Essay: Principles of natural justice

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  • Principles of natural justice
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In this case, Ramanand Prasad singh V. union of India, the issues were formed on the two ideas entailed in the concept of principles of natural justice.
 
The two ideas which are entailed are:-

1. Audi alteram partem i.e. a person affected by a decision has a right to be heard.

2. Nemo judex in re sua i.e. the authority deciding the matter should be free from bias.

In this case, the appellants had challenged the judgment and order of the Central Administrative Tribunal, Patna Bench, Patna dated 28th of July, 1995 as a result of which the Tribunal had set aside the selection made of the Selection Committee on 30th of March, 1994 of officers of the Bihar Administrative Service for promotion to the Indian Administrative Service.

The law which was involved in this case was IAS regulations, 1955. The issues specifically involved the following regulations:-

Regulation 5;

Preparation of a list of suitable Officers –

(1) Each Committee shall ordinarily meet at intervals not exceeding one year and prepare a list of such members of the State Civil Service as are held by them to be suitable for promotion to the service. The number of members of the State Civil Service to be included in the list shall be calculated as the number of substantive vacancies anticipated in the course of the period of 12 months, commencing from the date of preparation of the list in the posts available for them under Rule 9 of the Recruitment Rules plus twenty percent of such number or two whichever is greater.

Explanation – In case of joint cadres a separate select list shall be prepared in respect of each State Civil Service, the size of each select list being determined in the manner indicated above.

(2) The Committee shall consider for inclusion in the said list, the cases of members of the State Civil Services in the order of seniority in that service of a number which is equal to three times the number referred to in Sub-regulation (1).

Provided further that in computing the number for inclusion in the field of consideration, the number of officers referred to in Sub-regulation (3) shall be excluded:

(3) The Committee shall not consider the cases of the members of the State Civil Service who have attained the age of 54 years on the first day of April of the year in which it meets.

Provided that a member of the State Civil Service whose name appears in the select list in force immediately before the date of the meeting of the Committee shall be considered for inclusion in the fresh list, to be prepared by the Committee even if he has in the meanwhile attained the age of 54 years.

Provided further that a member of the State Civil Service who has attained the age of fifty four years on the first day of April of the year in which the Committee meets shall he considered by the Committee, if he was eligible for consideration on the first day of April of the year or of any of the years immediately preceding the year in which such meeting is held but could not be as no meeting of the Committee was held during such preceding year or years.

Apart from the fact that the judgement given by the central administrative tribunal was contrary to the law, there were other issues where principles of natural justice were contradicted.

Following were the issues which were put forth in the supreme court:-

1. Whether the consideration of other officers under Regulation 5(3) was contrary to the said regulations.

2. Whether proceedings of the Selection Committee were vitiated on account of the participation of one Shri S.N. Dubey as a member of the Selection Committee because his brother was within the zone of consideration?

3. Whether there was non-application of mind by the Selection Committee in considering 264 names on a single day?

The second and the third issues call to scrutinize whether there had been a violation of principles of natural justice or not.

The second issue comes within the scope of nemo judex in re sua i.e. the authority deciding the matter should be free from bias. In this case the tribunal had set aside the list made by selection committee because they thought that Shri S N dubey who was one of the members of the committee vitiated the proceedings as his brother was on the list.

The third issue was regarding non application of mind while selecting people for consideration. The non application of mind can be related to reasoned decision. Few years back, it was thought that requirement for their decisions was not a part of natural of natural justice and, accordingly, adjudicatory bodies were not obligated to give reasons in support of their decisions. But since then some changes has come about in this situation.

There are many case laws which led to the inclusion of requirement for adjudicatory bodies to give reasons for their decisions.

Notwithstanding that there is no general rule requiring giving reasons, it is increasingly clear that there are many circumstances in which an administrative authority which fails to give reasons will be found to have acted unlawfully. The decision that appears aberrant without reasons have to be explained. An award of abnormally low compensation to an unfairly dismissed prison officer by civil services appeal board, which made it a rule not to give reasons, was quashed by court of appeals holding that natural justice demanded the giving of reasons both in deciding whether the dismissal was unfair and in assessing compensation.

The giving of reasons is one of the fundamentals of good administration. It is a safeguard against arbitrariness on the part of the decision-maker. An executive officer develops a habit of mind to look at things from the standpoint of policy and expediency. This mental habit doesn’t change from function to function. Giving of reasons will impose some restrictions on an executive officer in a matter involving personal rights. If an adjudicator is obligated to give reasons for his conclusions, it will make it necessary for him to consider the matter, carefully. The condition to give reasons introduces clarity and transparency in administration and minimizes arbitrariness for compulsion of disclosure guarantees consideration.

