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Service matter – irregular appointments – termination of all appointments on enquiry – High court confirmed the same – Apex court held that In the result, the appeals fail and are hereby dismissed but in the circumstances without any order as to costs. We however direct that the University-respondent shall take necessary steps for constituting the Selection Board in terms of Section 58 of the Act as amended by Maharashtra Act No. XXXII of 2013 and advertise the vacancies currently available, together with the posts that are presently held by the appellants for recruitment in accordance with the procedure that may be prescribed in accordance with law. The entire process shall be completed by the University within six months. The appellants shall also be allowed toapply and participate in the selection process against the vacancies so advertised in relaxation of the upper age limit prescribed for such recruitment. For a period of six months or till the process of selection and appointment based on the selection process is completed by the respondent, whichever is earlier, the appellants shall be allowed to continue in service on the same terms as are currently applicable to them. In case any one of the appellants is selected by the new selection process, he shall be granted benefit of continuity of service. But such of the appellants who do not compete for the selection or are not selected for the posts that may be advertised shall stand ousted from service on completion of the period of six months hereby granted. No costs.= Hitendra Singh S/o Bhupendra Singh & Ors. …Appellants Versus Dr. P.D. Krishi Vidyapeeth by Reg. & Ors. …Respondents= 2014 ( Apr.Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41387

Service matter – irregular appointments – termination of all appointments on enquiry – High court confirmed the same – Apex court held that In the result, the appeals fail and are hereby dismissed  but  in  the circumstances without any order as to costs.  We  however  direct  that  the

University-respondent  shall  take  necessary  steps  for  constituting  the Selection Board in terms of Section 58 of the Act as amended by  Maharashtra Act No. XXXII of 2013  and  advertise  the  vacancies  currently  available, together with the posts that  are  presently  held  by  the  appellants  for recruitment in accordance with the procedure   that  may  be  prescribed  in

accordance  with  law.   The  entire  process  shall  be  completed  by  the University within six months.  The  appellants  shall  also  be  allowed  to apply and participate in the selection  process  against  the  vacancies  so advertised in  relaxation  of  the  upper  age  limit  prescribed  for  such recruitment.   For a period of six months  or till the process of  selection and  appointment  based  on  the  selection  process  is  completed  by  the respondent, whichever  is  earlier,  the  appellants  shall  be  allowed  to continue in service on the same terms as are currently applicable  to  them. In case any one of the appellants is selected by the new selection  process,

he shall be granted benefit of continuity  of  service.   But  such  of  the appellants who do not compete for the selection or are not selected for  the posts that may be advertised shall stand ousted from service  on  completion of the period of six months hereby granted. No costs.=

 

 Appointments  based  on  the  selection  conducted  by  the

Selection Committee concerned were all the same made  for  as  many  as  131

posts out of which 76 appointments were made against  the  posts  of  Senior

Research Assistant while the remaining 55 were made in the cadre  of  Junior

Research Assistants.  It is common ground that  the  selection  process  was

based on a total weightage of 100 marks for each candidate out of  which  40

marks were reserved for  educational  qualification  of  the  candidate  and

his/her  experience while the remaining 60 marks were set  apart  for  viva-

voce examination.=

An affidavit has  in  that  regard  been  filed  by  the  Shri

Dnyaneshwar Ashru Bharati, Registrar of  the  respondent-University  stating

that in terms of Maharashtra Act No. XXXII of  2013  the  Maharashtra  State

legislature  has  amended  Maharashtra  Agricultural  Universities   (Krishi

Vidyapeeths) Act, 1983.  Section 58 of the principal Act as  substituted  by

Act XXXII aforementioned provides that no person shall be appointed  by  the

University as a member of the academic staff, except on  the  recommendation

of a Selection Board constituted for the  purpose  in  accordance  with  the

provisions of the Statutes made in that behalf.  The posts of SRAs and  JRAs

are classified as academic as per Statute 71 of the MAU statutes 1990.   The

process of amendment to  the  statute  75  and  76  is  now  underway.   The

affidavit further states that the University will not be in  a  position  to

undertake the selection process of posts advertised on 23rd March  2012  and

that selection will be done by Recruitment Board as per  the  new  selection

procedure.  The affidavit is, however,  silent  as  to  the  procedure  that

shall be followed by the Selection Board constituted  for  the  purpose.  Be

that as it may the establishment of a Selection  Board  and  formulation  of

proper procedure to be followed by the Board will go a long  way  in  making

the process of selection and  recruitment  objective,  fair  and  reasonable

apart from bringing transparency to the norms and the process by which  such

recruitments were made.  

We only hope  that  the  process  of  amendment  of

relevant statute is expedited by the University  and  concluded  as  far  as

possible within six months from today and process of filling up of posts  of

SRAs and JRAs  currently  held  by  the  petitioners  and  those  that  were

advertised in terms of advertisement dated 23rd  March  2012  undertaken  in

accordance with such procedure.

 

26.   In the result, the appeals fail and are hereby dismissed  but  in  the

circumstances without any order as to costs.  

We  however  direct  that  the

University-respondent  shall  take  necessary  steps  for  constituting  the

Selection Board in terms of Section 58 of the Act as amended by  Maharashtra

Act No. XXXII of 2013  and  advertise  the  vacancies  currently  available,

together with the posts that  are  presently  held  by  the  appellants  for

recruitment in accordance with the procedure   that  may  be  prescribed  in

accordance  with  law.   

