The Supreme Court on Monday (October 9) dismissed three writ petitions filed by certain civil service aspirants challenging the decision of the Union Public Service Commission to treat them as general category candidates for not submitting the certificates regarding Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the prescribed format before the prescribed cut off date for the 2022 Civil Service Examinations(CSE).
The Court held that the UPSC was justified in rejecting the candidates’ claim for EWS quota for not submitting the requisite certificates before the prescribed cut off date in the specified format.
A bench comprising Justices JK Maheshwari and Justice K.V. Viswanathan, which had reserved the judgment on September 5, further held that the Civil Service Examination Rules 2022 have the force of law and upheld the constitutionality of the rules.
Justice Viswanathan, who read out the operative portion of judgment, stated that the candidates claiming benefit of EWS category for the purpose of CSE 2022 acquire the eligibility only if they meet the criterion prescribed by the Central Government in the Office Memorandums dated 19.01.2019 and 31.01.2019 and are in possession of required income and asset certificates based on the year 2020-21.
Further, as required by the CSE Rules, the candidates should have the income and asset certificates as on 22.02.2022.Any candidate not in possession of the income and asset certificates in the prescribed format cannot claim the benefit of the EWS category. Equally, at the stage of DAF-1, the document in possession as on 22.02.2022 in the prescribed format had to be submitted online before the prescribed date.
The UPSC was justified in rejecting the candidature of those candidates claiming benefit under the EWS category as they submitted the income and asset certificates beyond th stipulated deadline, the bench held.
The bench further held that the UPSC was justified in prescribing the format and the cut-off for uploading the documents. Detailed judgment is awaited.
The petitioners challenged UPSC’s decision to treat them as General category candidates post-results. The petitioners contended that this action was arbitrary and violated Articles 14, 16, and 21 of the Constitution.
The petitioners submitted that they were initially categorized as EWS candidates, having scored above the EWS cutoff marks. However, the respondent changed their category to General after the results were declared in May 2023, without providing any reason. They argued that this change was an arbitrary and discriminatory violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
The matter took a twist when, on January 30, 2023, the respondent informed them that their EWS certificates incorrectly mentioned the year 2021-22. They were advised to submit the original certificate with the correct financial year, 2020-21, during the interview.
Following this, a clarification was issued by the competent authority, acknowledging a clerical error in the certificate, confirming it should be read as Financial Year 2020-21. The petitioners submitted their certificates with this clarification during the interview but were later not selected in the final results.
In the previous hearing, Advocate Naresh Kaushik, representing UPSC, citing the EWS notification, stated that “benefits can be availed upon production of a certificate.”
On the other side, Advocate K. Parmeshwar, representing the petitioners, argued that the Office memorandum of 2019 did not explicitly state that possession of a certificate was required. He contended that their economic status, rather than the certificate, should be the basis for reservation.
Justice JK Maheshwari questioned the argument, stating, “When you apply, you [have to] show the proof that I am EWS.”
Advocate Parmeshwar countered this by emphasizing that “production rules or proof are directory and not mandatory.”
Expressing concern, he added, “If status and proof are considered the same, it’ll do grave injustice to the candidates. It’ll prefer a technical/rigid view over merit.”
Advocate Preetika Dwivedi, representing the petitioner, Divya contended that these rules were administrative directions and not statutory provisions, distinguishing them from recruitment rules. She was asked to review Rules 27 and 28, which pertain to “Eligibility for Availing Reservation,” and explain how the petitioners could bypass these rules.