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Amendments regarding the rules of recruitment would be prospective unless stated otherwise: Rajasthan High Court

It is well settled that the eligibility qualification for recruitment to the post shall be governed by the rules existing as on the date of the issuance of the advertisement inviting applications and the amendment in the rules if any, unless mentioned otherwise cannot be deemed retrospective. A Division-Bench comprising of Justice Sangeet Lodha And Justice Mahendar Kumar Goyal adjudicating the matter of ANIL KUMAR SHARMA V. RAJASTHAN HIGH COURT (D.B. CIVIL WRIT PETITION NO. 6646/2021) dealt with the issue whether to allow the present writ petition or not.

In the present case a writ petition is filed by an an aspirant for appearing in the competitive examination for Direct Recruitment to the cadre of District Judge against the vacancies belonging to Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category, notified by the respondent-Rajasthan High Court vide notification dated 05.01.2021 issued under the Rajasthan Judicial Service Rules, 2010 seeking the relied stated in the judgement.

Facts of the case are the direct recruitment to the District Judge Cadre in the State of Rajasthan is governed by Rules of 2010  and  eligibility for direct recruitment to the posts of District Judge Cadre from amongst the advocates is provided under Rule 33 of the Rules of 2010. An advertisement was issued on 05.01.2021 inviting applications from the eligible candidates in the prescribed online format for direct recruitment to 60 vacant posts in the cadre of District Judge in accordance with the Rules of 2010. The particulars of the total vacancies and the vacancies reserved for various categories including the category of EWS were duly notified. As per the notification issued, 6 posts are reserved for EWS category, which include 1 post for women. The candidate applying for recruitment to the post must have attained age of 35 years and must not have attained the age of 45 years on the first day of January following the last date fixed for receipt of applications. Proviso (a) to clause (i) of Rule 33 provides relaxation of five years in upper age limit to the candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, More Backward Classes and Women Candidates. The Rule 33 (i)(a) did not provide for relaxation of age in case of candidate belonging to EWS category though, the provision for reservation of the vacancies for Economically WeakerSections was inserted by way of sub-rule (6) of Rule 10 of the Rules of 2010 vide notification dated 21.08.2020 and thus, in the advertisement issued, the relaxation in age was rightly not provided for EWS category.

The case of the Petitioner is that when the relaxation in age is provided for Other Reserved Category candidates i.e. the candidates belonging to SC, ST, OBC, MBC and Women categories, EWS category could not have been picked up for a different treatment being given, particularly when, the required amendment providing 5 years relaxation in upper age limit has already been made in relevant recruitment rules governing other State services in the State of Rajasthan. It was contended that during the pendency of the present petition, on 30.06.2021 the notification issued by State Government in consultation with the Rajasthan Public Service Commission and the Rajasthan High Court, has already amended Rule 33 of the Rules of 2010, whereby the expression “Economically Weaker Sections” has been inserted in proviso (a) of sub-rule (i) of Rule 33 after the expression “More Backward Classes” and before the expression “and Women Candidates” and thus, the relaxation in upper age limit stands extended to EWS category as well. It was also submitted that according to the circular of 07.04.2021 in contemplation of the amendment had directed to defer the recruitment process so as to extend the benefit of the age relaxation to EWS category in the pending recruitment as well where the examination has not been conducted and thus, there is no reason as to why the provision providing for relaxation in upper age limit to EWS category should not be made applicable to the recruitment process initiated by the High Court under the Rules of 2010. Learned counsel submitted that in view of the amendment made, the directions deserve to be issued to the respondents to invite the applications from the candidates belonging to EWS category, who are eligible to apply for recruitment to the post availing the age relaxation.

The court stated that the provision reserving 10% of vacancies for EWS in the direct recruitment in addition to the existing reservation was incorporated in the Rules of 2010 according to the notification of 21.8.20 but, no relaxation in upper age limit was provided for candidates belonging to the said category. Thus, apparently, the notification inviting applications issued by the respondent not providing for age relaxation to the candidates belonging to EWS category is in conformity with the provisions of Rules of 2010. Though during the pendency of the petition the Governor of Rajasthan in consultation with Rajasthan Public Service Commission and Rajasthan High Court amended the Rule 17 & Rule 33 of the Rules of 2010, the candidates belonging to EWS category, have also been extended the benefit of relaxation in upper age limit by five years but it cannot be inferred that the amended provision providing relaxation in upper age limit to EWS category is intended to be applied to the pending selections by giving it retrospective effect.” It is well settled that the eligibility qualification for recruitment to the post shall be governed by the rules existing as on the date of the issuance of the advertisement inviting applications and the amendment in the rules if any, unless it is expressly or by necessary implication made to have retrospective effect shall always be construed prospective in nature.” Hence the court is of the opinion that the amendment in Rule 17 & 33 of Rules of 2010 introduced vide notification dated 30.06.2021 is prospective in nature and therefore, the selection process initiated for recruitment to the posts of District Judge cadre by the respondent against the vacancies of the years 2019-20 & 2020-21 has to be concluded in accordance with unamended Rules. The petitioner belonging to EWS category cannot claim relaxation in age as a matter of right, dehors the Rules in force at the time of issuance of the notification inviting applications.

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