The  entire  process  shall  be  completed  by  the

University within six months.  

The  appellants  shall  also  be  allowed  to

apply and participate in the selection  process  against  the  vacancies  so

advertised in  relaxation  of  the  upper  age  limit  prescribed  for  such

recruitment.   

For a period of six months  or till the process of  selection

and  appointment  based  on  the  selection  process  is  completed  by  the

respondent, whichever  is  earlier,  the  appellants  shall  be  allowed  to

continue in service on the same terms as are currently applicable  to  them.

 

In case any one of the appellants is selected by the new selection  process,

he shall be granted benefit of continuity  of  service.   

But  such  of  the

appellants who do not compete for the selection or are not selected for  the

posts that may be advertised shall stand ousted from service  on  completion

of the period of six months hereby granted. No costs.


      2014 ( Apr.Part ) judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41387

T.S. THAKUR, C. NAGAPPAN

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4412 OF 2014
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.27082 of 2012)
Hitendra Singh S/o Bhupendra Singh & Ors. …Appellants

Versus

Dr. P.D. Krishi Vidyapeeth by Reg. & Ors. …Respondents
With

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4413 OF 2014
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.28373 of 2012)

Pramodini Ambadas Lad …Appellant

Versus

Chancellor Dr. P.D.K. Vidyapeeth & Ors. …Respondents

With

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4414 OF 2014
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.28399 of 2012)
Parikshit Vinayak Shingrup & Ors. …Appellants

Versus

Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth
& Ors. …Respondents

With

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4415 OF 2014
(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No.28437 of 2012)

Prashant Dinkarrao Peshattiwar & Ors. …Appellants

Versus

Chancellor Dr. P.D.Krishi Vidyapeeth & Ors. …Respondents

J U D G M E N T

T.S. THAKUR, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. These appeals arise out of a common Judgment and Order dated 16th
August, 2012 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench
whereby writ petitions No.238, 247, 251 and 389 of 2012 filed by the
appellants, herein, have been dismissed and the orders passed by the
respondents terminating their services affirmed.

3. Dr. Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth invited applications for
appointment against 24 vacancies in the cadre of Senior Research Assistants
and 37 vacancies in the cadre of Junior Research Assistants. As many as
3214 applications were received from eligible candidates against 61 posts
so advertised. Appointments based on the selection conducted by the
Selection Committee concerned were all the same made for as many as 131
posts out of which 76 appointments were made against the posts of Senior
Research Assistant while the remaining 55 were made in the cadre of Junior
Research Assistants. It is common ground that the selection process was
based on a total weightage of 100 marks for each candidate out of which 40
marks were reserved for educational qualification of the candidate and
his/her experience while the remaining 60 marks were set apart for viva-
voce examination.

4. Several complaints appear to have been made against the selection
process and the resultant appointments made by the University. Some of
these complaints were in the form of writ petitions filed before the High
Court of Bombay at Nagpur while some others were addressed to His
Excellency, the Governor of Maharashtra who happens to be the Chancellor of
the University. Out of the writ petitions filed against the selection and
appointment process, Writ Petition No.4771 of 2006 inter alia prayed for a
direction to the Chancellor to institute an inquiry under Section 11 of the
Maharashtra Agriculture Universities (Krishi Vidyapeeth) Act, 1983 in
regard to the illegalities and irregularities committed in the selection
and consequent appointments against the vacancies referred to above. By an
Order dated 21st April, 2007 passed by the High Court in the said petition,
the Chancellor was directed to take a decision in the matter on or before
the 14th August, 2007. Two other writ petitions were similarly filed
before the High Court of Nagpur challenging the selection and appointment
process. In writ petition No.342 of 2006 filed by Shri H.S. Bache, the
High Court passed an interim order to the effect that the selection of the
candidates shall remain stayed subject to the further orders of the Court.
Writ Petition No.905 of 2006 filed by Archana Bipte and another also
assailed the validity of the selection and appointment process undertaken
by the University on several grounds.

5. It was in the above backdrop that the Chancellor invoked his powers
under Section 11 (1) of the Maharashtra Agricultural Universities Act, 1983
and appointed Mr. Justice H.W.Dhabe, a former Judge of the High Court of
Bombay to examine the papers relating to the selection and appointment of
the candidates concerned against the posts referred to above and to submit
a report to the Chancellor as to the fairness of the selection of the
candidates appointed by the University. A reading of the order passed by
the Chancellor would show that apart from several allegations made by Dr.
B.G. Bhathakal, Ex-Vice Chancellor of the University and four others, the
Chancellor had before him, a report dated 8th November, 2006 submitted by
the Director General MCAER Pune from which the Chancellor noticed several
irregularities allegedly committed in the process of selection such as
violation of Statute 52, holding of common interviews for both Senior and
Junior Research Assistants, appointing meritorious candidates from the
reserved category seats instead of appointing them in the open merit
category, selection of as many as 22 relatives of officers/employees of the
University, absence of any short-listing of candidates for purposes of
interview even when the applications were far in excess of the advertised
vacancies. There were also allegations of the selection process not being
transparent apart from allegations to the effect that the norms for
academic evaluation and viva voce examination had been flouted.

