09 December 1996
Supreme Court







DATE OF JUDGMENT:       09/12/1996




JUDGMENT:      (With Civil Appeal No. 5112/1995 and writ petitions No. 224/1995 and 395/1995)                       J U D G M E N T      Faizan Uddin, J. 1.   This Civil  Appeal has  been directed against the order passed by  the Central  Administration  Tribunal,  Principle Bench, New  Delhi (hereinafter  referred to as the Tribunal) in O.A.  No. 322/1995  dismissing the appellants application at the  admission stage challenging the selection process of various posts  in pursuance of an advertisement by the staff selection Commission published in Employment News of 10-16th July, 1993  and the  select list  prepared and  published in pursuance thereto, while Civil Appeal No. 5112/1995 has been preferred by  the appellants  of the said appeal against the order dated 7th March, 1995 passed by the aforesaid Tribunal in O.A.  No. 438/1995  dismissing  the  application  at  the admission stage  challenging the  said selection process and the select  list as  aforesaid. In  the writ  petitions also referred  to   above  filed   under  Article   32   of   the Constitution, the same selection process and select list has been  challenged   by  the  petitioners  of  the  said  writ petitions. 2.   On the  recommendations of  the Administrative  Reforms Commission the  Government of India (Department of Personnel and Administration  Reforms) passed a resolution on November 4, 1975  whereby a  "Subordinate  services  Commission"  was constituted  for   the  purposes  of  recruitments  to  Non- Technical  Class   III  posts   in  the  department  of  the Government of  India and  in the subordinate offices. In the aforesaid  Government   resolution,  the  functions  of  the subordinate   Services   Commission   constituted   by   the Government are  stated in  para 3 thereof, the relevant part of which reads as under:-      "The      Subordinate      Services      Commission will make recruitment to      non-technical Class  III  posts  in      the departments  of  the  Govt.  of      India  and   in   the   supordinate      offices  except   those  posts  for      which recruitment  is made  by  the



    Railway Service Commission Staff in      the Offices  of the Comptroller and      Auditor General and the Accountants      General       and        Industrial      establishments. The Commission will      among    other    things    conduct      terminations whenever  required for      recruitment  to  the  posts  within      their purview and for ensuring that      as  far   as  possible  the  actual      recruitment  is  made  on  a  zonal      basic so  as to  enable  condidates      from  different   regions   to   be      absorbed in  the vacancies  arising      within  the respective regions, the      examinations would  be held  as far      as possible  on  different  centers      and successful  candidates  posted,      to the  extent  possible  to  their      home states/regions."         (emphasis supplied)      The said  Subordinate Service  Commission  (hereinafter referred to as Commission) published an advertisement on 10- 16th July, 1993 in the Employment News inviting applications for  the  selection  of  candidates  to  the  posts  of  (I) Preventive  Officers,   (II)  Examiner,(III)   Inspector  of Central Excise,  (IV) Inspector of Income tax, (V) Assistant Enforcement Officers  in the  Directorate of Enforcement and (VI) Gr.  II of  Delhi Administration  Subordinate Services. The number  of vacancies  and not  been determined  and  the reservation  of  SC/ST,  Ex/servicemen  and  the  physically nandicapped persons  was to  be taken  into account  as  per position reported  in each  department for  each category of posts. 3.   According to the said advertisement the recruitment was to be  made zonewise  on the  basis of  separate merit  list drawn for each zone in respect of candidates who appeared at the centers  within the  same zone.  The relevant portion of the  said  advertisement  which  relates  to  the  zone-wise process of  selection of  candidates for  the said  posts as stated in  paragraph No.  16 of  the advertisement for ready reference is reproduced hereunder:-      "16. Selection  of  candidates  (a)      After    the    examination,    the      Commission will  draw up a separate      list  in  different  categories  of      posts in  respect of  each  of  the      zones mentioned  in column 2 of the      Table in  para  13  above,  in  the      order of  merit as disclosed by the      aggregate marks  (written test  and      personality test)  finally  awarded      to   each    candidate    at    the      examination, and  in that  order so      many candidates as are found by the      Commission to  be qualified  in the      examination  shall  be  recommended      for appointment  upto the number of      unreserved vacancies in each of the      zones separately,  However, in case      no   vacancy    is   available   in      particular zone  that zone would be      clubbed  with   one  of  continuous      zones  at  the  discretion  of  the      Commission  and   common  order  of



