Date for determining disciplinary action contemplated against a candidate as per Haryana Civil Service Rules, 2008 “is the date of consideration”: Supreme Court

This judgment revolves around the determination of eligibility criteria for selection to Register A-1 of the Haryana Civil Service (Executive Branch), particularly focusing on Rule 9 (a)(iii) of Haryana Civil Service (Executive Branch) Rules, 2008, regarding disciplinary proceedings or contemplated actions against candidates. The dispute centers on whether Dinesh Singh, a candidate seeking appointment, was eligible for selection despite the Department’s contention that action was contemplated against him, rendering him ineligible.

The case, State of Haryana and Others Dinesh Singh and Another [SPECIAL LEAVE TO APPEAL (C) NO. 21335 OF 2022] originated when Dinesh Singh, among other candidates, was found ineligible for selection to Register A-1 by the Department of Revenue and Disaster Management due to purportedly contemplated action against him, as per Rule 9 (a)(iii). Dinesh Singh challenged this decision through a writ petition in the High Court after a Single Judge dismissed the petition. The High Court overturned the Single Judge’s decision and directed the State to reconsider Dinesh Singh’s case for appointment from Register A-1.

The appellants, in their petition before the Supreme Court, contested the High Court’s ruling, primarily challenging the interpretation of Rule 9 and the determination of the cut-off date for eligibility. They argued that the High Court erred in considering 01.11.2018 as a uniform cut-off date for all eligibility conditions, contending that it only applied to the age-related criterion. They emphasized that the date of consideration for eligibility should be the date on which the Committee recommended names to the Commission under Rule 9 (2), which was 30.09.2018. The appellants asserted that any disciplinary action contemplated after this date should render a candidate ineligible, contrary to the High Court’s ruling.

Thus, the central contention before the Supreme Court pertains to the interpretation of Rule 9 and the determination of the cut-off date for assessing eligibility criteria, particularly regarding disciplinary proceedings or contemplated actions against candidates seeking appointment to the Haryana Civil Service (Executive Branch).

The initial Rule 9, as it stood in 2008, mandated criteria such as completion of eight years of government service, age below forty-five, absence of disciplinary proceedings, vigilance clearance, and graduation from a recognized university. However, this rule was subsequently amended in 2017, raising the age limit to fifty and altering certain procedural aspects.

The dispute arose primarily concerning the interpretation of the cut-off date for eligibility conditions, particularly regarding pending disciplinary proceedings. The relevant dates mentioned were 01.11.2018 and 31.08.2019, which were pivotal in determining whether disciplinary action was contemplated against the candidate, Dinesh Singh.

The court analyzed whether the 01.11.2018 date should apply uniformly to all eligibility criteria or if it was relevant only to specific conditions, particularly the age criterion. The respondent argued for a uniform application, relying on a communication dated 30.05.2019, which seemingly suggested a broad application of this date. However, subsequent clarifications indicated otherwise.

The court examined legal precedents, including the ‘sealed cover’ procedure, commonly employed when candidates face disciplinary proceedings during selection processes. It noted that while mere pendency or contemplation of disciplinary proceedings shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate, Rule 9’s provisions regarding this matter remained unchallenged and must be applied.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the relevant cut-off date for determining eligibility regarding pending disciplinary proceedings was the date of consideration, i.e., 31.08.2019. Any disciplinary action contemplated up to that date rendered the candidate ineligible for selection, as per Rule 9.

The court observed that disciplinary action was indeed contemplated against Dinesh Singh as of the relevant cut-off date. It cited instances where the decision to charge-sheet him was taken based on allegations of negligence in official duties, leading to the conclusion that he was rightly deemed ineligible for selection.

In its final judgment, the court allowed the appeal, setting aside the Division Bench’s order and affirming the Single Judge’s decision. It held that Dinesh Singh was rightly held ineligible for selection due to the contemplation of disciplinary action against him as of the relevant cut-off date.

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Written by- Aditi

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