1. The following order of the court was delivered by Sohani, J.:--
This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
2. The material facts giving rise to this petition briefly are as follows:--
The respondent Public Service Commission invited applications for the posts of Assistant Engineers (civil) by advertisement No. 1080 issued in that behalf. The last date for submission of application forms was 30th Sept. 1980. As mentioned in the advertisement, a candidate who had obtained a degree in Civil Engineering and whose age as on 1-1-1981 was within the age limit specified in the advertisement, was eligible for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil). The petitioner submitted an application in the prescribed forms before the expiry of the last date fixed for receiving applications. Thereafter, by the letter dated 3rd April 1981, the petitioner furnished to the Commission the statement received by him from the University specifying the marks obtained by the petitioner in his final B. E. (Civil) Degree Examination, for which he had appeard in Jan. 1981 and which he passed in the first division. On 9th April, 1981, the commissioner issued an admission card to the petitioner enabling him to appear for the written test to be conducted by the Commission on 9th and 10th May 1981. In the admission card, it was stated that the admission was provisional and in case it was discovered after the examination that a candidate did not fulfil the requirements prescribed by the advertisement, his candidature was liable to be cancelled. The written examination to be held on 9th and 10th May 1981, was, however, postponed and a fresh admission card was issued to the petitioner on 11th May 1981 to enable him to appear for the written examination to be held on 16th and 17th June. 1981. On those dates, the written examination was ultimately held. The result of the written examination was declared by the respondent on 5th October 1981 and the list of candidates, who were qualified for appearing at the personality test to be conducted by the Commission from 23rd Nov. 1981 to 11th Dec. 1981, was published. The petitioner's roll number was included in that list. The respondent also notified that candidates would be individually informed of the date fixed for their interview, The petitioner, however, did not receive any intimation till 20/11/1981 regarding the date fixed for his interview and hence, on that date, he wrote a letter to the secretary of the respondent Commission requesting the Commissioner to call him for interview as he had qualified in the written test held by the Commission, No reply was received by the petitioner. Therefore, the petitioner again repeated his request by letters dated 23rd Nov. 1981 and 27th Nov. 1981. The petitioner however did not receive any reply from the Commission and hence on 4th of Dec. 1981, he filed the present petition.
3. When the petition came up before us for motion hearing on 5th Dec. 1981, we directed that a notice be issued to the respondent to show cause as to why the petition should not be admitted and interim relief as prayed for by the petitioner be not given. The notice was served on the respondent on 7th December 1981. The petition then came up for consideration before a Division Bench consisting of Hon'ble Mulye and Hon'ble Vijaywargiya, JJ. on 10th of Dec. 1981. On that date, the learned Deputy Government Advocate appearing for the respondent, prayed for a day's adjournment, which was granted and the case was fixed on 11-12-181 for motion hearing and for consideration of the application for grant of interim relief sought by the petitioner, On llth Dec. 1981, when the case was called on for hearing, none appeared on behalf of the respondent to show cause against admission of the petition or against grant of interim relief, Not even a reply to the application for grant of interim relief was filed by the respondent. In these circumstances, the court admitted the petition and granted the interim relief prayed for by the petitioner by directing that the result of the interviews held by the respondent for selecting candidates for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil) be not declared until further orders. Thereafter, the respondent filed its return on 31st Dec. 1981. In the return, it was contended that as the petitioner did not possess the essential academic qualification before the expiry of the last date fixed for receipt of applications, he was not found eligible and hence was not called for interview. It was also contended that the petitioner had sought to 'hoodwink' the Commission as he had applied for the post even though he had known that he was not eligible and it was strange that he should be invoking the interference of the court in the name of justice.
