SC dismisses Haryana's plea against quashing of extra marks policy says move 'populist measure'

05:19 PM Jun 24, 2024 | PTI |

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Punjab and Haryana High Court order quashing the Haryana government’s policy of granting additional marks to its residents in recruitment exams.
Terming the Haryana government’s policy a “populist measure”, a vacation bench of Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal refused to interfere with the high court order, which had held as unconstitutional the socioeconomic criteria prescribed by the Haryana government to grant additional marks to certain classes of candidates in state government jobs.
“After perusing the impugned judgment, we find absolutely no error in the impugned judgment. The special leave petitions are dismissed,” the bench said.
As the hearing commenced, the apex court expressed disinclination to entertain the case and said, “Meritorious candidate after his performance gets 60 marks, somebody else has also got 60 marks but only because (of) five grace marks he goes up. They are all populist measures. How do you defend such an action that somebody is getting five marks extra?”
Justifying the policy, Attorney General R Venkataramani said the Haryana government introduced the grace marks policy to give opportunities to those who were deprived of the security of public employment.
Venkataramani also pointed to the high court’s direction of reconducting written tests and said the application of socioeconomic criteria took place after the written test stage and not upon the Common Eligibility Test (CET).
The top court, however, junked the appeal.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Haryana Staff Selection Commission against the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s May 31 order.
On May 31, the high court struck down the state government’s policy of granting five per cent bonus marks on the socioeconomic status of the candidate, who is a state resident, to the total percentage of marks in the CET for groups C and D posts.
It ruled that no state can restrict employment to its own residents alone by allowing the benefit of five per cent weightage in marks and had said, “The respondents (state government) have created an artificial classification to the similarly situated candidates applying for the post.”
It had further said, “While principally we agree that the state has to follow the provisions which are for the welfare of the people, but they cannot create an artificial classification which results in discrimination between similarly placed persons. All candidates who apply for the post are equally entitled to selection based on the common examination conducted for all.”
The verdict criticised the state government for the policy and said it had conducted the entire selection in a “wholly slipshod manner”.
“The notification of granting the bonus marks of five per cent for socioeconomic criteria and experience is not based on any rules framed under the proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India. It is also noticed that no data was collected before laying down such a socioeconomic criteria,” it had said.
The state government policy was implemented in May 2022 and affected 401 categories of jobs across 63 groups for which the CET was held.
The high court also quashed the CET results declared on January 10, 2023, and the subsequent results of July 25, 2023, and directed that a fresh merit list be prepared solely on the basis of candidates’ CET marks.


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