    merit list  for both  the zones may      be  prepared.  Similarly,  where  a      particular  office  caters  to  the      requirements of more than one zone,      candidates  competing   at  centers      located in  all such  zones will be      eligible  to   be  considered   for      appointment in  that office and for      the this purpose, a common order of      merit list  for at  such zone would      be prepared.      (b)  The   candidates   for   Delhi      Administration Grade II Subordinate      service will be selected from Delhi      Zone in  the  manner  mentioned  in      sub-para (a) above." 4.   In all  there were  15 zones  and the  candidates  were eligible to  appear at  any zone  out of  those 15 zones. In case no  vacancy was  available in particular zone then that zone was  to be  clubbed with one of the continuous zones at the discretion  of the Commission and a common list for both the zones  in the  order of  merit my  be  prepared.  It  is alleged that  the appellants  No. 1  and 2,  namely,  Radhey Shyam Singh and Dharmendra Kumar made representations to the secretary of  the Commission  objecting to  the  process  of zonewise selection on the basis of separate merit list drawn for each  zone and requested to make an all India merit list in place  of zonewise  merit  list  because  the  number  of vacancies were  not declared  but the  said  representations were not  decided and, therefore, the appellants appeared in the written  selection test under protest. The appellants in these two appeals as well as the petitioners in the two writ petitions applied  for various unreserved posts and appeared in  the   written  examination.   The  appellants   and  the petitioners qualified  in the  written test,  the result  of which was  declared on  24-30th September, 1994 as published in  the   Employment  News   and   were   called   for   the interview/personality test  held in  different zones  in the month of  October 1994  onwards. The  results  of  the  said examination  after   interview  and  personality  test  were declared on  January 21,1995 but none of the appellants were declared selected in U.P. zone examinations. So was the case with the petitioners. 5.   The appellants  as well  as the  petitioners approached the Tribunal as aforesaid challenging the zonewise selection on the  basis of  separate merit  list drawn  from each zone instead of  drawing all  India Merit list which according to the appellants and petitioners had resulted the selection of persons with  relatively inferior  merits  in  violation  of Principles embodied in Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. The Tribunal relying on the decision of this court in Om  Prakash Vs.  Akhilesh Kumar  (1986 (1)  SCR 855 = AIR 1986 SC  1043) dismissed  the applications  at the admission stage itself  by taking  the  view  that  they  had  already appeared in  the examination  as per advertisement issued by the Commission  while it was open to them before taking that selection of  1993 was  challenged after  the merit list had been declared  in January  21, 1995  they were estopped from challenging the selection in which they had participated and ultimately could  not be empanelled in the merit list. Being aggrieved by  the said  order of the Tribunal the appellants and the petitioners have approached this court for readers. 6.   Shri P.P.  Rao learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants contended  that the zonewise process of selection adopted by  the Commission did not provide equal opportunity



to the  candidates appearing  in different  zones though the competitive examination  was  same  in  all  the  zones.  He submitted that  since the  vacancies available  in each zone were  not   indicated,  the   appellants  were   denied  the apportunity of appearing at the competitive examination from a center  of a  zone where  the number  of the vacancies was large there  being more and better chances of selection. The appellants were  thus denied  the opportunity  of  competing with the  candidates of other centers. It was submitted that the candidates  appearing in  a zone  having large number of vacancies were  declared selected  though they  had  secured marks less  than the  candidates in  other zones  where  the vacancies were  less  by  reason  of  which  the  candidates securing even  more marks than the candidates in other zones could not  be selected.  He therefor, urged that the process and method  of zonewise  selection of  candidates adopted by the Commission  was violative  of Article  14 and  16 of the constitution of  India as  it had  resulted in  selection of candidates  of  inferior  quality  in  one  zone  while  the candidates of superior merit in the other zones could not be selected.  These  arrangements  were  also  adopted  by  the learned counsel  appearing in  the  other  appeal  and  writ petitions. On  the other  hand  Shri  K.N.  Shukla,  learned senior counsel  appearing for  the respondents supported the process of  selection and  the impugned order of Tribunal by contending that the zonewise selection was  adopted in order to enable  the condidates  form  a  particular  zone  to  be absorbed in  the job in the same zone and the Commission has been recruiting  the candidates  to various  posts on  zonal basis right  from 1975  and this  process of  selection  has stood the  test of  time and,  therefore, it  could  not  be disturbed. He  submitted that  the composition  of zone  and scheme of  holding the  examination on zonal basis was given in the  advertisement and the candidates were free to choose the  zone   from  which   they  desired  to  appear  in  the recruitment examination  and to  choose the  center. It  was stated that  since the  appellants and  the petitioners  had appeared in  the examination,  But could not be selected and as such they cannot be permitted to challenge the process of selection now. 7.   We   have   given   serious   considerations   to   the afroementioned rival contentions and have critically perused the Government  resolution dated November 4,1975 whereby the Commission was  constituted and  he functions assigned to it as we  as the  advertisement issued  for the recruitment for the candidates  for the  aforementioned posts.  A reading of the functions assigned to the Commissions, the relevant part of  which is reproduced in the earlier part of this judgment will go  to show  that it  provided that the Commission will among other  things conduct  examinations whenever  required for recruitment  to the  posts within  their purview and for ensuring that  as far  as possible the actual recruitment is made on  a zonal  basis so  as  to  enable  candidates  form different regions  to be  absorbed in  the vacancies arising within the  respective regions. It thus provides the holding of examination  as far  as possible  and  making  of  actual recruitment on zonal basis. The object sought to be achieved by this  process or  method of  selection is  to enable  the candidates from  different regions  to be  absorbed  in  the vacancies  arising   within  the   respective  regions.  The question therefore  that arises for consideration is whether such a  selection based  on zonal basis would be permissible or it  would be  violative of  the Constitutional  guarantee enshrined in Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. 8.   It is  needless to emphasis that the purpose and object



