SC: Participating in selection process does not imply accepting the illegality

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 17th December 2019, in the matter of  Dr. (Major) Meeta Sahai v. State of Bihar & Ors. pronounced that in a situation where a candidate alleges misconstruction of statutory rules and discriminating consequences arising therefrom, the same cannot be condoned merely because a candidate has partaken in it. Participating in selection process does not imply accepting the illegality in selection process

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The principle of estoppel prevents a candidate from challenging the selection process after having failed in it. The underlying objective of this principle is to prevent candidates from trying another shot at consideration, and to avoid an impasse wherein every disgruntled candidate, having failed the selection, challenges it in the hope of getting a second chance.  (Para 17)

However, the candidate by agreeing to participate in the selection process only accepts the prescribed procedure and not the illegality in it. (Para 18)

In a situation where a candidate alleges misconstruction of statutory rules and discriminating consequences arising therefrom, the same cannot be condoned merely because a candidate has partaken in it. (Para 18)

The constitutional scheme is sacrosanct and its violation in any manner is impermissible. In fact, a candidate may not have locus to assail the incurable illegality or derogation of the provisions of the Constitution, unless he/she participates in the selection process. (Para 18)

As a first step, the Courts ought to interpret the text of the provision and construct it literally. Provisions in a statute must be read in their original grammatical meaning to give its words a common textual meaning. (Para 21) However, this tool of interpretation can only be applied in cases where the text of the enactment is susceptible to only one meaning. (Nathi Devi v. Radha Devi Gupta, (2005) 2 SCC 271 ¶13). Nevertheless, in a situation where there is ambiguity in the meaning of the text, the Courts must also give due regard to the consequences of the interpretation taken. (Para 21)

The Constitution must not only be seen as a benchmark for testing the validity of legislations, but also as an inspirational document to guide State action. When there are two plausible interpretations, the one which promotes Constitutional values must be preferred. (Para 29)

It would be Constitutionally unjust to allow differentiation between the experience gained by doctors at hospitals established or run by the State Government and the Central Government or Municipalities/Panchayati Raj Institutions . (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 34)

Equality does not imply that there can be no classification. Such classification, however, must not be arbitrary but rationally founded on some quality or characteristics which are identifiable within the class of people so created and absent in those excluded from such classification.  (Para 35)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_17-Dec-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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