6. With the constitution of the Justice Dhabe’s Committee writ petition
No.4771 of 2006 titled Dr.Balwant and Anr. versus His Excellency the
Chancellor of Dr.Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeet & Ors. and writ
Petition No.905 of 2006 titled Ms. Archana and Anr. V. State and Ors. were
both disposed of with the observation that Justice Dhabe Committee was
constituted to examine the complaints made by the writ petitioners and
connected issues was expected to submit its report to the Chancellor making
it unnecessary for the Court to undertake any such exercise in the said
petitions.

7. Proceedings before Justice Dhabe Committee started with the issue of
notices to those appointed informing them about the establishment of the
Committee to inquire into the fairness of the selection process and calling
upon them to appear in person before the Committee and to file affidavits
and documents, if any, to justify their selection and appointment. It is
not in dispute that the appellants received the said notices and
acknowledged the same by filing their respective affidavits. The appellants
were in the meantime informed by the University that they had completed
their period of probation satisfactorily but the declaration to that effect
was to remain subject to the outcome of writ petitions No.342 of 2006 and
4771 of 2006.

8. Justice Dhabe Committee took nearly 3½ years to complete the inquiry
and to submit its report to the Chancellor in which the entire process of
selection and appointment came under severe criticism questioning the
fairness of the selection process and the resultant appointments. The High
Court has summed up the substance of the findings and conclusions arrived
at by Justice Dhabe in the following words:

1) As large numbers of candidates were called for interview, without
following proper ratio as prescribed by the State government, it
has led to selection of undeserving and less meritorious candidates
by manipulation, favouritism and other malpractices etc.

2) Although the posts of SRA and JRA belonged to two separate cadres
with different pay scales, different qualifications and duties and
responsibilities, the Selection Committee held common interviews
for the said posts and vitiated the selection of the candidates as
their suitability could not have been properly judged in such
interviews for the said posts.

3) The criteria for assessment of the candidates for the posts of
SRA/JRA were illegal.

4) The Selection Committee has awarded marks for Ph.D. Thesis
submitted, research papers/popular articles published and
significant contribution made after the last date of application
i.e. 15.09.2004 by resorting to illegal marking system.

5) The Selection Committee gave higher weightage to the performance in
interview as compared to academic performance.

6) The procedure followed by the Selection Committee for awarding
marks to the candidates for academic performance and performance in
interview was illegal and invalid.

7) There was tinkering in mark seats of the candidates. In some of
the cases the mark sheets were not prepared in the meeting of the
Selection Committee and they were also not placed before any of its
meeting for its consideration and approval.

8) The Chairman and the Member Secretary of the Selection Committee on
their own without any authority or power in them increased the
number of posts of SRA and JRA to be filled in.

9) Category wise distribution of 55 posts of SRA and 76 posts of JRA
was not made according to the prescribed percentage for each of the
backward classes and open category as per the relevant GRs.

10) The selection lists for the posts of SRA and JRA were not prepared
or considered and approved in the meeting of the Selection
Committee. There were lacunae, deficiencies, illegalities and
irregularities in preparation of the selection list.

11) Though in the advertisement it was specifically provided for wait
lists to be prepared for the near future vacancies, no wait lists
were prepared by the Selection Committee.

12) The Selection Committee did not discharge any of its duties and
responsibilities in the selection process.

13) The entire selection process and selection of candidates pursuant
thereto for the posts of SRA and JRA is vitiated by bias of Dr.
V.D. Patil, Chairman of the Selection Committee.

14) As per the findings of Justice Dhabe, favouritism has occurred in
the process of selection to the posts of SRA and JRA

15) The qualification of Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Engineering
was introduced as an additional qualification for the post of JRA
as per the addendum dated 06.09.2004 to the advertisement dated
14.08.2004 in which the posts of JRA were advertised with the
qualification of Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture.

16) Preparation of the minutes of various meetings of the Selection
Committee were not recorded faithfully and confirmed by its other
members. The proceedings/minutes of the meetings of the Selection
Committee were probably prepared after the appointment orders were
issued on 16.09.2005 and 17.09.2005.

17) There were more than 2 months delay in handing over the Selection
lists to the then Vice Chancellor. The reasons given by the then
Vice Chancellor for the delay in not receiving the selection lists
towards the end of June or July 2005 are not convincing.

18) The Reservation policy of the Government was not followed by the
University. Reservations of the posts for backward classes
(social/ vertical reservation) were not made according to their
prescribed percentage as per the relevant GRs. of the State
Government.

19) The graduates of the Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University
were not considered in the University for appointment and promotion
in the post of JRA.

20) There were illegalities, flaws and consequential reshuffling of the
Selection Lists and other infirmities in preparation of the
existing selection lists of these posts of SRA and JRA. Thus, the
appointments made in the posts of SRA and JRA are highly irregular.

21) The routine procedures for making appointment in the university was
not followed in the appointments made to the posts of SRA and JRA.
In the report it is concluded that the entire selection process and
selection of the candidates to the posts of SRA and JRA is vitiated
by the illegalities, irregularities and improprieties and therefore
the appointments made pursuant thereto, need to be set aside.

