Arup Kumar Goswami, CJ.
1. Heard Mr. Aagney Sail, learned counsel for the appellant. Also heard Mr. H.S. Ahluwalia, learned Deputy Advocate General appearing for respondent No. 1, Mr. Ramakant Mishra, learned Assistant Solicitor General appearing for respondent No. 2 and Mr. Shashank Thakur, learned counsel appearing for respondent No. 3.
2. This writ appeal is presented against an order dated 26.08.2021 passed by the learned Single Judge in Writ Petition (S) No. 4517 of 2021, whereby, the writ petition preferred by the appellant, who was petitioner No. 2 and another petitioner, who has chosen not to file appeal, was dismissed.
3. The respondent No. 3/ University issued an advertisement on 14.11.2019 for appointment in respect of 66 posts of Assistant Professor in the Academic Level-10 including on the subject of Entomology for Agriculture Colleges in the State of Chhattisgarh for which the writ petitioners submitted their respective applications. For the post of Assistant Professors in Entomology, 6 posts were earmarked. Petitioner No. 2 (appellant herein) had applied in the ‘OBC Category’, for which 01 post was earmarked and the petitioner No. 1 had applied for the ‘Unreserved Category’, for which there were 02 posts. The last date for submission of online application form was fixed on 31.12.2019.
4. There was a corrigendum dated 15.04.2020 to the advertisement dated 14.11.2019, by which posts reserved for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) for Assistant Professor was cancelled and the posts were added to unreserved category.
5. On 15.04.2020, respondent No. 1 issued an advertisement for appointment of 26 non-teaching posts of Subject Matter Specialist of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs). The appellant had applied for a post in Subject Matter Specialist (Entomology).
6. On 05.05.2020, the respondent No. 3 published the list of eligible and non-eligible candidates for the session 2019-20 for the post of Assistant Professors in Entomology subject. 106 candidates were found eligible including the petitioners.
7. Subsequently, after objections were received, another list was published on 26.06.2020. 14 more candidates were declared eligible and 01 candidate, declared earlier as eligible, was considered as not eligible.
8. On 07.09.2020, a score chart of eligible candidates for the post of Assistant Professors (Entomology) was published wherein, it was reflected that petitioners No. 1 and 2 had scored 42.48 marks (at Sl.No. 88) and 39.39 marks (at Sl.No. 104), out of total 87 marks.
9. On 06.10.2020, the respondent No. 3 published a list of 82 eligible and non-eligible candidates for the post of Subject Matter Specialist. After objections were received, on 05.12.2020, respondent No. 3 published a list adding one more candidate as eligible. Thereafter, on 28.12.2020, the respondent No. 3 published a score chart for the post of Subject Matter Specialist (Entomology) wherein appellant was placed at Sl. No. 48 with score of 39.49.
10. At the time of submission of the online application forms, the petitioners did not possess the Ph.D. qualification. The selection process is not yet completed and in the interregnum period, the petitioners had acquired the Ph.D. qualification.
11. After obtaining the Ph.D. qualification, the petitioners along with some others had submitted a representation dated 26.12.2020 to the Vice-Chancellor of respondent No. 3 to take into account their Ph.D. qualification and to appropriately revise the score chart by updating their application forms.
12. Subsequently, the writ petitioners approached this Court, praying for the following reliefs:
“10.1 Direct the Respondent No. 3 University to withdraw its advertisement dated 14.11.2019 (for the 66 posts of Assistant Professors) and 15.04.2020 (for the 26 posts of Subject Matter Specialists) and issue fresh advertisement in lieu thereof, or in the alternative;
10.2 Direct the Respondent No. 3 University to permit resubmitting of applications by the candidates who applied for the posts in response to advertisements dated 14.11.2019 (for the 66 posts of Assistant Professors) and 15.04.2020 (for the 26 posts of Subject Matter Specialists) and were held eligible.
10.3 Pass any other order or orders as may be just and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.”
13. The arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the petitioners before the learned Single Judge has been noted at paragraphs 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the judgment under challenge, which are as under:
“3. By efflux of time, the Petitioners herein have acquired more qualification and experience and therefore they firstly want the Respondents to once again make a fresh assessment of the score card on the basis of the experience and qualification that each of the candidates, who have applied and found suitable, has as on the date.
4. According to Petitioners, if a fresh assessment of their scores are done, by virtue of the additional qualification that they have gained in the intervening period and also by virtue of the additional experience that they have, their marks would get substantially improved and they could find place at the top of the merit list.
5. The claim of the Petitioners is on the basis of both of them having done Ph.D. in the field of Agriculture from Respondent No. 3 – University during the intervening period and Petitioner No. 1 also in the intervening period has got teaching job with Respondent No. 3 – University and that all these would improve their scores substantially. Thus, the present Writ Petition.
6. Another challenge by Petitioners to the two Advertisements is on the ground that in the light of the recent regulations notified by Respondent No. 2-UGC, the qualification of Ph.D. is mandatory for appointment to the post of Assistant Professor in respect of regulations made to the post of Assistant Professor on or after 1.7.2021. Since the Respondents have not concluded the recruitment from the above referred two Advertisements, any further recruitment and order of appointment now have to be in accordance with the current UGC regulations that are applicable. For this reason also, according to Petitioners, the Advertisement is bad in law and is liable to be interfered with and the Respondents should either cancel the entire recruitment and going for a fresh recruitment or to revise the merit-list prepared in the light of the Circular of UGC as also in the light of the qualifications that the Petitioners have as on date.”