As the Supreme Court has observed in state of west Bengal v. Krishna Shaw

“Reasoned decision is not only for the purpose of showing that the citizen is receiving justice, but also a valid discipline for the tribunal itself. Therefore, statement of reasons is one of the essentials of justice”.

The non application of mind is apparently related to reasoned decision as this case also the tribunal didn’t provide any reason; instead they interpreted regulation 5(2) in narrow sense which should have been read with sub regulation (3). Though the tribunal said that there had been non application of mind while selecting the members which was later quashed by Supreme Court.

FACTS

1. The appellants challenged the judgment and order of the Central Administrative Tribunal, Patna Bench, Patna dated 28th of July, 1995 as a result of which the Tribunal had set aside the selection made of the Selection Committee on 30th of March, 1994 of officers of the Bihar Administrative Service for promotion to the Indian Administrative Service.

2. The Tribunal by its impugned order set aside the entire selection made at the meeting of the Selection Committee on 30th of March, 1994 on an interpretation of the Indian Administrative Service (Appointment by Promotion) Regulations, 1955, holding that only three times the number of anticipated vacancies for the year plus 20% could have been considered as within the zone of consideration before the Selection Committee. The consideration of other officers under Regulation 5(3) was contrary to the said regulations. It also said that the proceedings of the Selection Committee were vitiated on account of the participation of one Shri S.N.
Dubey as a member of the Selection Committee because his brother was within the zone of consideration although the brother has not been selected. And lastly the Tribunal has said that there was non-application of mind by the Selection Committee in considering 264 names on a single day.

3. Under Regulation 5(1) the number of officers who are to be included in the list of suitable officers prepared by the Selection Committee is specified as the number of substantive vacancies anticipated in the course of the period of 12 months plus 20%. Under Regulation 5(2), the number of officers required to be considered are three times the number which is to be finally included in the list. The number of officers required to be considered under Regulation 5(2) for selection in the list may be referred to as officers within the zone of consideration.

4. Persons above the age of 54 years on the first day of April of the year in which the Selection Committee meets are not eligible for being considered. Therefore, they are not within the zone of consideration. This is set out in the first part of Regulation 5(3). The first proviso to Regulation 5(3), however, states that a member of the State Civil Service whose name appears in the immediately preceding Select List in force shall be considered for inclusion in the fresh list, even if he has, in the meanwhile, attained the age of 54 years. The second proviso to Regulation 5(3) states that if during any immediate preceding year/years, a person was eligible for consideration but could not be considered because no meeting of the Selection Committee was held that year, such a person will also be considered by the Selection Committee even though he may have, in the meanwhile, attained the age of 54 years. In other words, candidates who would have been within the zone of consideration if the Selection Committee has met during the year but who lost the chance because the Selection Committee did not meet are given a chance to be considered at the first available opportunity even though they may have in the meanwhile attained the age of 54 years.

5. In the present case, the number of anticipated vacancies for which selection was held, were 43. As per Regulation 5(2) the zone of consideration was fixed at 153 (i.e. 43 vacancies plus 20% x 3). In addition to this, officers (a) whose names were on the earlier Selection List in force (one such officer) (first proviso to Regulation 5(3) and (b) officers who though above the age of 54, were eligible under the second proviso to Regulation 5(3) because there were no selections in the years 1991-92 and 1992-93 (110 such officers) were included. The total number of officer, therefore, considered by the Selection Committee was 153 + 1 + 110, that is to say, 264 officers.

CONTENTIONS

The following were the contentions raised by the tribunal:-

1. The Tribunal has held that the two provisos to Regulation 5(3) which require the Selection Committee to consider certain candidates who may be above the age of 54 years, has to be interpreted as applying only to the candidates who are within the zone of consideration as defined under Regulation 5(2) but who may have attained the age of 54 years. These candidates, if they fall within the proviso to Regulation 5(3), will have to be considered by the Committee. We have to consider whether this is a correct interpretation of Regulations 5(2) and 5(3).

2. According to the Tribunal, the zone of consideration should have been confined to only 153 officers. This interpretation is in the teeth of the express provisions of Regulation 5(2). While Regulation 5(2) provides that the number of officers required to be considered are three times the number of anticipated vacancies plus 20%, the proviso to Regulation 5(2) lays down that in computing the number of officers who should be in the field of consideration under Regulation 5(2), the number of officers referred to in Sub-regulation (3) shall be excluded. In other words, in the present case, 153 officers who are to be included in the zone of consideration will be after excluding officers who qualify under Regulation 5(3). Therefore, 153 officers who are to be considered are other than those falling under Sub-regulation (3).

