1. The dispute in this petition centres round the selection of a candidate for appointment as Reader in Education in the Sardar Patel University. In order to appreciate the various points urged at the hearing of the petition, it is necessary to trace the background.
2. Section 29 of the Sardar Patel University Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'), inter alia, provides that no person shall be appointed as a professor or reader of the University except on the recommendation of a Committee of Selection constituted for the purpose. The Syndicate is empowered under the said section to make the final selection out of the persons, if any, so recommended. The Syndicate is required to record its reasons if it does not make appointment in accordance with the order of merit arranged by the Committee and also if it does not accept the sole name recommended by the Committee. The Selection Committee is required to be presided over by the Vice-Chancellor as ex-officio Chairman.
3. Ordinance 96 prescribes the qualifications for being eligible for appointment to the post of a Reader, The qualifications are as under:-
(i) Consistently good academic record with 1st or high 2nd class ('B' in the seven points scale) at Bachelor's and Master's degrees in a relevant subject of a recognised University or equivalent degree of a statutory institute.
(ii) Either a research degree of Doctorate standard or published work of high standard in the relevant subject; and
(iii) At least seven years' experience of teaching at a University or college and should have continuous interest, during the five years in case of a person having Ph. D. degree and seven years in case of others, in research with published work in standard journals.
4. By a notification dated Nov. 26, 1980, applications were invited, inter alia, for the post of Reader in Education. The candidates were required to furnish complete information regarding the educational qualification for the teaching post and to send copies of mark-sheets of all the examinations beginning from the First years. The pleadings of the parties show that the candidates were required to file their applications along with the testimonials, etc. and a list of research publications. Such applications were to be made in ten sets so that copies of the respective applications together with all their annexures could be circulated amongst the members of ,the Selection Committee.
5. For the purposes of selection in question, a Selection Committee consisting of seven persons including the Vice Chancellor was constituted. Be it noted that out of the seven members of the Selection Committee, three members were connected with the University and they were the Vice Chancellor, Dean of the Faculty of Education and Principal of the M. B. Patel College of Education. Out of the remaining four members, three belonged to Gujarat and only one member belonged to Bombay.
6. It appears that ten candidates had applied for the post out of whom nine candidates were called for interview by the Selection Committee. One of the candidates called for interview was not present. The Selection Committee, therefore, interviewed eight candidates. Amongst the candidates interviewed were the petitioners and the second respondent.
7. It might be stated at this stage that In the Vice Chancellor's affidavit dated May 25, 1981, it has been stated that the copies of the respective applications of all the candidates together with their enclosures were circulated to the members of the Selection Committee in advance. The Deputy Registrar of the University, in his affidavit dated May 4, 1981, has specified that the applications were sent 26 days in advance to the members of the Selection Committee and that the applications along with their enclosures were before the Selection Committee even at the time of the interview. Besides copies of the original applications, the members of the Selection Committee were also supplied with a statement showing the details of the candidates, their qualifications/professional experience, etc,
8. The Selection Committee met on Mar. 18, 1981. Out of the seven members of the Selection Committee, only six were present and one of the members, namely, Dr. H. G. Desai was absent, The Vice Chancellor presided over the meeting of the Selection Committee. It is not in dispute, however, that he did not actively participate in the process of selection by assigning marks under the different heads. At the said meeting, the Selection Committee first laid down norms and guide-lines prescribing certain number of marks for each norm. Broadly stated, the various norms and division of marks under each head was as follows:-
50 marks, (i) total length of service, (ii) qualifications (iii) publications, (iv) teaching load-experience, and (v) coordination, co-operation and regularity (10 marks for each sub-head).
20 marks: Group discussion.
30 marks. Personal interview.
The topic for group discussion was also fixed in advance. The chart setting down norms with specification of marks was prepared in the hand-writing of the Vice Chancellor and a xerox copy thereof has been annexed as Annex. A-1 to the affidavit of the Deputy Registrar. The members of the Selection Committee have appended their signatures to the said chart.
