Sri Srinivas K Gouda vs Karnataka Institute Of Medical … on 8 October, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Sri Srinivas K Gouda vs Karnataka Institute Of Medical … on 8 October, 2021

Author: Hon’Ble Dr. Chandrachud

Bench: Hon’Ble Dr. Chandrachud, B.V. Nagarathna

                                                                                     REPORTABLE



                                       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                          Civil Appeal No. 6217 of 2021
                                    (Arising out of SLP(C) No. 15458 of 2017)




          Sri Srinivas K Gouda                                                  …Appellant



                                                     VERSUS


          Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences & Ors.                        …Respondents




                                                 JUDGMENT

Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J

1 By a judgment dated 31 March 2017 1, a Division Bench of the High Court

of Karnataka, at Dharwad allowed an appeal filed against the judgment of the

Single Judge 2. The Division Bench quashed the selection of the appellant to the

post of ‘Junior Lab Technician’ in the first respondent and directed it to consider

the case of the third respondent for appointment to the post. The appellant

moved this Court in Special Leave Petition to challenge the decision of the
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by

Division Bench. Leave was granted on 1 October 2021.

DEEPAK SINGH
Date: 2021.10.08
11:30:41 IST
Reason:

1

WA No. 10580/2015
2
WP No. 63973/2009

1
2 On 2 September 2008, the first respondent issued a notification inviting

applications for thirty-five vacancies in the post of ‘Junior Lab Technician’. The

notification bifurcated the available vacancies on the basis of category and

stipulated the minimum qualifications required for selection. The relevant portion

of the notification reads as follows:

1. Junior Lab Technicians:- General Merit 33 years,
SC/ST/Cat. I, 38 years and for other category 36 years.
Pass in PUC with Chemistry and Laboratory Technician
Training Course or pass in SSLC and 2 years Vocational
Diploma Course in Laboratory Technician or Pass PUC
with Science and 2 years Laboratory Technician Course
conducted by Para Medical Board, Karnataka or Pass in
SSLC and 3 years Diploma in Medical Laboratory
Technology in conducted by Para Medical Board,
Karnataka.

3 Both the appellant and third respondent applied for the post in category

1(OBC) in which one vacancy was advertised. The Selection Committee

consisted of the Additional Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare

(Medical Education), Director of Medical Education, a representative of the Rajiv

Gandhi University of Health Sciences and the Director, Principal and CAO of the

first respondent. On 22 August 2008, the Selection Committee assembled to

discuss the modalities of selection. It was decided that the percentage of marks

obtained in the qualifying exam in the Laboratory Technician’s Course would be

converted to 85%. Of the 15% marks set out for the interview, 10% of the marks

were to be set apart for the length of work experience and/or additional training in

teaching hospitals of a medical college, with special preference to those who had

worked in teaching hospitals of government/autonomous medical colleges. The

remaining 5% marks were to be assigned to the personality of the candidate

2
based on the viva-voce. The relevant extract of the Minutes of the Meeting is

extracted below:

“The Selection Committee consisting of the
Additional Secretary, Health & Family Welfare Department
(Medical Education), Director of Medical Education,
representative of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health
Sciences, Director, Principal and CAO of KIMS, Hubli held
a meeting on 22.12.2008 at 11.30 a.m. to discuss the
modalities of selection (Advertisement is dated
02.09.2008, prior to this). It was decided that in order to
select the most suitable candidates, proportionate
weightage based on the length of experience and/or
additional training to the extent of 10 marks be given
to those candidates who had work experience and/or
additional training in Medical college teaching
hospitals and especially those who had worked in
Government/ Autonomous Medical College Teaching
Hospitals. It was agreed that the type of work in these
institutions most closely resembled the working
conditions at ‘ Karnataka Institute of Medical
Sciences, Hubli and hence the candidates who had
experience in such institutions would be the most
suitable. It was also decided to set apart a maximum of
5 marks for the personality of the candidate and
his/her presentation and performance. The marks
obtained in the interview (maximum 15) would be added
to the average percentage obtained in the qualifying
examination reduced to 85%. The total marks thus
obtained by the candidates would be tabulated in the
order of merit and final list would be prepared based on
the roster system.”

