Observing that appointments to all public bodies must solely be based on “talent,” the Bombay High Court has denied relief to a group of lower cadre employees of the city civic body seeking that they be absorbed against the existing vacancies for clerks. A bench of Justices S C Dharamadhikari and Bharati Dangre recently held that since the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was a public body, it was required to maintain transparency and the highest standards of work. Thus, it would gain more by employing candidates with “more calibre, and fresh blood and vigour,” through fresh selection procedures from time to time, the court said. The bench was hearing a plea filed by 15 ‘grade 4’ employees of the BMC. As per the petitioners, in 2011, the BMC issued a circular advertising vacancies for the post of clerks. The eligible candidates were to take an examination and secure the minimum qualifying marks of 40 out of 100. Since the petitioners met the eligibility criteria, they decided to take the exam as well. However, while the BMC had around 329 vacancies, 475 applicants secured the minimum qualifying 40 marks. The BMC decided to hire only those who had secured 49 marks and above. Thus, those who had secured between 40 and 48 marks and made it to the qualifying list, lost out on the job. In 2014, a reply to an RTI query revealed that the BMC still had vacant positions for clerks.
Subsequently, 15 of those who had lost out on the job in 2011 approached the high court, seeking that they be appointed on the basis of their having qualified in the exam. The BMC opposed their demand, saying that since 2011 it had made many changes to the eligibility criteria and the minimum qualifying marks for appointments as clerks. The BMC’s counsel, advocate Anil Sakhre, said the validity of a merit list was only for a year and that the corporation had decided to conduct fresh examinations to fill up the new vacancies. Sakhre said some of those who had lost out on the job in 2011 had appeared for subsequent exams, secured higher marks and even got appointments at better posts in the BMC. The bench agreed with the corporation’s stand and said several previous judgements of the Supreme Court established that merely making it to a qualifying or merit list did not grant one the right to employment. “We are unable to accept the contentions advanced by the petitioners that by clearing a written examination and securing minimum marks, they have the right of being appointed,” the judges said.
“It is a settled position in law that mere placement in the select list or panel does not by itself entitle a candidate to seek appointment,” the bench said. Many new eligible candidates might appear over the years, and if a public body sticks with just one merit list indefinitely, till all vacancies are filled, it will lose out on candidates with more talent and calibre, it further said. The public bodies are expected to adopt a transparent procedure and hire new talent, the court said. “It would be more gainful for the public bodies to secure candidates with fresh blood and vigour and more merit by initiating a fresh selection procedure based only on talent,” the bench said. “If the public bodies are permitted to operate the select list for years together, it would become a tool for nepotism,” the court said while dismissing the petition.