4. Thereafter, on 4th January 1982, an application was filed on behalf of the respondent praying that the petition be heard at an early date, as the result of candidates interviewed for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil) could not be declared on account of issuance of an ad interim writ by this court, that the selected candidates had to be recommended to the State Government at an early date and that the recruitment was being delayed. Assuming that the delay in selection by the respondent of candidates, who had submitted applications by 30th of Sept. 1980, which was the last date fixed for that purpose, was due to the issuance of ad interim writ by this court on 11th Dec. 1981, it is regretted that the importance and the urgency of the matter should not have been realised on behalf of the respondent when a notice was served on the respondent to show cause as to why the petition should not be admitted and ad interim writ be issued. However, in view of the reasons stated in the application for early hearing filed by the respondent, we directed that the petition be fixed for hearing on 2nd Feb. 1982.
5. Shri Sethi, learned counsel for the petitioner, contended that it was not mentioned in the advertisement issued by the respondent that the candidates applying for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil) should possess the requisite academic qualification prescribed by the advertisement, on the date of the application. It was urged that regarding age limit, the relevant date prescribed in the advertisement was 1st January, 5981 though the last date for submitting applications was 30th of Sept. 1980. It was, therefore, contended that it could not be assumed by the petitioner that a candidate was required to possess the requisite academic qualification before 30th of September 1980. It was submitted that the petitioner believed that a candidate would be considered eligible for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil) if he were to possess the requisite academic qualification on the date of his selection and that there was no attempt to 'hoodwink' the commission, which was clear from the fact that as soon as the petitioner passed the final B. E. Degree Examination held in January 1981, he did inform the respondent of that fact and furnished the statement of marks and it was thereafter that he was allowed to appear for the written test. The learned counsel for the petitioner, therefore, contended that though the petitioner had qualified in the written test, the respondent had acted arbitrarily in not calling the petitioner for the personality test. It was, therefore, prayed that a direction be issued to the Commission to call the petitioner for interview.
6. The short question for consideration in this case is whether the respondent had acted arbitrarily in not calling the petitioner for the interview even though he had qualified in the written test held by the respondent. If any action of the respondent is found to be arbitrary or contrary to any provisions of law, then this court has power to interfere under Article 226 of the Constitution. As held by the Supreme Court in Ramana Dayaram Chetty v. International Airport Authority of India (AIR 1979 SC 1628), every action of a statutory authority must be informed with reason and should be free from arbitrariness. In this connection, we may usefully refer to the following observations of the Supreme Court in AIR 1979 SC 1628 at P. 1637 (supra).
'it must, therefore, be taken to be the law that where the Government is dealing with the public, whether by way of giving jobs or entering into contracts or issuing quotas or licences or granting other forms of largess, the Government cannot act arbitrarily at its sweet will and like a private individual, deal with any person it pleases, but its action must be in conformity with standard or norm, which is not arbitrary, irrational or irrelevant. The power or discretion of the Government in the matter of grant of largess including award of jobs, contracts, quotas licences etc. must be confined and structured by rational, relevant and non-discriminatory standard or norm and if the Government departs from such standard or norm in any particular case or cases, the action of the Government would be liable to be struck down, unless it can be shown by the Government that the departure was not arbitrary, but was based on some valid principle, which in itself was not irrational unreasonable or discriminatory.'
In the light of the aforesaid observations, which are applicable to all statutory authorities, we have to ascertain whether by not calling the petitioner for the interview, the respondent has acted arbitrarily or contrary to any rule or regulation.
7. Now, according to the respondent, the petitioner was not called for interview as he did not possess the essential academic qualification before the expiry of the last date fixed for receiving applications, i.e. before 30th Sept. 1980. That the petitioner did possess the essential academic qualification on the date when written test was held, was not disputed. The contention advanced on behalf of the respondent is that to be eligible for being considered for the post of Assistant Engineer (civil), the petitioner should have fulfilled the requirements of the advertisement in question before the expiry of the last date fixed for receipt of applications.
