The Estoppel Principle would not apply unless there were obvious illegalities in the Candidate Selection Procedure - Synopsis
Dilpreet Singh 10 Apr 2020

The Supreme Court clarified that the principle of estoppel by actions or acquiescence does not apply where conspicuous illegalities have been committed in the process for selecting an applicant for investigation.

The bench of the Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Navin Sinha thus upheld the judgment of the High Court, which set aside the selection procedure for the post of Physical Training Instructor (PTI) by the Haryana Staff Selection Commission.

The Court observed that the preposition that a candidate who is involved in a selection without a demur takes a calculated opportunity to get picked cannot turn around and question the selection criteria and the selection committee's constitution is well settled.

Referring to earlier judgments in Raj Kumar and Others Vs. Shakti Raj and Others, (1997) 9 SCC 527 and Bishnu Biswas and Others Union of India and Others, (2014) 5 SCC 774, the Court claimed in the facts of the case:

“When candidate is not aware of the criteria of selection under which he was subjected in the process and the said criteria for the first time is published along with final result dated 10.04.2010, he cannot be estopped from challenging the criteria of selection and the entire process of selection. Further when the written examination as notified earlier was scrapped and every eligible candidate was called for interview giving a go bye to a fair and reasonable process for shortlisting the candidates for interview, that too only by Chairman of the Commission whereas decision regarding criteria of selection has to be taken by Commission, the candidates have every right to challenge the entire selection process so conducted”.

“The Division Bench of the High Court is right in its conclusion that the selection criteria, which saw the light of the day along with declaration of the selection result could be assailed by the unsuccessful candidates only after it was published. Similarly, selection process which was notified was never followed and the selection criteria which was followed was never notified till the declaration of final result, hence, the writ petitioners cannot be estopped from challenging the selection. We, thus, hold that the writ petitions filed by the petitioners could not have been thrown on the ground of estoppel and the writ petitioners could very well challenge the criteria of selection applied by the Commission, which was declared by the Commission only at the time of declaration of the final result”.

The Court also noted that selection and appointment in the State must comply with the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens under Articles 14 and 16. It said:

“The selection and appointment on post borne on the State establishment provides an opportunity to citizens of public employment. The personnel who man the civil posts in State apart from carrying out objectives and policies of State also serve as source of sustenance for their families. The selection and appointment on post in the State have to conform to the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens under Articles 14 and 16. The objective of a State in selecting persons into public service has always been to select the best and most suitable person”.


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