 

9. On receipt of the report from Justice Dhabe Committee the Chancellor
directed the Vice Chancellor of the University to place the matter before
the Executive Council for its opinion. The matter was accordingly placed
before the Executive Council of the University on 14th February 2011. The
Council while accepting the findings recorded by the Dhabe Committee
recommended that a lenient view be taken by the Chancellor and the
appointments already made protected having regard to the fact that those
appointed had already served the University for over six years during the
interregnum. The petitioners also appear to have made a representation to
the Chancellor in which they once again asserted that their appointments
had been properly made on the basis of their merit and that the termination
of their services after more than six years will be grossly unfair. The
Chancellor, however, felt that Justice Dhabe Committee had reported
illegalities and irregularities in the procedure adopted by the Selection
Committee which findings having been accepted by the Executive Council left
no room for any leniency in the case, considering the gravity and
seriousness of the matter. The Chancellor found that the entire process of
selection of candidates and their appointments stood vitiated because of
such irregularities. Directions were accordingly issued to the Vice
Chancellor to initiate action to cancel the appointments of the candidates
concerned after following the procedure prescribed by law and to fix the
responsibility of those who had committed lapses in the matter of selection
of the candidates and take disciplinary action against them including the
Chairman of the Selection Committee and the then Registrar and Member
Secretary of the said Committee. The Chancellor further directed the Vice
Chancellor to consider the suggestions made by Justice Dhabe Committee in
order to avoid recurrence of such illegalities and irregularities in future
recruitments.

10. In obedience to the directions issued by the Chancellor, disciplinary
action appears to have been initiated against those comprising the
Selection Committee in which the officials are accused of having made
illegal selection of 131 candidates including the petitioners thereby not
only causing financial loss to the University but also bringing disrepute
to it. We are in the present appeals not concerned with the fate of the
said proceedings which appear to be lingering on even at present. As
regards the petitioners, they were served notices calling upon them to
appear before the Vice Chancellor for a personal hearing against their
selection and appointment as SRAs/JRAs in the University. It is not in
dispute that the petitioners in reply to the said notices filed their
respective responses before the Vice Chancellor and were heard on different
dates mentioned in the communications received by them. It is also not in
dispute that the petitioners submitted their representations before the
Vice Chancellor in writing in which they stated that their appointments
were regular and legally sound apart from relying upon the fact that they
had served the University for nearly six years thereby entitling them to
protection against ouster on equitable grounds. The Vice Chancellor then
reported the result of the hearing provided by him to the petitioners by
his letter dated 1st November 2011. Consideration of the report received
from the Vice Chancellor, the opinion offered by the Executive Council of
the University and the entire material including the report submitted by
Justice Dhabe Committee led the Chancellor to pass an order on 16th
December 2011 in which the Chancellor held that the entire process of
selection and appointment having lost its sanctity on account of
irregularities in the same could not be approved or rectified. The
Chancellor felt that a lenient view on humanitarian grounds alone would be
against the principles of governance and fair selection process in the
matter of recruitment. He accordingly turned down the recommendation of the
Vice Chancellor that out of 83 SRAs and JRAs, selection of 65 candidates
could be saved as valid while remaining 18 could be ousted. He directed
that Justice Dhabe Committee Report did not leave any room for the Vice
Chancellor to strike a discordant note or sit in judgment over the
conclusions drawn by the Committee. The Chancellor accordingly cancelled
the appointments of 83 candidates of SRAs and JRAs who had been selected
and taken into the service of the University on the basis of a process
which the Chancellor found was vitiated and void ab initio.

11. In compliance with the directions issued by the Chancellor the Vice
Chancellor issued individual orders in each case terminating the services
of the appointees concerned. Aggrieved by the said orders the petitioners
filed Writ Petition Nos. 238/12, 389/12, 247/12 and 251/12 before the High
Court of Judicature at Bombay, Nagpur Bench which petitions have now been
dismissed by the said Court in terms of the common order impugned in these
appeals.

12. We have heard learned counsel for the parties at length. The
following questions arise for our consideration:

1) Was the Chancellor competent to appoint a Single Member Committee
headed by Justice H.W. Dhabe to examine the illegalities,
irregularities, fairness and impropriety of the selection process and
consequent appointments to the cadre of SRAs and JRAs?

2) Were the inquiry proceedings entrusted to Justice Dhabe Committee
conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice?

3) Were the findings recorded by Justice Dhabe Committee in any manner
illegal or perverse to warrant interference with the same by a Writ
Court?

4) Was the procedure adopted by the University and the Vice Chancellor
fair and reasonable and in consonance with the principles of natural
justice?

5) Was the Chancellor of the respondent-University and the High Court
justified in declining the prayer of the petitioners for continuance
in service on account of the time lag between the date of their
appointments and the date on which their services were terminated?

We shall deal with the question ad seriatim.