9. The minutes of the meeting of the Selection Committee held as aforesaid are produced as Annex. 'B' to the petition. The minutes show that the Committee after taking into consideration the need of the department, the performance of the candidates at the group interview for group discussion and after interviewing the candidates individually as per the guide-lines recommended that the second respondent should be selected for appointment as Reader in Education. It might be mentioned at this stage that so far as the marks obtained by the concerned rival candidates are concerned, the marksheet is annexed as Annex. 1-B to the affidavit of the Vice-Chancellor and that the relative marks obtained by the petitioners and respondent No. 2 are as fol lows:-
Marks Petitioner No. 1 ......... 216Petitioner No. 2 ......... 204Petitioner No. 3 ......... 192Petitioner No. 4 ......... 170Respondent No. 2 ........ 235
It would thus appear that amongst the petitioners, the first petitioner obtained the highest marks and that the difference between the marks of the second respondent, who obtained the highest marks amongst all the competing candidates, and the marks of the first petitioner, was 19. Be it stated that between the first petitioner and the second respondent stood yet another candidate who obtained 223 marks.
10. The recommendation of the Selection Committee together with all the relevant material was then forwarded to the Syndicate and the Syndicate considered the same at its meeting held on Apr. 11, 1981. The Syndicate accepted the recommendation of the Selection Committee and decided to appoint the second respondent in the post of Reader in Education, with effect from June 1, 1981.
11. The present petition was instituted on Apr. 28, 1981 challenging the selection and appointment of the second respondent to the post in question. Notice was ordered to issue on the petition on Apr. 29, 1981 and ad-interim relief restraining the respondent-University from implementing the order of appointment and from giving charge of the post in question to the second respondent was granted.
12. Though the selection and appointment are challenged in the pleadings on several grounds, the following points were specifically urged on behalf of the petitioners at the hearing of the petition:-
(1) One of the qualifications required to be possessed by a candidate for the post in question is that he should have continuous 'interest during the five years of teaching experience in the case of persons having Ph. D. degree and seven years in the case of others in research with published work in standard journals. The Selection Committee could not have assessed the competing candidates in respect of the continuity of interest in research unless published work in standard journals of the candidates was made available to the Selection Committee in advance or at the time of selection. No material was accordingly made available to the members of the Selection Committee. In the absence of primary evidence of that nature, the recommendation made by the Selection Committee is vitiated. In addition, the second respondent has no published work in a standard journal as prescribed and, therefore, also his selection is vitiated.
(2) The Selection Committee did not have before it relevant material/particulars for assessing the worth of each candidate in respect of the following heads of norms:_
(i) Teaching load;
(ii) Co-ordination, co-operation and regularity.
The principal of the M. B. Patel College of Education, who was one of the members of the Selection Committee dictated marks on these heads to the members of the Selection Committee and all the candidates were, therefore, assigned equal marks.
(3) The norm set down by the Selection Committee with regard to total length of service is vague and uncertain inasmuch as it does not specify clearly as to, whether . the total length of service as lecturer, Teacher, Instructor, etc, was to be taken into consideration.
(4) One of the members of the Selection Committee was absent and the other member, namely, Vice Chancellor did not participate in the process of selection. The selection is, therefore, vitiated; and
(5) The synopsis submitted along with the applications to the members of the selection Committee and subsequently to the Syndicate is not fair inasmuch as it specifically mentioned against the name of the second respondent that he was a post-graduate recognised Teacher from 1970, whereas against the names of the petitioners no such specific particular is supplied, although the petitioners too are recognised post-graduate Teachers, or Lecturers.
I shall deal with these grounds of objection seriatim.
Re. Ground No. 1:
13. Ordinance 96 has been set out above. There are three eligibility qualifications prescribed and 'continued interest in research with published work in standard journals' is a component of the third eligibility qualification. The contention has to be examined against this background.
14. The short answer to the contention is to be found in the affidavit of the Vice Chancellor wherein he has mentioned that in the application itself the candidates were required to give a list of the research publications to their credit and that the members of the Selection Committee had completely apprised themselves of the research work of each of the candidates who were called for interview. According to the Vice Chancellor, two of the expert members of the Committee were connected with the University and all the expert members knew all the research capabilities of the candidates interviewed at the interview. They had personal knowledge of the research publications of all the candidates as in the course of their work they had occasions and opportunities to read and/or glance through the various publications themselves. As such, they were fully conversant with the research capabilities of the petitioners and respondent No. 2. It is obvious that under such circumstances even if the published work was not actually circulated, it could not be said that the Selection Committee could not have satisfied itself about the eligibility qualification.