(emphasis
supplied)

The appellant scored an aggregate of 66.77%, while the third respondent scored

76.3% in the qualifying examination in the para medical course. The interview for

the selection of candidates for the post was held on 22, 23 and 24 December

2008.

4 The appellant was given 9.5 marks in the experience category and 4.5

marks in the personality/presentation category. On the other hand, the third

3
respondent received one mark each in the components of experience and

personality/presentation. On the cumulation of the marks received in the three

categories namely, qualifying marks, experience and interview, the appellant

secured 70.86 marks while the third respondent secured 66.84 marks. Since the

appellant cumulatively received the highest marks in category 1, he was

appointed to the post of Junior Lab Technician in category 1 on 21 April 2009.

5 The third respondent instituted a writ petition under Article 226 of the

Constitution before the High Court of Karnataka to challenge the appointment of

the appellant. He sought a direction for quashing the appointment of the appellant

and his appointment in place of the appellant to the post. It was contended that

the selection of the appellant to the post, in spite of having scored lower marks in

the qualifying examination as compared to him was arbitrary. The petition was

resisted by the appellant on the following grounds:

(i) The third respondent ought to have approached the Karnataka

Administrative Tribunal to redress his grievances;

(ii) The Selection Committee is an expert body which was entitled to bifurcate

and assign 85% for the marks in the qualifying examination in the para

medical course, 10% for experience in a recognized health institution and

5% for vivo-voce; and

(iii) The appellant passed his para medical course in 2002-2003 and had three

years’ experience in the hospital of the first respondent and one year’s

experience in Bapuji Medical College, Davangere. On the other hand, the

third respondent passed his para medical course in 2007 and had

experience only of six months working under a private medical practitioner.

4
6 By a judgment dated 7 August 2015, the Single Judge dismissed the writ

petition for the reason that (i) the advertisement stipulated that a candidate who

had passed PUC must possess two years’ experience; and (ii) since the third

respondent did not have the requisite experience as prescribed, the Selection

Committee was justified in awarding only one mark under the head of experience.

7 The third respondent assailed the correctness of the judgement of the

Single Judge in an intra court appeal and urged the following submissions : (i) the

selection process was skewed to favour ‘insider’ candidates, namely candidates

who were working for or had worked in the first respondent; (ii) the advertisement

calling for applications did not specify the requirement of experience for the post

of Junior Lab Technician, though it was prescribed for other posts; and (iii) For

the above two reasons, providing marks based on experience is arbitrary. On the

other hand, the appellant urged that (i) the Selection Committee consisted of

responsible persons who had resolved to grant ten marks for experience (with

preference to those who had earlier worked in government institutions) and 5

marks for the interview; and (iii) the Court must not sit in appeal and interfere with

the decision of the Selection Committee.

8 The Division Bench allowed the appeal and quashed the selection of the

appellant and directed the first respondent to consider the case of the third

respondent for appointment to the post of Junior Lab Technician within two

months. The Division Bench held that:

(i) The Court cannot sit in appeal over the work of the Selection Committee,

unless allegations of bias are established;

5

(ii) Bye-law No. 10 states that relaxation of age and other conditions can be

made during the process of selection at the discretion of the appointing

authority in order to utilize the best talent and experience. However, the

advertisement did not make any reference to the applicability of the Bye-

law 10 but only indicated that the selected candidate will be governed by

the bye-laws of the first respondent;

(iii) The bye-law is vague and has not prescribed any guidelines for the

exercise of discretion by the Selection Committee;

(iv) The Selection Committee evolved the criteria after the advertisement was

issued and when the selection process had begun;

(v) Most of the selected candidates were given high marks of 9 or 9.5 in the

experience category and 4.5 marks in the personal interview category. The

marks were given arbitrarily under the head of experience : one

candidate who only had four months’ experience was given two marks for

experience, while other candidates who had experience exceeding four

months, were given one mark for experience;

(vi) No explanation has been furnished for dividing the marks in the ratio of

85:10:5. The absence of any criteria for the allotment of discretionary

marks leads to an inference of bias and mala fides; and

(vii) The bifurcation of marks for experience and personality after the

publication of the advertisement amounted to changing the rules of game

after the process had begun.

