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Allahabad HC dismisses plea of candidates over age limit due to Covid hiring freeze

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The Allahabad High Court has dismissed a petition observing that candidates cannot get a right to participate in the selection process being over age limit and that nobody can claim as a matter of right that recruitment for any post should be made every year.

A single-judge bench of Justice Saurabh Shyam Shamshery passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Ajay Kumar Yadav and another.

The petitioners has prayed for the following relief:-

“i) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus commanding and directing to respondent No 03 to exempt the age relaxation to the petitioners for Assistant Prosecution Officer Exa.-2022 (ADVT. No.A-3/E-1/2022) dated 21.04.2022.

ii) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus commanding the respondent No 03 to accept the application form of the petitioners for Assistant Prosecution Exam-2022 (ADVT. NO.A-3/E-1/2022) dated 21.04.2022.”

All the petitioners are candidates of recruitment process for the post of Assistant Prosecution Officer Exam – 2022 (Advt. No. A-3/E-1/2022, dated 21.4.2022).

Somendra Singh, counsel for petitioners, submitted that no recruitment process for Prosecuting Officers could be conducted after 2018 and after four years now in 2022, present recruitment process has commenced. During four years, many candidates have crossed the age limit and by fixing cut-off date for maximum age of 40 years to be 1.7.2022, respondents have declined petitioner’s legitimate right to participate in the examination and cut-off date for maximum age ought to be 1.7.2021 and in this regard, counsel relied upon definition of ‘Year of Recruitment’ (Rule 3(I) of U.P Prosecuting Officers Service Rules, 1991 which states that “means a period of twelve months commencing from the first day of July of a calendar year”.

The counsel further submitted that date of advertisement was 21.5.2022, therefore, year of recruitment ought to be 1.7.2021 to 1.7.2022 and accordingly cut-off date for maximum age ought to be 1.7.2021 and not 1.7.2022. In the recruitment, vacancies of 2018-19, 2019-20 are included and considering petitioners’ legal exceptions, writ petition be allowed.

Abhishek Kumar Kushwaha, counsel for other petitioners, submitted that due to Covid-19 pandemic, the examination was not conducted for almost four years and considering extraordinary circumstances, petitioners who are eligible if the cut-off date for ‘age’ is fixed 1.7.2022 be permitted to appear in examination and in this regard, he relied upon paragraph 18 and 19 of judgment passed by the Supreme Court in High Court of Delhi vs Devina Sharma; (2022) 4 SCC 643.

Lal Dev Chaurasiya, counsel for respondent, submitted that advertisement was issued on the direction of State, therefore, respondent has no submission on merit, however, advertisement was issued on 21.4.2022, therefore, recruitment year would be 2022-23 and reckoning of date would be 1 July, 2022, as such, cut-off date is rightly fixed.

Vikram Bahadur Yadav, Standing Counsel, submitted that the first date of July calendar year would be relevant for the calendar year of recruitment which is 2022-23, therefore, relevant date would be 1 July, 2022 and not 1 July, 2021.

The advertisement for 2018-19 for A.P.O was issued on 28.12.2018 and reckoning date was 1 July, 2018, therefore, relevant is year of recruitment and accordingly, date is fixed.

The Court said,

Covid-19 pandemic has stalled and affected not only day-to-day life of a human being but has affected State’s normal working and an example of it is the recruitment process in question which is scheduled after four years. Resultantly, petitioners became over aged according to the cut-off date i.e they have crossed the age of 40 years before July 1, 2022 i.e they are born earlier than 2nd July 1982.

In the recruitment process, candidates between 21 years to 40 years are eligible to participate and there is no limit of attempts, therefore, petitioners were eligible to participate in recruitment held prior to recruitment held in 2018, therefore, the argument that they have been denied the right of legal expectation has no force. Considering it was beyond control of the State, therefore, the State cannot be faulted for not conducting recruitment examinations during Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Year of Recruitment’ means a period of twelve months commencing for the first day of July of a Calendar year(See Rule 3(1) of the Rules, 1991). ‘Age’ means that a candidate must not have attained the age of more than forty years on the first day of July of Calendar year in which vacancies for direct recruitment are advertised by the Commission (See Rule 10 of the Rules, 1991).

Assistant Prosecution Officer examination 2018 was advertised by Advertisement dated 28.12.2018 and cut off date for maximum age was forced to July 1, 2018 whereas for Assistant Prosecution Officer examination, 2022 (Advertisement dated 21.4.2022), cut off date for maximum age is fixed i.e 1.7.2022. The relevant cut off date is fixed according to the year of advertisement.

The Court observed,

In Devina Sharma (Supra), age was relaxed on the basis of submission of the recruitment body, therefore, it cannot be treated to be a precedent. In the case, State has fixed the cut-off date and being a policy matter not be disturbed or interfered not to be 1.7.2022, which has followed earlier pattern arbitrarily. Similarly the reckoning date is fixed according to year to recruitment and year of advertisement such as in recruitment process for Uttar Pradesh Police Constable and Head Constable and the reckoning date was 1 July, 2008.

It is a settled proposition that due to inaction on the part of the State Government in not filing the posts year-wise. The candidates cannot get a right to participate in the selection process being over aged and that nobody can claim as a matter of right that recruitment on any post should be made every year. State has taken a decision which cannot be interfered except it is arbitrary which the petitioners have failed to make out a substantial case.

The Court held,

In this case, there is no challenge to clauses of advertisement and reckoning date is fixed in accordance with Rules considering date of advertisement year of recruitment considering date of Advertisement to be 21.4.2022, reckoning date is fixed to be 1.7.2022.

Rule 10 of the Rules, 1999 provides a reckoning date for age on the first day of July of the Calendar Year in which vacancies for direct recruitment are advertised by the Commission. In this case, the Commission has advertised 21.4.2022, therefore, the calendar year would be 1 January, 2022 to 31 July, 2000 and the corresponding date would be the first day of July of Calendar year i.e 1.7.2022. The Commission and State have followed the provisions correctly. Fixing of date cannot be said to be arbitrary. Petitioners have failed to make out a case for interference.

“In view of the above discussion and considering the judgment of Vijay Kumar Singh (Supra), I do not find any illegality and irregularity in fixing of reckoning date in terms of date of advertisement i.e 1.7.2022,” the Court further observed while dismissing the petition.

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