14. Before proceeding further, it will be appropriate to place on record, at this juncture, that Mr. Sail has submitted that the challenge made by the petitioners to the advertisements on the ground that the qualification of Ph.D. is mandatory for any appointment to the post of Assistant Professors on or before 01.07.2021 is not pressed by him as, subsequently, the UGC had extended the aforesaid period by further period of two years.
15. The learned Single Judge, at paragraphs 8, 12 and 13, noted as under:
“8. Having heard the contentions put forth on either side and on perusal of record, what needs to be appreciated at the first instance is that if the prayer of Petitioners to the extent of revising the score chart again in respect of qualification and experience of each of the candidates as on date is permitted, it can cause an adverse impact in respect of those candidates who have not improved upon their qualification during the intervening period. At the same time, it would be fruitful for those candidates, like the Petitioners herein, who during the intervening period firstly have gained additional qualification that of Ph.D. and one of them also has got a teaching job and with that such category of candidates, like the Petitioners, would march ahead of those candidates who did not acquire additional qualification or experience. This would amount to changing the rule of the game in the midst of recruitment process detrimental to some and in favour of few which otherwise is totally impermissible. The Hon’ble Supreme Court as also this Court in a series of judgments has held that the rule of the game subsequent to recruitment process having been initiated cannot be changed.
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12. The fact which also needs to be taken note of at this juncture is that there is no challenge to the Advertisements at all; neither is there any challenge to the clause of the Advertisements which specifically prescribes the cut-off date for the purpose of acquiring the qualification and experience required for recruitment for the post advertised.
13. The reason why the cut-off date is prescribed in an Advertisement for a particular post is precisely for the reason that it is meant for only those candidates who have the minimum essential qualification and eligibility criteria at the time of issuance of Advertisement or by the time the last date of filing of the application form as prescribed in the Advertisement. If there is no system of a cut-off date it can lead to a situation where many of the candidates who have applied must be getting their qualification on different dates even after the Advertisement is issued and the additional qualification that they have acquired in the course of recruitment process would have to be taken into consideration, which again is neither practical nor permissible under the rules nor is it accepted under the service law jurisprudence, particularly for the High Court in exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Under the Writ jurisdiction conferred upon the Courts, the limited power of judicial review in a recruitment process is to ascertain whether the recruitment process firstly is being carried out strictly in accordance with the service rules governing the field; whether the recruitment process is initiated with malafides and arbitrariness; and whether the recruitment process is in contravention to any of the statutory provisions.”
16. Mr. Sail has submitted that it will be permissible for the authorities to permit the petitioners to revise their online applicantions by incorporating the marks which is assigned for the qualification of Ph.D. as the petitioners had the requisite minimum qualification for responding to the advertisement in question and if such permission is accorded to the petitioners, the same will not in any manner tinker with the selection process.
17. It is further submitted that such opportunity may be granted to all the selected candidates who had the requisite minimum qualification to update their online applications form so that more people having better qualifications are in the fray. It is submitted that appointment on the basis of higher qualification cannot be held to be arbitrary and unreasonable on the touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
18. Learned counsel for the respondents support the order of the learned Single Judge.
19. A perusal of the general conditions of the advertisement at Clause 13 would go to show that the University had fixed a scorecard for the recruitment to the post of Assistant Professor and that the applicants were advised to fill the online application form carefully according to scorecard. It is also provided that the application, without uploading proper certificates/ marksheets/ transcripts/ documents/ reprints, will not be scored. In-service candidates were also directed to upload the experience certificate given by the employer to avail the marks allotted under experience.
20. The scorecard demonstrates that specific marks were allotted for the purpose of education, qualification and academic excellence, etc. It is not in dispute that for Ph.D., 15 marks are allotted.
21. It is an admitted position that the petitioners did not have the requisite Ph.D. degree at the time of submission of online form. Marks are assigned on the basis of, amongst others,qualification possessed and when the same is not questioned, it has to be understood that the qualification possessed by the intending candidates on the date of submission of the online application form will have to be the basis for the award of the marks on the sco
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re card. 22. It will be impermissible, even if the selection process has not come to an end, to allow any of the intending candidates to revise their marks in the online applications submitted earlier by adding marks for the qualifications acquired subsequent to filing of such online application as there has to be a certainty in the recruitment process. It cannot be countenanced that till such time recruitment process is finalized, the aspiring eligible candidates can go on submitting additional documents regarding additional qualification acquired and / or experience gathered during the interregnum period. If such a course of action as submitted by Mr. Sail is accepted, the same will affect the purity and sanctity of a recruitment process and will result in changing the rules of the game. 23. It is difficult to understand what is meant by Mr. Sail when he submits that appointment made on the basis of higher qualification will not be arbitrary. The case of the petitioners being that their higher qualification acquired after last date of submission of application ought to be taken into consideration, at any rate, such a ground does not arise for consideration in the instant case. 24. On due consideration, we find no good ground to interfere with the order of the learned Single Judge and accordingly, the appeal is dismissed. No cost.