behind  holding  a  recruitment  examination  is  to  select suitable and  best candidates  out of  the lot  and such  an object can  only be  achieved by making a common select list of the  successful candidates belonging to all the zones. On the other  hand if  zonewise selection  is made then various candidates who  appeared in  some of  the zones  and secured more marks  than those  who are  selected from  other  zones would be  deprived of  their selection  resulting into great injustice and  consequent discrimination.  Thus there can be said to  exist no  nexus between  the aforesaid  process  of zone-wise selection  and the object to be achieved, that is, the selection  of the  best candidates.  That being  so  the process  of  selection  as  envisaged  in  paragraph  16  of advertisement in question and reproduced in the earlier part of  this  judgment  would  lead  to  discriminatory  results because adopting  the said  process of  zone-wise  selection would result  in the  devaluation of  merit at the selection examination by  selecting a  candidate having  lesser  marks over the  meritorious candidate  who has  secured more marks and consequently  the rule  of equal  chance for equal marks would be  violated. Such a process would not only be against the principles  enunciated in  Article  14  and  16  of  the Constitution but  it would  also result in heart burning and frustration amongst  the young  men of the country. The rule of equality  of opportunity  for  every  individual  in  the country is  an  inalienable  part  of    our  constitutional guarantee and  that being  so a  candidate who  secures more marks than  another is definitely entitled to get preference for the  job as  the merit must be the test when selecting a candidate for recruitment for posts which are advertised. In the present  case admittedly  the process  of  selection  as envisaged in  paragraph 16  of the advertisement in question is violative  of Article  14 and  16 of  the Constitution of India as it has been demonstrated from the marks list of the appellants placed  before us at the Bar during the course of arguments that  they  had  secured  more  marks  than  those secured by some of the selected candidates. 9.   In the  case of  Rajendran Vs.  State of  Madras & Ors. (1968(2)  SCR   786)  this   court  had   struck  down   the districtwise distribution of seats for the medical admission as  providing   for  unitwise  allocation  was  held  to  be violative of  Article 14  and 16  of the Constitution on the ground that  it  might  result  in  candidates  of  inferior calibre being selected in one district and those of superior calibre not being selected to another district. Similarly in the case  of Peeriakaruppan  Vs State  of Tamil  Nadu & Ors. (1971(2) SCR 430) unitwise allocation of seats was also held to be  void and  was struck down as discriminatory. Again in the case  of Nidamarti Maheshkumar Vs State of Maharashtra & Ors. (1986  (2) SCC  534) region-wise  scheme adopted by the State Government was held to be void and struck down by this court by  holding that  it would  result in  denial of equal opportunity and  was thus  violative of  Article 14  of  the Constitution. The  ratio of these decisions of this court is fully attracted  to the  facts of  the present case in which the process of selection on the zonal basis will also result in denial  of equal  opportunity and  would be  violative of Article 14 and we hold accordingly. 10.  The argument  advanced by  the learned  counsel for the respondents that  this process  of zone-wise selection is in vogue since  1975 and has stood that test of time can not be accepted for  the simple reason that it was never challenged by anybody  and was  not subjected  to judicial  scrutiny at all. If  on judicial  scrutiny it  cannot stand  the test of reasonableness and constitutionality it cannot be allowed to



continue and  has to  be struck  down. But  we make it clear that this  judgment will  have prospective  application  and whatever selection and appointments have so far been made in accordance with  the impugned process of selection shall not be disturbed on the basis of this judgment. But in future no such selection  shall  be  made  the  zonal  basis.  if  the Government  is   keen  to  make  zone-wise  selection  after allocating some posts for each zone. It may make such scheme on rules  or adopt  such process  of selection which may not clash with  the provisions contained in Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution  of India  having regard  to the guidelines laid down  by this  Court  from  time  to  time  in  various pronouncements. In  the facts  and circumstances of the case we make no order as to costs. The appeals and writ petitions are allowed as indicated above.