3. The second ground of challenge to the selection is that one S.N. Dubey should not have been a member of the Selection Committee because his brother was one of the 264 candidates being considered for selection.

4. The last contention relates to non-application of mind by the Selection Committee to the task before it because it is contended that the Committee considered 264 candidates in one day in order to prepare a list of 51 candidates.

ANALYSIS

Regarding the first issue, the court held that-Sub-regulation (3) of Regulation 5 which confers a right to be considered on certain State Civil Servants who may have attained the age of 54 also does not qualify this right to be considered by adding that such a person shall be considered only if he is within the zone of consideration under Regulation 5(2).

Clearly, therefore, the persons who are required to be considered for selection under Regulation 5(3) are in addition to the persons who are required to be considered under Regulation 5(2). In fact, this is how these recruitment regulations have been interpreted over a number of years. The Union Public Service Commission which issues instructions regarding the manner in which list of officers is to be prepared for consideration by the Selection Committee and the documents and information which are required to be submitted to the Union Public Service Commission for selection of such officers clearly sets this out in Clause 3(d) of the Instructions:

Clause 3(d):

Officers who are over 54 years as on 1.4.1993 are ordinarily not considered. However, (i) if their names appear in the previous Select List or (ii) if no Selection Committee Meeting was held in the previous year(s) when he was eligible, then his case will be considered by the current selection committee Meeting. For this purpose his name should figure in the proper place in the Eligibility List and his case will be considered only if his name falls within the required zone of consideration calculated according to vacancies. However, the names of such officers will not be counted in the normal zone and they will be taken as extra to the required number of 3 times the size of the Selection List.

The zone of selection, therefore, under the Regulations consists of three parts; (1) officers who fall within Regulation 5(2) after excluding all officers falling under (2) and (3) : (2) officers above the age of 54 who are “carried forward” from the earlier Selection List in force and; (3) officers above the age of 54 who have been deprived of their chance of being considered due to non-holding of meetings of the Selection Committee. All these are to be considered by the Selection Committee. The Tribunal was, therefore, not right in holding that only persons covered by Regulation 5’2) without any exclusion are eligible for being considered by the Selection Committee.

In the second issue court held that-The brother has, in fact, not been selected by the Selection Committee. We fail to see how the selection of all other candidates is vitiated in any manner by this factor.

In the third issue the court held that-The State of Bihar and the Union Public Service Commission in their affidavits/written statements have clearly set out that the confidential service records of all the candidates in the zone of consideration are scrutinized long prior to the ho
lding of the Selection Committee’s meeting. The committee applies its mind to the service records and makes its own assessment of the service records of the candidates marking them as outstanding, very good, and good and so on. The Selection Committee does not necessarily adopt the same grading which is given by the Reporting/Reviewing Officer in respect of each of the candidates. In fact the Selection Committee makes an overall relative assessment of the confidential report dossier this comparative assessment that the best candidates are put in the Select List. In view of the affidavit so filed, there is no merit in the contention that the Selection Committee did not apply its mind while preparing the list of 51 officers. The Tribunal, therefore, was not right in setting aside the selection made by the Selection Committee at its meeting of 30th of March, 1994.

The appeals are, therefore, allowed. The judgment and order of the Tribunal is set aside and the Select List prepared by the Selection Committee at its meeting held on 30th of March, 1994 is upheld as a valid Select List prepared in accordance with the Indian Administrative Service (Appointment by Promotion) Regulations, 1953 and in accordance with law. There will be no order as to costs.

CONCLUSION

The decision given by the bench was prudent in this case as the tribunal had given the decision which was contrary to law. The tribunal had interpreted regulation 5(2) in a very narrower sense. The Supreme court had interpreted regulation 5(2) in the right sense as they read with 5(3). Regarding the second and the third issue the supreme corrected the tribunal by saying that the proceedings were not vitiated and were not biased as though Mr. S. N. Dubey was there in the selection committee but his brother didn’t get selected which quashes all the doubts raised in the mind of people. The Supreme Court also said that there wasn’t non application of mind while considering the members as though the list was prepared in a single day but the process of considering members started long before thus SC quashed the contention of tribunal. All in all this judgement was to the point and prudent the issues were very clear and Supreme Court adjudicated them precisely not leaving any scope for further doubt and rectification.

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