15. The contention on behalf of the petitioners was that the Vice Chancellor could not have deposed to the above facts and that unless the members of the Committee themselves spoke on the subject by filing an affidavit, a bare assertion on the part of the Vice Chancellor should not be accepted. I am unable to agree.
There is no reason to doubt the word of the Vice Chancellor who presided over the meeting of the Selection Committee. There is no reason to believe that he would have made an affidavit in such clear and cogent terms unless he had satisfied himself that the expert members who were present were familiar with the published work of the candidates in standard journals, It might be reiterated at this stage that three out of the six expert members present were actually connected with the University and one of them was the Principal of the College in which the petitioners and the second respondent are teaching at present. The other expert members were also persons having special knowledge of the subject. Be it stated that each candidate had given a list of his publications along with his application. On probabilities also ' therefore, the version of the Vice Chancellor deserves acceptance.
16. As regards the contention that the second respondent has to his credit no published work in a standard journal, reference needs to be made to para. 5 (ii) of his affidavit-in-reply dt. May 4, 1981 and the annexure thereto which lists his several publications some of which are co-authored with the first petitioner. In ' any case, in a matter of such nature, the Court is not qualified to speak and if the Selection Committee has bona fide found on relevant material that the second respondent satisfies the qualification, the Court would be loathe to intervene.
Re Ground No. 2:
17. The record shows that there was sufficient material before the members of the Selection Committee to satisfy themselves about the two prescribed norms, namely,. teaching load - experience and co-ordination, co-operation and regularity. One of the members of the Selection Committee, namely, Dr. B. V. Patel, Principal of M. B. Patel College of Education, has filed an affidavit dt. June 29, 1981 stating that the confidential records of such of the candidates who were in the employment of the University were produced before the Selection Committee and that the Selection Committee had considered those confidential records in order to satisfy itself about the above stated norms. As earlier pointed out, the petitioners and the second respondent with whom we are concerned in the present petition are all employees of the University. The original confidential records were shown to the Court. They contain specific particulars with regard to the teaching load. As regards co-ordination, co-operation and regularity, an overall assessment of the candidates in the confidential records would furnish relevant material. It would thus appear that so far as the contesting parties to the petition are - concerned, the relevant material was before the Selection Committee and that it could not be said that the selection quathem is vitiated on that account. Be it stated that according to the material placed on the record of this case, all the candidates were assigned equal marks by the Selection Committee in regard to these two points on the basis of the assessment of the confidential record. Merely because equal marks are assigned to them, it cannot be said that there was no material before the Selec1,'on Committee to reach its conclusion. There is no reason to believe that the Selection Committee consisting of such experts would have assigned marks without there being any material before them. The allegation regarding the alleged bias of the Principal of the M. P. Patel College of Education has been specifically denied by him in his affidavit dt. May 25, 1981 and his affidavit dt. June 2Q, 1981 shows that marks under these sub-heads were assigned by the Committee on assessment of confidential records,
Re. Ground No. 3:
18. Then norm with regard to total length of service which was laid down by the Selection Committee cannot be said to be vague. It may be mentioned that the norm with regard to total length of service contains a further endorsement to the following effect:-
'10 years : 5 marks For every one year mark.'
It would thus appear that the entire service as a Teacher in different capacities was required to be taken into consideration and that appears to have been taken into consideration. The relevant material with regard to the total length of service of each candidate was available to the members of the Selection Committee. No infirmity is, therefore, shown to have crept in the proceedings of selection on this count.
Re. Ground No. 4:
19. It is difficult to accept the contention that absence of one of the members of the Selection Committee and the non-participation in the selection process of, one of the members of the Selection Committee who was present vitiates the proceedings. This is not a case where the selection Committee met on different days and different members were present when different candidates were interviewed. The Selection Committee met only once when all the candidates were interviewed jointly and then one after the other. Out of a total number of seven members who were nominated on the Selection Committee, one was absent and six were present all throughout and five out of the six members who were present (all of whom were experts) participated in the process of selection. The relative performance of all the candidates was assessed by the same members who were present and participated. Four of such participants assessed marks while one gave his overall assessment and signed the minutes agreeing with the conclusion of the Selection Committee. Under such circumstances, there can be no question of imbalance in the process of evaluation. It is not essential that all members of the Selection Committee should be present unless the statute specifically says so. In the instant case, the statute is not capable of being so interpreted. The fact that the Vice Chancellor, though he was present, did not actually participate in the process of selection is also not much material because he has abstained altogether and in his case, therefore, the position is similar to that of the absentee expert member. Be it noted also that the Vice Chancellor was an ex officio and not an expert member of the Committee.