6
9 The appellant moved this Court in a Special Leave Petition. This Court

issued notice by an order dated 20 July 2012 and stayed the operation of the

judgment of the Division Bench. The appellant who was appointed in 2009 has

continued in the post for eleven years.

10 Mr SN Bhat, counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant has sought to

challenge the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court has urged the

following grounds :

(i) The marks allotted to the appellant under the heads of experience and

interview are not arbitrary. The appellant had an experience of one year in

a private institute and an experience of three years and one month in a

government medical institution as on the date of the application. On the

other hand, the third respondent had an experience of only six months

working under a doctor in private practice at the relevant time;

(ii) Though the advertisement did not prescribe experience as a minimum

qualification, there is a difference between prescribing a minimum

qualification and providing guidelines for identification of suitability of a

candidate from the selected pool. The Selection Committee has the power

to evolve criteria for determining the suitability of candidates among those

who fulfil the minimum criteria mentioned in the advertisement;

(iii) The Selection Committee resolved to segregate the work experience into

government and private sectors and decided to give more weightage to

those who have work experience in the government sector. The committee

was of the opinion that candidates who have worked in a governmental

institution would be more suitable for the post in the first respondent since

7
they would be familiar of the modalities of work. Thus, the marks allotted

by the Selection Committee were guided by a sound rationale;

(iv) The third respondent has not challenged the entire selection list but only

the selection of the appellant. Thus, the Court could not have referred to

the alleged irregularities in the marks provided to candidates in other

categories to impute mala fides; and

(v) The selection list was challenged before the Karnataka High Court in

Nagaraj v. Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences 3. The writ petition

was dismissed by the Single Judge and there was no appeal against the

order. Since the order of the Single Judge has attained finality, the

respondent cannot now raise arguments on the alleged arbitrariness of the

selection list.

11 Mr Devadatt Kamal, counsel appearing on behalf of the third respondent

has urged the following submissions:

(i) The advertisement calling for applications to the post of a ‘Junior Lab

Technician’ does not prescribe an experience criterion;

(ii) The Selection Committee has uniformly given all the selected candidates,

9.5 marks for experience and 4.5 marks for the interview. Candidates who

have not been selected were uniformly given one mark each for

experience and at the interview;

(iii) The rules of the game have been changed after the selection process had

set in; and

3
WP Nos. 62758-62760/2009

8

(iv) The merit list shows that the Selection Committee arbitrarily awarded

marks for experience. For instance, a candidate having four months’

experience in a private institution was given two marks while a person

having more than a year of experience in a private institute was only given

one mark.

12      The rival submissions fall for consideration.

13      A preliminary observation needs to be made at this stage of the analysis.

The third respondent did not challenge the entire selection list dated 20 April

2009. He challenged the appellant’s selection and sought a direction for his

appointment in place of the appellant. The third respondent did not challenge the

entire selection since he and the appellant had applied under the same category,

namely Category 1 – OBC. The basis of the claim of the third respondent to the

post was that since he had secured higher marks as compared to the appellant in

the qualifying examination in the Lab Technician’s course, he ought to have been

selected for the post. The Single Judge while dismissing the writ petition noted

the submission of the third respondent thus:

“2. […] It is the petitioner’s grievance that his
name appeared at Serial No.213, wherein the percentage
of marks obtained by the petitioner is shown at 76.28%,
whereas the name of respondent no.3, who had actually
been selected for the post of Junior Laboratory
Technician, had appeared at Serial No.170 and the
percentage of marks of respondent no.3 was shown as
66.77%. In spite of this, it is the petitioner’s grievance that
respondent no.3 had been appointed apparently on the
basis of the marks obtained at the interview and it is the
petitioner’s suspicion that the marks were granted in
favour of respondent no.3 at the interview
notwithstanding; that he was less meritorious than the
petitioner and it is on this ground that the present petition

9
is filed seeking to question the appointment of
respondent no.3 and rejection of his application.”

