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Writ challenging appointment to post after unreasonable time to be quashed: Supreme Court of India

In cases when an appointment to the post of a Professor or Lecturer is made in a university and the university has stipulated a certain amount of time as per the act to challenge such appointment, the court cannot entertain a writ challenging such appointment after an unreasonable amount of time has already passed. This was held in the case of Pooran Chand v. Chancellor and Ors. [Civil Appeal Nos 268-269 of 2021] in the Supreme Court of India by Hon’ble Justice Ashok Bhushan.

An advertisement inviting applications for the post of Professors, Associate Professors, Asst. Professors and Lecturers was issued by King George Medical University in the year 2005. The appellant made an application for appointment on the post of Assistant Professor whereas respondent made an application for appointment on the post of Lecturer. Both the appellant and respondent were considered by the same Selection Committee and recommendations of the Selection Committee were approved by Executive Council after which they were appointed. However, the respondent is this case was promoted for the post of Asst. Professor over the appellant on the basis of seniority.

The counsel for the appellant submitted that High Court committed error in entertaining the challenge to the appointment of appellant as the respondent cannot be permitted to challenge the appointment of appellant after a period of more than four years, which was filed in the year 2009. For this It placed reliance on judgment of this Court in State of Jammu and Kashmir Vs. R.K. Zalpuri and Ors., (2015) 15 SCC 602 where writ petition was filed challenging the dismissal order after six year.

The counsel appearing for the respondent submitted the appellant, who did not fulfill the eligibility for the post of Assistant Professor, his appointment on the post of Assistant Professor was void and is nullity and the decision of the High Court holding that respondent as not eligible is correct, which needs no interference by this Court.

The court observed that Section 53 of the University Act provides that if any question arises whether any person has been duly elected or appointed, the matter shall be referred to the Chancellor, and the decision of the Chancellor thereon shall be final. For this it has also placed reliance on judgment of this Court in Nagendra Chandra and Ors. Vs. State of Jharkhand and Ors. (2008) 1 SCC 798 which had a similar set of facts. The Section also contains proviso to the effect that no reference in this Section shall be made more than three months after the date when question could have been raised for the first time. There is an object and purpose for  entertaining any question regarding appointment of member of any authority or body whether any person has been duly appointed within a period of three months. It is in the interest of the University that all doubts regarding appointment of teachers are raised within that time.

It stated that “the appointment of appellant as Assistant Professor, which is approved earlier, was not challenged or questioned by respondent was in accordance with provisions of the Act, 2002. Although, in the writ petition filed at the high court by respondent, he has made a prayer for quashing the appointment order of the appellant as Assistant Professor but we are of the view that the appointment of appellant as Assistant Professor having not been challenged before the Chancellor, he could not have been permitted to challenge the appointment of appellant. Appointment dated 08.08.2005 could not be allowed to be challenged after four years in the writ petition.”

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