 

Reg. Question No. 1

13. Maharashtra Agricultural Universities (Krishi Vidyapeeths) Act, 1983
was enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to the agricultural
universities in the State of Maharashtra. The legislation provides for
better governance, more efficient administration and financial control of
the Universities and for better organisation of teaching, research and
extension education therein apart from providing better facilities in
agricultural and allied matters in particular for the development of
agricultural sciences which is one of the prime objects underlying the Act.
Chapter II of the Act comprises Sections 3 to 11. Section 4 of the Act
states that each University shall be deemed to be established and
incorporated for the purposes enumerated therein. The purposes mentioned in
the said provision includes education in agriculture in allied sciences and
in humanities besides furthering the advancement of learning and research
in agriculture, undertaking and guiding extension education programmes;
integrating and coordinating the teaching of subjects in the different
faculties, coordinating agricultural education, research and extension
education activities, teaching and examining students and conferring
degrees and diplomas. Section 6 of the Act deals with the powers and
functions of the Universities. It inter alia provides that each University
shall have the powers and functions enumerated under the said provision, in
particular the power to institute teaching, research and extension
education posts required by the University and to appoint persons to such
posts. Sub-section (x) to Section 6 is in this regard relevant which
reads:

“to institute teaching, research and extension education posts
required by the University and to appoint persons to such
posts.”

 

14. Section 11 of the Act empowers the Chancellor to cause an inspection
and inquiry on matters stipulated therein. We may gainfully extract the
said provision in extenso as the power of the Chancellor to direct an
inquiry into the validity of the selection and appointments has been
questioned before us in these appeals. Section 11 reads as under:

“SECTION 11: Chancellor to cause inspection and inquiry on various
matters:

1) The Chancellor shall have the right to cause an inspection
to be made, by such person or persons or body of persons,
as he may direct, of any University,, its buildings, farms,
laboratories, libraries, museums, workshops and equipments
of any college, institution or hostel maintained,
administered or recognised by the University and of the
teaching and other work conducted by or on behalf of the
University or under its auspices of and of the conduct of
examinations or other functions of the University, and to
cause to inquiry to be made in like manner regarding any
matter connected with the administration or finances of the
University.

2) The Chancellor shall, in every case, give due notice to the
University of his intention to cause an inspection or
inquiry to be made, and the University shall be entitled to
appoint a representative, who all have the right to be
present and to be heard at the inspection or inquiry.

(3) After an inspection or inquiry has been caused to be made,
the Chancellor may address the Vice-Chancellor on the result
of such inspection or inquiry and the Vice-Chancellor shall;
communicate to the Executive Council the views of the
Chancellor and call upon the Executive Council to
communicate to the Chancellor through him its opinion
thereon within such time as may have been specified by the
Chancellor. If the Executive Council communicates, its
opinion within the specified time limit, after taking into
consideration that opinion, or where the Executive Council
fails to communicate its opinion in time, after the
specified time limit is over, the Chancellor may proceed and
advise the Executive Council upon the action to be taken by
it, and fix a time limit for taking such action

(4) The Executive Council shall, within the time limit so fixed,
report to the Chancellor through the Vice-Chancellor the
action which has been taken or is proposed to be taken on
the advice tendered by him.

(5) The Chancellor may, where action has not been taken by the
Executive Council to his satisfaction with in the time
limit fixed, and after considering any explanation
furnished or representation made by the Executive Council,
issue such direction, as the Chancellor may think fit, and
the Executive Council and other authority concerned shall
comply with such directions.

(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding sub-
section if at any time the Chancellor is of the opinion
that in any matter the affairs of the University are not
managed in furtherance of the objects of the University or
in accordance with the provisions of this Act and the
statutes and Regulation or that special measures are
desirable to maintain the standards of University teaching,
examinations, research, extension education, administration
or finances, the Chancellor may indicate to the Executive
Council through the Vice-Chancellor any matter in regard to
which he desires an explanation and call upon the Executive
Council to offer such explanation within such time as may
be specified by him. If the Executive Council fails to
offer any explanation within the time specified or offers
an explanation which, in the opinion of the Chancellor is
not satisfactory , the Chancellor may issue such directions
as appear to him to be necessary , and the Executive
Council and other authority concerned shall comply with
such directions.

(7) The Executive Council shall furnish such information
relating to the administration and finances of the
University as the Chancellor may from time to time require.

(8) The Executive Council shall furnish to the State Government
such returns or other information with respect to the
property or activities of the University as the State
government may from time to time require“.

(emphasis supplied)

 

15. A careful reading of the above would leave no manner of doubt that
the Chancellor is vested with the power to cause an inspection to be made
by such person or persons as he may direct of any University, its building,
farms, laboratories, libraries etc. or of hostels administered and
recognised by the University or of the teaching or other workshops
conducted on behalf of the University or any conduct of examinations or
other functions of the University. The inspection so directed is,
however, distinct from the inquiry which the Chancellor may direct
regarding any matter connected with the administration or finance of the
University. The expression ‘administration or finance’ of the University
are in our opinion, wide enough to include an inquiry into any matter that
falls under Section 6(x) (supra). If creation of teaching, research and
education posts required by the University is one of the functions of the
University and if appointment of suitable persons against such posts is
also one of such functions, there is no reason why the power of the
Chancellor to direct an inquiry under Section 11(1) should not extend to
any process leading to such appointments. The term ‘administration of the
University’ appearing in sub-Section 1 of Section 11 would, in our opinion,
include every such activity as is relatable to the functions of the
University, under Section 6. Selection of persons suitable for appointment
and appointments of such persons would logically fall within the expression
“administration of the University” within the meaning of Section 11(1) of
the Act. We have, therefore, no hesitation in holding that the inquiry
directed by the Chancellor into the illegalities and irregularities of the
selection process culminating in the appointment of Senior and Junior
Research Assistants was legally permissible. The power vested in the
Chancellor under Section 11 to direct an inspection or an inquiry into
matters referred to in the said provision is very broad and vests the
Chancellor with the authority to direct an inspection or an inquiry
whenever warranted in the facts and circumstances in a given case. We may
also refer to Section 15 of the Act whereunder the Governor of Maharashtra
is ex-officio Head of each of the Universities who shall, when present,
preside at any convocation of the University. Section 15 reads:

“(1) The Governor of Maharashtra, shall be the Chancellor of
each of the Universities.

(2) The Chancellor shall, by virtue of his office, be the head
of the University and shall, when present, preside at any
convocation of the University.

(3) The Chancellor may call for his information any papers
relating to the administration of the affairs of the University
and such requisition shall be complied with by the University.

(4) Every proposal to confer any honorary degree shall be
subject to confirmation by the Chancellor.

(5)The Chancellor may, by order in writing, annul any proceeding
of any officer or authority of the University, which is not in
conformity with this Act, the Statutes or the Regulations, or
which is prejudicial to the interest of the University;

Provided that, before making any such order, he shall call upon
the officer or authority to show cause why such an order should
not be made, and if any cause is shown within the time specified
by him in this behalf, he shall consider the same.

(6) The Chancellor shall exercise such other powers and perform
such other duties as are laid down by this Act.”

(emphasis supplied)

 
16. A plain reading of the above shows that apart from being the ex
officio Head of the University, the statute specifically confers upon the
Chancellor the power to call for his information any paper relating to the
administration of the affairs of the University and upon such request the
University is bound to comply with the same. Sub-section 5 vests the
chancellor with the power to annul any proceeding of any officer or
authority if the same is not in conformity with the provisions of the Act,
the statutes or the Regulations or which is prejudicial to the interest of
the University. A conjoint reading of Sections 11 and 15, in our opinion,
leaves no manner of doubt that the Chancellor exercises ample powers in
regard to the affairs of the University and in particular in regard to the
affairs of the administration of the University. The power to direct an
inquiry into any matter concerning the administration of the University is
only one of the facets of power vested in the Chancellor. The exercise of
any such power is not subject to any limitation or impediment
understandably because the power is vested in a high constitutional
functionary who is expected to exercise the same only when such exercise
becomes necessary to correct aberrations and streamline administration so
as to maintain the purity of the procedures and process undertaken by the
University in all spheres dealt with by it. The power to direct an inquiry
is meant to kickstart corrective and remedial measures and steps needed to
improve the functioning of the University as much as to correct any illegal
or improper activity in the smooth running of the administration of the
University. As a father figure holding a high constitutional office, the
Chancellor is to be the guiding spirit for the Universities to follow a
path of rectitude in every matter whether it concerns the administration or
the finances of the University or touches the teaching and other activities
that are undertaken by it. The legislature, it is obvious, has
considered the conferment of such powers to be essential to prevent
indiscipline, root out corruption, prevent chaos or deadlock in the
administration of the University or any office or establishment under it
that may tend to shake its credibility among those who deal with the
institution.

17. The Chancellor had, in the case at hand, directed an inquiry into the
illegalities and irregularities in the selection and appointment process in
the light of widespread resentment against the same as is evident from the
fact that three writ petitions had been filed in the High Court challenging
the selection and the appointment process. Two of the writ petitions had
been disposed of as noticed earlier no sooner Justice Dhabe Committee was
constituted by the Chancellor for holding a detailed inquiry into the
allegations. The petitioners were not only aware of the fact about the
pending writ proceedings but also about the constitution of Justice Dhabe
Committee. As a matter of fact with the disposal of Writ Petitions No.4771
of 2006 and 905 of 2006 the petitioner had known that Justice Dhabe
Committee will eventually determine whether or not their selection and
appointment was proper. Justice Dhabe Committee had even issued notices to
the petitioners who had in turn responded to the same. The constitution of
Justice Dhabe Committee was, despite all this, never questioned by the
petitioners. On the contrary the petitioners merrily participated in the
proceedings and took a chance to obtain a favourable verdict from it.
Having failed to do so, they turned around to challenge not only the
findings recorded by the Committee but even the authority of the Chancellor
to set up such a Committee. While the findings recorded by the Inquiry
Committee could be assailed, the challenge to the setting up of the
Committee was clearly untenable not only because there was no merit in that
contention but also because having taken a chance to obtain a favourable
verdict the petitioners could not turn around to assail the constitution of
the Committee itself. Question 1 is accordingly answered in the negative.
Reg. Question No. 2