It was in the writ appeal that the third respondent challenged the selection criteria

of allotting marks for experience and the interview. It was argued before the

Division Bench that the advertisement had only mentioned the requirement of a

minimum educational qualification and that since it did not stipulate a requirement

of experience, the selection based on marks provided for experience was

arbitrary since the rules of the game were changed after the selection process

had commenced.

14 The selection list for the post of ‘Junior Lab Technician’ was challenged

before the High Court in another proceeding – Nagaraj (supra) – but the writ

petition was dismissed by the Single Judge. In Nagaraj, the casual labourers

working in the first respondent challenged the selection list for the post of ‘Junior

Lab Technician’ on the ground that they ought to have been regularised and

appointed to the post. It was also contended that the selection process adopted

by the first respondent was not transparent. The Single Judge rejected the

submission and held that the Selection Committee had selected candidates to the

post in accordance with the Bye laws and the guidelines devised by the Selection

Committee. The High Court held :

“8. After careful perusal of the stand taken by the
respondents specifically with reference to Annexure R1,
authorities have followed the procedure and mode of
selection as per terms and conditions notified in By-

laws of the first respondent. Selection Committee
consists of experts in the relevant field having rich
knowledge are well acquainted with the procedures for
selection category wise. Taking into consideration the
marks secured by the candidate in the examination,
performance, experience certificate, certificate issued
by the concerned authorised officer regarding their

10
experience, practical knowledge of work in the lab, all
the candidates herein are selected on merit basis
having regard to their better marks, better experience.
[…] Taking into consideration all these relevant
aspects and due to efflux of time, the prayer sought by
the petitioners, may not survive for consideration and
interference by this Court is not called for, nor I find any
good ground to interfere in these writ petitions. Hence, all
these petitions are dismissed as being devoid of merits.”
(emphasis supplied)

Since the order of the Single Judge in Nagaraj has not been appealed, it has

attained finality and thus the marks allotted to candidates in other categories

cannot be scrutinised to cast doubt on the selection in Category 1.

15 Before proceeding to refer to the marks allotted to the third respondent and

the appellant by the Selection Committee for experience and at the interview, we

find it necessary to refer to the criteria for allocation of marks devised by the

Selection Committee. The Minutes of the Meeting of the Selection Committee

held on 20 August 2008 state that the committee resolved to give proportionate

weightage to the length of the service, with special preference to those

candidates who have worked in government medical colleges. For the selection

to the post of a ‘Junior Lab Technician’, the marks obtained in the qualifying

examination were assigned a weightage of eighty-five percent. Ten marks were

allotted to experience. Five marks were allotted for the personality of the

candidate, as adjudged in the interview. The Selection Committee laid down two

yardsticks for provision of marks for experience: (a) length of work experience of

the candidate; and (b) preference would be given to those who had worked in

teaching hospitals of government / autonomous medical colleges. The rationale

of the Selection Committee on differentiating between work experience in a

11
private and government institute was that those who had worked in a government

institute would be more suitable for the post due to the similarity of working

conditions owing to the fact that the first respondent is a government medical

institution.

16 It is in this background that we need to determine whether the marks

allotted to the appellant in the category of experience and personality are

arbitrary. The appellant at the time of submitting the application had a one year

work experience in Babuji Medical College, Devanagere (a private institution) and

three years of work experience with the first respondent. On the other hand, the

respondent at the time of the application, had six months’ experience of working

under a doctor who was undertaking private practice. Not only did the appellant

have more years of work experience, he had work experience in a governmental

institution. Hence, the marks awarded to the third respondent and the appellant

bore a nexus to the yardstick determined by the Selection Committee. It is not the

case of the third respondent that the appellant was given more marks for

experience despite having less work experience. On a comparison of the marks

allotted to both the candidates with reference to the yardstick determined by the

Selection Committee, no mala fides could be imputed to the Selection

Committee. Nor is there an obvious or glaring error or perversity. The Court does

not sit in appeal over the decision of the Selection Committee.

