A Candidate can’t Challenge Process of Selection after Participating in it

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January 28, 2018

In a recent ruling the Supreme Court in the case of D. Sarojakumari Vs. R. Helen Thilakom & Ors. has made it substantially clear that once a person takes part in the process of selection and is not found fit for appointment, the said person is estopped from challenging the process of selection.

Brief Facts of the case– In the case, Respondent No.6 operated schools in the State of Kerala. Respondent no.6 invited applications for the post of Music teacher on direct recruitment basis for its school namely, Samuel LMS High School. Both the Appellant and Respondent no. 1 in the case applied for the said post. Here it would be pertinent to mention that Respondent no. 1 had been working as part time Music teacher in one of the school of Respondent. 

Pursuant to completion of selection process, Respondent no. 6 appointed the Appellant as Music Teacher in Samuel LMS High School. Aggrieved by this, Respondent no. 1 raised the plea that since the Management of both the schools were same, she was entitled to be promoted as Music Teacher on the basis of her seniority in the school she was working as part-time teacher. The Single as well as Division Bench of the Kerala High Court ruled in favour of the Respondent no.1 and held that both the schools formed one unit and, therefore, she was entitled for promotion in the Samuel LMS High School.

Thereafter, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court, wherein she pleaded that the Respondent No.1 having taken part in the selection process could not be permitted to challenge the same after she was unsuccessful in getting selected.

Bench’s Verdict

  • The Supreme Court in the case overruled High Court’s decision and held that the law is well settled that once a person takes part in the process of selection and is not found fit for appointment, the said person is estopped from challenging the process of selection.
  • In this context, the Court made reference to plethora of cases. For instance, the case of Dr. G. Sarna vs. University of Lucknow & Ors., wherein the Petitioner after appearing in the interview for the post of Professor and having not been selected pleaded that the experts were biased. The Supreme Court rejected the Petitioner’s plea and held that “We do not, however, consider it necessary in the present case to get into the question of the reasonableness of bias or real likelihood of bias as despite the fact that the appellant knew all the relevant facts, he did not before appearing for the interview or at the time of the interview raise even his little finger against the constitution of the Selection 1 (1976) 3 SCC 585 5 Committee. He seems to have voluntarily appeared before the committee and taken a chance of having a favourable recommendation from it. Having done so, it is not now open to him to turn round and question the constitution of the committee……”
  • Thus, the Supreme Court categorically stated that once a candidate participates in the selection process, thereafter the candidate cannot raise the issue that process of selection was biased or unfair.
  • With reference to the instant case, the Court stated that the Respondent No. 1 did not raise any objection to the advertisement issued by the Respondent No.6 inviting applications for the post of Music Teacher in Samuel LMS High School on direct recruitment basis but in fact she applied for the post and took part in the selection process and after having taken part in the selection process and being found lower in merit to the Appellant, she cannot at this stage be permitted to claim that the post could not be filled in by direct recruitment.

Take Away

The Supreme Court’s obiter dicta in the present case establishes an essential legal principle apropos challenging a selection process. The Court ruled that if a person being aware of the selection process at the time of applying cannot later challenge the process on the ground that the same was biased, unfair or discriminatory.