Upholding Director General of Civil Aviation Naseem Zaidi's appointment, the Delhi High Court has said that the government is empowered to relax recruitment rules but the same cannot be claimed as a matter of right.
"The power of relaxation of the recruitment rules vested in the government or appropriate authority is discretionary and no government servant can claim it as a matter of right," said a division bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Sidharth Mridul while allowing the centre's appeal against a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order.
The CAT had quashed a civil aviation ministry circular, which had paved the way for appointment of Zaidi as DGCA in September 2008 by relaxing the requisite experience in aviation sector from 12 to five years.
The CAT had issued the order on a petition by erstwhile Joint DGCA A K Chopra, seeking promotion to the post of DGCA on the basis of his seniority.
The ministry had relaxed the experience norms after approval from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission.
With CAT quashing the ministry's circular, which was crucial for Zaidi's appointment, the government moved the High Court pointing out that it had not been able to find a suitable candidate despite issuing several advertisements for the post.
The government pointed out that it had relaxed the experience norms in exceptional circumstances as no person with requisite experience was available.
The government also told the court that owing to the unavailability of a suitable candidate, the ministry had earlier even re-employed former DGCA K Gohain for an additional year beyond his tenure ending on June 6, 2007.
The Tribunal had scrapped the circular in August 2008 on Chopra's petition, seeking direction from the ministry to consider his representation for promotion to the post of DGCA.
Claiming that being the senior-most official in the feeder grade for the post, he had sought his promotion as DGCA.
The government, however, had rejected his plea saying he did not possess the capability to head DGCA and handle various complex issues and problems pertaining to the aviation sector.