J&K HC | Issuance of directions not prayed for, without hearing effective parties is unjust and inequitable

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Division Bench of Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Sindhu Sharma, JJ. allowed appeals accruing from a common judgment and set aside the judgment to a limited extent; on the grounds of liberty to modify criteria for selection procedures, justness and equitability.  

An advertisement notice issued by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court dated 02-04-2009, inviting applications for 12 posts of readers prescribed the qualification criteria of a minimum 45 per cent for open merit category and 40 per cent for SC and ST candidates in a written examination. However, due to high qualification rates, upliftment of the qualification minima to 60 per cent for open merit and 55 per cent for SC and ST candidates was done respectively. Following which, the petitioners, represented by counsels A. V. Gupta and Aditya Gupta, challenged the same and contested it to be an erroneous selection process as it was changed mid-way. 

The Writ Court, however, refused the claims and recognized the liberty of adopting such shortlisting mechanisms. Further, the Court issued a mandamus to make afresh recommendations to shift candidates within categories. Thereafter, aggrieved by the latter portion of the judgment an appeal was brought citing that no such relief was prayed for in the petition and therefore it lay outside the Court’s scope. 

Issue: Whether a modification could be brought in the selection criteria post the commencement of the process and whether the Court could grant relief without hearing the effective parties and despite it not being prayed for in the petition. 

The appellant proposed a two-fold argument. Firstly, the relief prayed for merely claimed an interview round to be conducted and not for prescribing directions to change categories of candidates. Secondly, the Court did not ensure the presence of the aggrieved parties which was necessary for the proceedings. 

The Court concurred with the aforesaid submission and deemed such actions to be highly unjust and inequitable. The appeals were allowed and impugned judgment was set aside to the limited extent of issuing directions to make the recommendations in categories of the candidates. [High Court of J&K v. Naveen Kumar, 2019 SCC OnLine J&K 537, decided on 09-05-2019]

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