Brief facts of the case
On 18.06.2010, the Bihar Staff Selection Commission (hereafter ‘BSSC’) issued an advertisement calling for applications for the selection of candidates to 1569 vacancies in Class III posts, in several departments of the Government of Bihar.
The examination was conducted and the results of the preliminary examination were declared on 12.04.2012. This time gap became an issue and a subject matter of challenge before the Patna High Court. The High Court, after careful evaluation of the questions and the results published, directed fresh declaration of results and subsequently, the fresh declaration of results was made on 29.12.2012.
A large number of candidates qualified in the examination and on the other hand, the number of vacancies increased to 3285 (from the original number of 1569). On 27.10.2013, the main written examination, as part of the second phase was conducted; those who had been successful in the preliminary examination were allowed to contend.
On 28.01.2013, the model answers to the main examination were published. The BSSC elicited comments and objections to the model answers and a committee of experts was constituted to examine the objections; their report meant suggested changes concerning 13 questions.
“The acceptance of the report meant consequential revision of the result. This led to the filing of five writ petitions, before the Patna High Court; the current matter which is, with respect to two of the appeals. The results declared by the BSSC were impugned on sundry grounds, including that the increase in the number of candidates was arbitrary; that the original number of vacancies could not have been increased and, that the final results were based on answers to various questions, which were wrong.”
The matter was then pending for hearing at the Supreme Court.
Arguments before the court
The learned counsel for the appellant appearing on behalf of BSSC, mainly contended that by complying to the directions of the impugned judgment, which include those necessitating the accommodation of candidates who were to come in the merit list as against the vacancies available in the cadre without disturbing appointment already made, is violative of well-established and settled principles of service law.
They claim that appointments were made since the grievance of the writ petitioners had been substantially mitigated. They highlighted that if the impugned directions are to be followed, there would be several complications in as much as the recommendations for 3285 vacancies were against 21 different categories of posts, many of which require additional qualifications and that the recommendations were made based on merit cum choice and the suitability of a candidate of a particular post.
It was thus, argued that any modification in the result, in complaisance with the order passed in the impugned judgment or terms of the report of the expert committee, would result in administrative chaos as well as in “a tsunami of litigation”. The exercise would drastically alter the outcome, and not only a large number of candidates selected, recommended and appointed would be ousted nonetheless it would also result in alteration in service and inter-se seniority position of a large number of candidates already appointed and working for the past six years.
The learned counsel for the respondents mainly contended against the defective questions and wrong answers arising out of the writ petitions and the SLPs. They submitted that 15 questions have to be deleted and four questions have to be corrected, and the revised merit list should be published based on the corrected result. They submitted that the results announced were arbitrary as a consequence of defective evaluation.
The Court is of the view that the unilateral exercise of re-valuation undertaken by the High Court (both the single-judge and Division Bench) have instead of solving, added to the chaos.
“No rule or regulation was shown by any party during the hearing, which justified the approach that was adopted. The BSSC, in our opinion, acted correctly in the first instance, in referring the answers to a panel of experts. If there were justifiable doubts about the recommendations of that panel, the least that should have been done, was to require the BSSC to refer the disputed or doubtful questions to another expert panel. That was not done; the “corrections” indicated by the single-judge were accepted by the BSSC; several candidates who made it to the select list freshly drawn up according to his directions were appointed. The Division Bench, thereafter undertook the entire exercise afresh, compounding the matter further by not referring the disputed questions to any panel of experts. We are left reiterating the lament, that the High Court’s interference has not resulted in finality “to the result of the examinations” despite a long lapse of time. There is an air of uncertainty about the entire selection – nay, the entire cadre, because the inter se seniority of selected (and appointed) candidates is in a state of flux”.
The BSSC was, therefore, directed to evaluate and publish the results anew, in the light of the recommendations and report of the experts (constituted by the Court) subject to care being taken by the BSSC and the Government of Bihar, not to disrupt appointments made previously according to the directions of the single-judge.
In case of the exceeding number of candidates selected for the vacancies available, the Supreme Court is of the view that the State of Bihar would accommodate the excess numbers in the relevant cadres as against the future vacancies arising till 31.12.2019.
The Supreme Court is hereby making these directions to put a quietus on the dispute, in the exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. Given the above reasoning, the impugned judgment of the Patna High Court, as well as the single-judge were hereby set aside and the appeals were disposed of without order on costs.
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