objections are
completely baseless and deserve rejection.   
28. So far as the marks of the written examination not being
supplied to the appellant under the Right to Information Act,
2005 by communication dated 6th January, 2020, are concerned,
this position has been settled by a catena of judgments of this
Court that as long as the process is not complete, the marks of
the written examination are not to be uploaded or made available
to the candidates and if it is being permitted, that will not be in
the interest of the applicants.   The disclosure of the marks in the
main   examination   before   it   is   finalised   and   the   viva­voce   is
conducted,   would   be   against   the   principles   of   transparency,
rather it will invite criticism of bias or favouritism.  
29. To   clarify   further,   in   such   cases,   where   the   written
examination is followed with viva­voce, declaration of result of the
written examination before conducting viva­voce may not be valid
17 | P a g e
and justified but in cases where determination of merit is based
on written examination, it must be declared and made available
to candidates without any loss of time and this Court can take a
judicial notice of the fact that in such cases where the written
examination   is   followed   with   interview/viva­voce   and   the
members in the interview board are made aware of the marks
secured by the candidates in the written examination that may
likely   to   form   bias   affecting   the   impartial   evaluation   of   the
candidates in viva­voce and in our considered view, it may always
be avoided. 
30. So far as the objection in reference to Paper V (Criminal
Law) is concerned, we find substance in the submission made
and after this fact has not been disputed by the respondents as
well   that   initially   when   the   question   paper   was   supplied,   it
contained only four questions (i.e. question nos.1, 2, 3 and 5),
held on 1st December, 2019 from 9.00 a.m. to 12 noon and the
question paper was distributed to all the candidates containing
four questions  and question no.4 was found to be missing and
this act cannot be said to be an inadvertent human error as
being projected by the respondents and after the objection being
raised by the candidates of question no.4 not made available, the
18 | P a g e
Invigilators   informed   to   the   concerned   authorities   and   a
supplementary sheet was made available to the candidates after
one hour of the main examination commenced i.e. by 9.00 a.m.  
31. The respondents may substantiate in their defence that no
prejudice was caused to any of the candidates on account of the
inadvertent human error being committed, but in our view, this
is a serious lapse on the part of the recruiting authority and
somebody must be held responsible for it and such kind of lapses
certainly cannot be countenanced by this Court but, at the same
time,   there   is   no   objection   even   of   the   present   appellant   in
reference to the four questions (nos.1, 2, 3 and 5) of Paper V
(Criminal Law) which was made available to the candidates even
5 minutes before the scheduled time of the examination and even
if we take a judicial notice of the lapses being committed by the
respondents with reference to question no.4, which was indeed
missing from the question paper and supplied to the candidates
after one hour of commencement of the examination, at least so
far as the four questions are concerned, since no objection has
been raised by the appellant in reference to these questions, this
Court   has   to   consider   as   to   whether   in   such   peculiar
circumstances,   the   written   examination,   as   such,   has   to   be
19 | P a g e
cancelled or other option is possible.   In our view, in the given
circumstances, the other option which is left to this Court is
either to conduct the  examination  of  Paper V  (Criminal  Law)
afresh or let the valuation of the four questions (question nos. 1,
2, 3 & 5) of Paper V (Criminal Law) of 160 marks may provide a
common level playing field to all the candidates.   
32. At this stage, the Court cannot be oblivious of the fact that
the   Punjab/Haryana   Superior   Judicial   Service   Examination,
2019 has been held after 4­5 years and since the fate of the
examination 2019 is still sub­judice in this Court, fresh selection
process   could  not   have  been   initiated  and  if  this   irregularity
pointed   out   can   be   possibly   eliminated   from   the   process   of
selection, particularly in the written examination, the endeavour
of the Court should always be to salvage the selection as possible
and taking in totality of the matter, this Court is of the view that
it   will  serve   the  purpose  to   accept  the   latter  option   and  the
respondents may be directed to valuate question nos.1, 2, 3 and
5 of Paper V (Criminal Law) of 160 marks and we make it clear
that question no.4 which was supplemented at a later stage of 40
marks has to be excluded while valuating the marks secured by
the candidates in Paper V (Criminal Law) and this, in our view,
20 | P a g e
may serve the purpose and also salvage the examination process
which was initiated by the respondents in 2019 but could not be
finalised for one or other reason and cancellation or holding the
examination afresh of Paper V (Criminal Law) will not be in the
interest of either of the parties. 
33. A   request   was   made   to   this   Court   that   since   those
candidates who had qualified in the written examination and had
appeared in the viva­voce and whose result has been withheld
under the interim orders of this Court, at least they may not be
called upon to appear for interview afresh.  We find it difficult to
uphold the submission made for the reason that the interview
board   which   conducted   the   viva­voce   of   the   candidates   who
qualified   in   the   written   examination   was   different,   there   are
hardly   candidates   who   had   qualified   against   the   number   of
vacancies and it would be advisable that there should be one
common board to evaluate the performance of all the candidates
who may now qualify in the revised declaration of the result of
written examination and that, in our view, would do justice to the
candidates. 
21 | P a g e
34. We would like to note that so far as the intervenor Aashish
Saldi   is   concerned,   he   appeared   in   the   written   examination
against 10% quota reserved for in­service officers and he had
participated   in   the   selection   process   initiated   under   Punjab
Superior Judicial Services in terms of Rule 7(3)(b) of the Punjab
Superior Judicial Services Rules, 2007 and who has no lis with
the present process, at least the final fate of participation of the
officer be declared by the respondents and may be processed
further in accordance with the Rules. 
35. The   appeal   accordingly   succeeds   and   the   impugned
judgment of the High Court dated 23rd January, 2020 is hereby
set aside and   we direct the respondents to valuate the marks
obtained of question nos. 1,2,3 and 5 of Paper V (Criminal Law)
(out of total 160 marks) and after undertaking the process, a
fresh   result   of   the   written   examination   be   declared   of   the
candidates   in   reference   to   Punjab/Haryana   Superior   Judicial
Service Examination, 2019 and those who qualify and fall in the
zone of three times the number of vacancies may be called for
viva­voce and result of the selection process, thereafter be finally
declared in accordance with the scheme of Rules, 2007.
22 | P a g e
36. We further direct that the result of the intervenor (Aashish
Saldi),   who   had   participated   as   an   in­service   officer   in   the
selection   process   initiated   under   Punjab   Superior   Judicial
Services shall be declared and further action may be taken in
accordance with Rules, 2007. 
37. The   directions   be   complied   with   within   a   period   of   two
months.
38. Pending application(s), if any, shall stand disposed of.
…………..…………J.
                                                           (Ajay Rastogi)
…………..…………
J.
                                                                (C.T. Ravikumar)
New Delhi
August 29, 2022.
23 | P a g e

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

100 Questions on Indian Constitution for UPSC 2020 Pre Exam

संविधान की प्रमुख विशेषताओं का उल्लेख | Characteristics of the Constitution of India

भारतीय संविधान से संबंधित 100 महत्वपूर्ण प्रश्न उतर