If a person has been selected by the selection committee and there is a vacancy which can be offered to him keeping in view his merit position, then ordinarily there is no justification to ignore him for appointment, the Delhi high court has ruled.
“There has to be a justifiable reason to decline to appoint a person who is on the select panel,” justice Suresh Kait said setting aside a January 2006 decision of the centre not to appoint advocate Shiv Charan Lal Sharma to the post of presiding officer, National Highways Tribunal.
“Although a person on the select panel has no vested right to be appointed to the post for which he has been selected, however, the appointing authority cannot ignore the select panel or on its whims and fancies decline to make the appointment,” the HC said.
Holding that the reasons given for rejecting Sharma’s claim were contrary to the government’s own circular, the HC directed the ministry concerned to place Sharma’s case before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for approval.
“No doubt, the approval of the ACC is mandatory and the final authority vests with the ACC. But if the selection committee has selected any candidate, the ACC can reject the same by giving reasons on record, which is missing in the present case,” justice Kait said allowing Sharma’s petition.
Responding to a government Circular dated February 25, 2003, Sharma, an advocate practising in the Rajasthan HC, applied on April 30, 2003 for the post of presiding officer of the National Highway Tribunal.
31 persons applied for the post.
Sharma, along with 19 others, was invited for an interview on September 18, 2003. Only 16 appeared for the interview.
The panel proposed five candidates for five tribunals and four candidates were kept in reserve panel. Sharma’s name appeared in the reserve panel.
The proposal for approval of ACC was sent on January 5, 2005 and in the meanwhile the constitution of 8 National Highway Tribunals had already been notified.
Out of 9 candidates Gopal Chandra Mitra retired.
Since verification report from Intelligence Agencies against 2 other candidates were not found favourable, the ministry sent a proposal to ACC for six names including that of Sharma.
However, ACC approved only the first five candidates.
On January 19, 2006 the ministry of road transport and highways communicated to Sharma that ACC did not approve his appointment for the said post.
The government had argued that there was nothing on record that applications from practising advocates were invited.
But the court rejected the argument, it was contrary to its own circular that said a person qualified to be a HC judge was eligible to apply for the post in question and Sharma having an experience of 26 years at the bar in Rajasthan HC, was eligible for the post.