17 During the course of his submissions, counsel for the third respondent

referred to the judgments of this Court in K Manjusree v. State of Andhra

12
Pradesh
4 and Bishnu Biswas v. Union of India5. In K Manjusree, in issue was

the selection of candidates to ten posts of District and Sessions Judge (Grade II)

in the Andhra Pradesh State Higher Judicial Service. The first merit list was

prepared by cumulating the marks obtained in the written examination out of

hundred and the interview marks out of twenty five. However, when the merit list

was placed before the committee, the list was sent back for reconsideration on

the ground that the marks for the written test were to be converted to eighty five.

Further, the committee also introduced a minimum mark qualification for the

interview. Therefore, the ratio of written (examination) and oral (interview) marks

was changed from 4:1 to 3:1 and an additional requirement of minimum marks for

the interview was introduced. This was challenged by candidates who were in the

first merit list but were left out in the second merit list. The change in the ratio of

marks from 4:1 to 3:1 was upheld by this Court on the ground that the resolution

of the committee was misinterpreted while publishing the first merit list based on

the 4:1 ratio. However, the Court held that the prescription of minimum marks for

interview was illegal since such an additional requirement was prescribed after

the commencement of the selection process. In this regard, Justice Raveendran

writing for a three judge Bench observed:

“ 33. […] We have no doubt that the authority making
rules regulating the selection, can prescribe by rules, the
minimum marks both for the written examination and
interviews, or prescribe minimum marks for written exam
but not for the interview[…]. But if the Selection
Committee wants to prescribe minimum marks, it should
do so before the commencement of selection process. If
the Selection Committee prescribed minimum marks only
for the written examination, before the commencement of
selection process, it cannot either during the selection

4
(2008) 3 SCC 512
5
(2014) 5 SCC 774

13
process or after the selection process, add an additional
requirement.[…].”

18 In Bishnu Biswas (supra), the rules had provided that candidates for eight

Group D posts would be selected based on the written exam of fifty marks.

However, after the written exam was held, a press notice was issued calling

successful candidates for an interview for which fifty marks were allotted.

Referring to various judgments of this Court including Manjusree (supra), the

selection list was quashed on the ground that the rules of the game (by including

the interview component) had changed after the selection process was initiated.

19 As we have noted earlier, the respondent had not challenged the selection

list or the inclusion of the experience and the interview component for the

determination of the merit list in the Writ Petition but had only sought his

appointment within the criteria prescribed. Hence, the reliance placed by the

respondent on Bishnu Biswas and Manjusree would not aid the case of the

third respondent.

20 The Division Bench of the High Court set aside the appointment of the

appellant on two grounds. First, the marks provided for candidates at the

interview and for experience category were held to be arbitrary. To arrive at this

conclusion, the Division Bench referred to the entire select list and found alleged

discrepancies in the allotment of the marks for experience and a pattern where all

the selected candidates were given higher marks for experience and at the

interview. Second, the Division Bench held that the advertisement issued by the

first respondent did not mention the criterion of work experience but only provided

14
the minimum educational qualifications. Thus, it held that the rules of the game

were changed after the process had started. The appointment of the appellant

was set aside by the Division Bench by finding that the additional selection

criteria devised and the marks provided in those criteria were arbitrary. As

observed earlier, the selection list was not challenged by the respondent. His only

ground for challenge was that he had to be selected since he was ‘more

meritorious’ as he had better qualifying marks. Therefore, determining the

legality of the selection list and perusing the entire selection list to determine

whether the selection of the appellant was arbitrary was erroneous as the

Division Bench transgressed the limits of challenge in the writ petition.

21 For the above reasons, we allow the appeal and set aside the impugned

judgment and order of the High Court of Karnataka dated 31 March 2017.

22 Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.

……………..…………………………J
[Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud]

…..………….…………………………J
[BV Nagarathna]

New Delhi;

October 08, 2021

15



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