8. It is true, as urged or behalf of the petitioner, that in some cases candidates are considered eligible for the post if they possess necessary qualification on the date of selection. But in that event, it is specifically so mentioned in the advertisement calling applications for filling the posts. In the instant case, it has not been so mentioned in the advertisement in question. On behalf of the petitioner, it has not been pointed out that there are any rules or regulations framed in this behalf. It was stated at the bar on behalf of the respondent that there were no rules or regulations laying down the procedure to be followed by the respondent in the matter of fixing the date, with reference to which, the eligibility of a candidate for a particular post had to be judged. The question as to whether there should be rules or regulations in this behalf for determination of the point of time, at which the eligibility of a candidate for a post has to be judged and that it should not be left to the discretion of the respondent, has not been raised before us and hence we refrain from expressing any opinion on that question. It has not been shown on behalf of the petitioner that in any other advertisement issued by the respondent, the respondent has, for judging the eligibility of a candidate for a post with reference to his academic qualification, fixed a date later than the date of expiry of receipt of application. Had it been so we would have gone into the question as to whether it was permissible for the respondent to make deviations. But in absence of any material on record, we cannot embark on that enquiry. In the instant case, the essential academic qualification for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil) has been mentioned in the advertisement. In the absence of any other due date specified in the advertisement as the date, with reference to which the eligibility of the candidate with regard to his academic qualification would he judged, it must be held that a candidate applying for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil) should possess the necessary academic qualification on the date of the application. It has not been shown that in the case of any other candidate, who had applied for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil), the respondent has judged the eligibility of that candidate with respect to his academic qualification, with reference to a date later than the last date fixed for receipt of applications. In the circumstances, it cannot be held that in not holding the petitioner eligible for the post and hence in not calling him for the interview, the respondent has acted arbitrarily.
9. On behalf of the petitioner, it was contended that the respondent had permitted him to appear for the written test and hence it was estopped from challenging the eligibility. The contention cannot be upheld. The admission card issued to the petitioner made it clear that the admission was provisional and that the candidature was liable to be cancelled if it was found that a candidate did not fulfil the requirements of the advertisement. It is true that the petitioner did not 'hoodwink' the respondent as urged in the return because it has not been shown that he had made any misrepresentation in the application submitted by him, with regard to his academic qualification. The application form was not produced before us. In fact, without there being any query from the respondent, the petitioner himself informed the respondent that he had appeared for the final B. E. Degree examination held in January 1981 and had passed. If the petitioner honestly believed that his eligibility for the post, as regards minimum academic qualification prescribed for the post would be judged with reference to the date of his selection, it cannot be said that he knew that he was not eligible and was trying to 'hoodwink' the respondent. A grievance was made on behalf of the petitioner that his frantic queries to the respondent as to why he was not being called for the interview even though he had qualified in the written test, remained unanswered. The allegation made in the return that 'the petitioner may have sent applications to which it was not necessary to reply because he had approached in person', is not substantiated. The affidavit filed on behalf of the respondent is of a section officer who has no personal knowledge of the facts stated in the return because, as stated by him in the affidavit.' the facts stated in the reply to petition are based on information received from the official records. 'The respondent has neither produced any official record to show that the petitioner had approached in person nor has it filed for affidavit of any person, who had personal knowledge in that behalf. But the failure of the respondent to send any reply to the letters sent by the petitioner cannot estop the respondent from contending that the petitioner was not eligible. Maybe, according to the respondent, as the petitioner was seeking a, job, he was not entitled to be shown the courtesy of sending any reply to his letters. The failure of the respondent to send any reply, though lacking in civility, cannot be held to be mala fide or cannot confer any right on the petitioner to be considered eligible for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil). AS already observed, in view of the fact that the petitioner was not eligible for the post, as regards his academic qualification on the date he had submitted the application for the post of Assistant Engineer (Civil), it cannot be held that the respondent has acted arbitrarily or contrary to any provision of law in holding that the petitioner was not eligible for the post. The petitioner, therefore, is not entitled to any relief under Article 226 of the Constitution.
10. For all these reasons, the petition fails and is accordingly dismissed. In the circumstances of the case, parties shall bear their own costs. Security amount, if any shall be refunded to the petitioner after verification. The ad interim writ issued on 11th December, 1981 is vacated.