20. Reference needs to be made in this connection to the decision in Arti v. State of Jammu & Kashmir, AIR 1981 SC 1009. In thpt case, the petitioner's grievance was that the composition of the Interview Committee varied from time to time during the interviews and that the selection was, therefore vitiated. The allegation was that one of the members of the Interview Committee had joined the Committee after the interviews had begun and that another member was present during a part of the proceedings only and had left thereafter. The Supreme Court found that it was not possible to say that the fact that one of the members Joined with a slight delay had materially affected the validity of the proceedings. So far as the member who had left after a part of the proceedings were over, it was held that all the persons who were closely connected with medical education were present all throughout. The member who had left was holding the post of Deputy Commissioner. Three out of the four members had remained present throughout. The mode of functioning employed by the Committee was not known and it was not possible to say that the absence of one of the members in a part of the proceedings would vitiate the entire proceedings. It was held that in all the circumstances of the case, it would be difficult to say that the absence of the said member for part of the proceedings would vitiate the proceedings.
21. In the instant case, as earlier pointed out, the composition of the Committee remained constant throughout. Five members participated in the selection process and they assessed the worth of the candidates at the interview, Under the circumstances, the grievance made under this head cannot be accepted,
Re. Ground No, 5
22. It is a fact that in the synopsis submitted along with the other materials supplied to the Selection Committee and to the members of the Syndicate, it is mentioned against the name of the second respondent that he was a recognised Post-graduate Teacher from 1970 and that no such fact is mentioned against the names of the petitioners, although they too are recognised Post-graduate Lecturers/ Teachers. I do not think, however, in the facts and circumstances of the case, this particular omission has any material bearing. In the first place, it is not unreasonable to assume that in the respective applications of the petitioners, they must have mentioned this fact. Even the confidential records would show this particular. Indeed, Mr. Shelat does not dispute that fact. All this material was available and scrutinised. In the next place the petitioners and the second respondent are employees of the University, They are on the teaching staff of one of the Colleges and/or Departments of the University. The fact, therefore, that they were Post-graduate Lecturers/ Teachers was self-evident. Having regard to the overall circumstances of the case, I am not satisfied, therefore, that this grievance has any justification.
23. Before parting with the matter, it requires to be observed that in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, the Court does not - sit in appeal over the decision of a Selection Committee. Especially when the selection is for an academic post at the University level, the Court is slow to interfere, The Court is concerned in such matters with the broad question, namely, whether the selection is arbitrary or mala fide. If the Court is satisfied: (1) that the selected candidate was duly qualified, or where the qualification has an academic bearing or content such as research work, etc., that the competent authority was duly satisfied on the relevant material about the qualification, (2) that relevant norms were prescribed in advance and that there was material before the Selection Committee for the satisfaction of the norms and that a rational and equitable formula relating to quantification and assessment of marks was adopted, -and (3) that the procedure of selection was otherwise fair and proceedings of the Selection Committee were not biased or vitiated by mala fides the Court would be reluctant to interfere. In the instant case, I find that these tests are satisfied. The difficulty, if any has arisen on account of the Selection Committee having laid down norms in details in order to be fair. Even if there was some error or defect in the process of reaching decision on the satisfaction of one or two out of several norms laid down by the Selection Committee, the selection in such a case would not be hell to be per se vitiated. The Court will have to take into consideration the overall effect of all the proceedings and to judge whether the error or defect is of such a nature as to vitiate the selection. on the facts and in the circumstances of the case. In the instant case, even assuming that there be an error or defect (though, in my opinion, there was none), I am not satisfied that such error or defect was so material as to vitiate the proceedings. Be it noted in this connection that the difference of marks between the first petitioner and the second respondent is 19 and that in between them stood another candidate who -secured marks higher than the first petitioner but lower than the second respondent, Having regard to the overall circumstances of the case, I do not think the case warrants the intervention of the Court. The writ petition is, therefore, summarily rejected.
24. Mr. Shelat prays at this stage on behalf of the petitioners that the ad-interim relief granted at the stage of the issue of notice should continue for a period of one week from today. The request is reasonable and it is granted.
25. Petition dismissed.