- This Judgement clarifies that there will be no concession provided to the petitioners who have appeared for the Civil Services Examination (CSE) 2020 as it is discriminatory in nature and contravenes the scheme of Rules 2020.
Brief Facts of the Case:
- The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) i.e. Commission, conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) every year.
- The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (Department of Personnel and Training) published a Gazette Notification to notify the rules for the Civil Services Examination (CSE) i.e. Examination 2020, clearly stating the purpose of the examination and the parameters prescribed for eligibility as provided under Rule 4-6 of the Rules 2020.
- The Commission published a notice stating the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination to be held on May 31, 2020. Appendix IIB annexed thereto, stated the procedure for withdrawal of the submitted online application.
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Commission deferred the Examination 2020 and informed the revised schedule for the same to be shared later.
- As per the unlock 1.0 guidelines, the Commission declared the examination on October 4, 2020, and further provided a second opportunity for withdrawal of the submitted online application.
- A few candidates filed a Writ Petition on September 5, 2020, for postponement of the examination and prayed for relaxation in the upper limit for age criterion and for an additional attempt.
- All the petitioners attempted the exam held on October 4, 2020, and upon being disqualified the present petitioners filed an instant Writ Petition stating the pendency of the decision by the authority.
- Considering this, the 1st Respondent agreed to give one-time relaxation limited to the Examination 2021, for those candidates who appeared for the Examination 2020 as their last attempt and were not age barred from appearing in Examination 2021.
Contentions of the Appellants:
- The unforeseen Covid-19 Pandemic disrupted the lives of the common man and caused impediments in the preparation of the candidates preparing for the Examination 2020.
- The petitioners who appeared for the Examination 2020, were in a disadvantageous position due to the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
- The candidates working in the essential services sector were unable to seek a leave or claim exemption from their duty.
- The candidates who had their final attempt for the Examination 2020, were severely discriminated which is violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- The Counsel further questioned the rationality of the decision taken by the 1st Respondent, for debarring those candidates who would be age-barred from appearing in the Civil Services Examination (CSE) 2021.
- Hence, the Counsel requested the Court to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to grant one-time relaxation to candidates who attempted the Examination 2020 irrespective of their reason of disqualification for appearing in the Examination 2021.
Contentions of the Respondent:
- The syllabus of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination has not changed since 2015 and hence, the candidates had sufficient time for preparation of the examination.
- The eligible entry and exit age to appear for the Civil Services Examination (CSE) is 21 years and 32 years respectively. Hence, the general category candidates get a total period of 11 years to prepare and successfully qualify for the examination.
- Relaxation of the age criterion is available to the candidates belonging to certain categories of reservation.
- The candidates appearing for the Examination 2020 got additional months for preparation as compared to that mentioned under the Rules 2020.
- Accepting the demand of the petitioners for an extra attempt will cause hardship to the candidates appearing for the Examination 2021.
- The decision regarding the prayer submitted by the petitioners will be made by the 1st Respondent.
- Further, answering the 2nd Respondent, effective measures were taken while conducting the various examinations conducted by the Commission.
- Hence, no further indulgence by the Court is required.
Principles and observations of the Court:
- The Covid-19 Pandemic has been a testing time for the common man and has affected his livelihood at all levels.
- The provisions of the scheme of Rules 2020, provide adequate opportunities for candidates to participate in various competitive examinations at all levels.
- Rule 6 of the Rules 2020, clearly mandates the age criterion to appear for the Civil Services Examination (CSE) and it cannot be relaxed subject to various relaxations provided to candidates belonging to certain categories.
- As per Rules 2020, merely filling up the form does not lead to availing an attempt rather, appearing in either of the papers of the preliminary examinations does.
- Sufficient remedial measures were taken for various examinations held by the Commission including the Examination 2020.
- As per the Rules 2020, a limited number of attempts are available for general category candidates and it does not provide any discretion to the 1st Respondent to grant any form of relaxation.
- Various examinations were simultaneously held during the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, and a large number of candidates appeared, who may have faced similar difficulties and constraints.
- Hence, found no substance in their submissions.
The Supreme Court dismissed the writ petition. It has further clarified that their decision will neither restrict the 1st respondent nor the executive from exercising their discretion in the future.
The decision of the Court is correct in my opinion. I completely agree with it. The Court has delivered the decision considering the circumstances during the Covid 19 Pandemic, and the rules for the competitive examination 2020.
Judgment Name: Rachna & Ors. Versus Union Of India & Anr.
Judgment Date: February 24, 2021
Bench: A.M. Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra, Ajay Rastogi
Name of the writer: Meenal Songire
College: S.N.D.T. Law School, Mumbai