18. The petitioners had unsuccessfully challenged Justice Dhabe Committee
Report before the High Court on the ground that principles of natural
justice had not been complied with by the Committee. The High Court has
noted and in our opinion rightly so that Justice Dhabe Committee had issued
notices to each one of the petitioners asking for their explanation which
the petitioners had submitted. The High Court noted that the inquiry
proceedings before Justice Dhabe had continued for nearly three years
during which period the petitioners had made no grievance either before the
Committee or before any other forum regarding non-compliance with the
principles of natural justice. There is nothing on record to suggest that
any point relevant to the controversy was not considered by Justice Dhabe
Committee or that there was any impediment in their offering an effective
defence before the Committee. The petitioners had on the contrary candidly
admitted in the writ petition itself that upon receipt of notices from the
Committee they had appeared and filed their respective affidavits before
the Committee. Some of the petitioners had even furnished some additional
information which was summoned from them. The Committee had, it is evident,
associated the petitioners with the proceedings by inviting them to appear
and participate in the same, heard the petitioners and considered their
version. There is neither an allegation nor any material to suggest that
there was any reluctance or refusal on the part of the Committee to
entertain any material which the petitioner intended to place in their
defence or to summon any record from any other quarter relevant to the
questions being examined by the Committee. The argument that the
petitioners did not know as to what the complaint against them was has been
rejected by the High Court and quite rightly so. Once the petitioners were
informed about the setting up of the Committee and invited to participate
in the same and once they had appeared before the Committee and filed their
affidavits it is difficult to appreciate the argument that the petitioners
did so without knowing as to why was the Committee set up and what was the
inquiry all about. Assuming that any of the petitioners did not fully
comprehend the nature of allegations being inquired into by the Committee
or the purpose of the inquiry nothing prevented the petitioners from taking
suitable steps at the appropriate stage assuming that they were so naïve as
to simply appear before the Committee without being aware of the purpose
for which they were invited. They could indeed approach the Committee to
secure the relevant information to fully acquaint themselves about the on-
going process and the nature of the defences that was open to them. Having
remained content with their participation in the inquiry proceedings for
nearly three years and having made no grievance at all against the
procedure adopted by the Committee in dealing with the subject till the
writ petitions challenging the termination orders were filed, we see no
merit in the specious contention that principles of natural justice were
violated by the Committee especially when no prejudice is demonstrably
caused to the petitioners on account of the procedure which the Committee
followed in concluding the enquiry proceedings. Question No.2 is also in
that view answered in the negative.

Reg. Question No. 3

19. Findings recorded by Justice Dhabe Committee were based on facts
discovered in the course of the inquiry. No serious attempt was made
before the High Court nor even before us to challenge the said findings of
fact. Even otherwise a finding inquiry instituted by the Chancellor was
bound to involve appraisal of evidence, documentary and oral. The
conclusions drawn on the basis of such appraisal were open to critical
evaluation by the authorities before whom the conclusions and the Report
was submitted for action but once such conclusions are upon a careful re-
appraisal found to be justified, a writ Court will be very slow in
interfering with the same.

20. In the present case, upon receipt of the report from Justice Dhabe
Committee the matter was directed to be placed before the Executive Council
of the University. That direction was meant to give the Executive Council
an opportunity to examine the findings of fact and the conclusions drawn
from the same critically and to determine whether the same were justified.
The Executive Council, it is common ground, had without any reservation
approved the findings recorded by Dhabe Committee, no matter with a
recommendation to the Chancellor to take a lenient view in the matter,
having regard to the fact that the petitioners had already served the
University for nearly six years. The recommendation of the Executive
Council did not, however, find anything amiss with the conclusions drawn by
the Dhabe Committee as to the irregularities in the selection process
culminating in illegal appointments of the selected candidates. The ‘fact
finding’ aspect thus stood concluded with the approval of the Executive
Council of the University. The Vice Chancellor no doubt made an attempt at
segregating what according to him was the valid part of the selection from
that which was not, but the Chancellor did not approve of that exercise.
The Chancellor took the view that the entire selection stood vitiated by
widespread irregularities, leaving hardly any room for a distinction
between the so called valid and invalid parts of the selection process. Be
that as it may the fact remains that we have not been able to find any
reason to interfere with the findings recorded by the Justice Dhabe
Committee. The sanctity of the entire selection process having been
vitiated by irregularities and acts of nepotism, question No. 3 shall have
to be answered in the negative, which we accordingly do.

Reg. Question No. 4

21. It is also not in dispute that in compliance with the orders passed
by the Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor of the University had issued notices
to the petitioners calling upon them to appear before him for a personal
hearing in support of their selection and appointment as SRAs/JRAs. It is
also not in dispute that upon receipt of the said notices the petitioners
had filed their responses in the required format and were also given an
opportunity of being heard by the Vice Chancellor. In the course of the
hearing the petitioners obviously relied upon the written responses and
sought a direction against ouster from service. There is, therefore, no
merit in the submission that upon submission of the recommendations by
Justice Dhabe Committee the petitioners did not have any opportunity to
present their version before the Vice Chancellor nor is it possible to dub
the hearing provided by the Vice Chancellor as a farce. The High Court
has, in our opinion, rightly rejected a similar contention urged before it
and correctly concluded that the petitioners had failed to establish that
the Vice Chancellor had either violated the principles of natural justice
or that any prejudice was caused by the procedure adopted by him in
offering them a hearing. As a matter of fact the Vice- Chancellor had in
his anxiety to help the petitioners tried to sit in judgment over the
findings and conclusions of the inquiry Committee and taken a stance that
was overtly sympathetic towards the petitioners. The uncharitable
expression used by the petitioners as to the nature of the process
undertaken by the Vice Chancellor is not, therefore, justified. The Vice
Chancellor had in our view acted fairly and fully complied with the
principle of natural justice. There is no gainsaid that the requirements
of audi alteram partem are not capable of a strait jacket application.
Their application depends so much upon the nature of the Tribunal that is
deciding the matter, the nature of the inquiry that is being made and the
consequences flowing from the determination. A notice to the petitioners
who were likely to be affected and a hearing afforded to them apart from
written responses filed in reply to the notices was in our opinion a
substantial compliance with the principles of natural justice. No further
hearing was required to be repeated by the Chancellor who had before whom
the recommendations of the Executive Committee and the Vice Chancellor who
took a final view of the matter having regard to the totality of the
circumstances. The High Court has, in this regard, observed:

“Thus, the Chancellor was not required to give any personal
hearing to the petitioners while disagreeing with them. If we
hold that prior to passing of the final order the Chancellor was
required to hear the petitioners once again, that would mean
that although the facts are undisputed and although no prejudice
is demonstrated, we agree with the submissions of the
petitioners. This would mean second round or second opportunity
being made available to the petitioners to show cause against
the findings and conclusions in the Inquiry Committee’s report.
That would mean reopening of the matter in its entirety which
was not permissible and feasible in the peculiar facts of the
case. This could be equated with an opportunity to show cause
against the proposed punishment as is available in service
jurisprudence. Those principles cannot be imported into the
exercise that has been undertaken in the facts and circumstances
of this case.”

 

22. We see no error of law in the view taken by the High Court to warrant
our interference. Question No. 4 is accordingly answered in the negative.

Reg. Question No. 5

23. The Chancellor declined to show any leniency to the petitioners no
matter they had served the University for over six years primarily because
the entire selection process was in his opinion vitiated by widespread
irregularities in the selection process. The findings recorded by Justice
Dhabe Committee upon a detailed and thorough examination of the matter
fully supported that view of the Chancellor. The reasons that prevailed
with the Chancellor cannot be said to be illusory or irrelevant so as to
call for interference from a writ Court. The Chancellor was dealing with a
case where the Selection Committee had called a large number of candidates
for interview without following the proper procedure as prescribed by the
State Government leading to the appointment of undeserving candidates by
manipulation and favouritism. It was a case where the posts of SRAs/JRAs
although carrying different pay scales were clubbed for holding a common
interview. Even the criterion for assessment of the merit of the candidates
was found to be faulty. Marks were awarded for qualifications although the
thesis for such qualifications was submitted after the date prescribed for
such advertisement. Marking system itself was found to be erroneous.
Higher weightage was given to the performance in the interview as compared
to academic merit. There was tinkering in the mark sheets of the
candidates in certain cases and mark sheets were not made available in the
meetings of the Selection Committee. The Chairman and the Member
Secretary of the Selection Committee had on their own increased the number
of posts of SRAs and JRAs to be filled upon. All these among other aspects
were considered by Justice Dhabe Committee in its report which concluded
that the entire selection process was vitiated. That beneficiaries of such
faulty selection process should hold on to the benefit only because of
lapse of time would be travesty of justice especially when deserving
candidates were left out with a brooding sense of injustice and cynicism
against the efficacy of the system that was meant to act fairly and
objectively. Continuance in office of those selected by means that are not
fair, transparent and reasonable will amount to perpetuating the wrong.
The length of service put in by the candidates who were selected on the
basis of such a faulty selection process may be one of the considerations
that enters the mind of the Court but there are other weighty
considerations that cannot be given a go bye or conveniently forgotten lest
those who do not adopt such malpractices or those who expect the system to
protect their interest and their rights are eternally disappointed and left
to believe that a wrong once done will never be corrected just because the
legal process by which it is to be corrected is a long and winding process
that often takes years to reach fruition.

24. Having said that we must say that the main contention which the
petitioners have urged in support of their continuance in service is that
they have become overage for any government employment at this stage. If
ousted from service the petitioners will have no place to go nor even an
opportunity to compete for the vacancies against which they were appointed.
That is an aspect which can be and ought to be considered especially when
there is no allegation leave alone evidence about any bribery having taken
place in the issue of appointment orders by the officials concerned. Even
so, continuance of the petitioners in service would not, in our opinion, be
justified having regard to the background in which the selection and
appointments were made and eventually set aside by the University. All
that the long years of service rendered with the University may secure for
the petitioners a direction to the effect that in any future selection
against the vacancies caused by their ouster and other vacancies that may
be available for the next selection the petitioners shall also be
considered in relaxation of the upper age limit prescribed for them. Such
of the petitioners who could try their luck in the next selection and who
succeed in the same will also have the benefit of continuity of service.

25. That brings us to the method of selection that may be followed
falling up the vacancies that will be caused by the ouster of the
petitioners. An affidavit has in that regard been filed by the Shri
Dnyaneshwar Ashru Bharati, Registrar of the respondent-University stating
that in terms of Maharashtra Act No. XXXII of 2013 the Maharashtra State
legislature has amended Maharashtra Agricultural Universities (Krishi
Vidyapeeths) Act, 1983. Section 58 of the principal Act as substituted by
Act XXXII aforementioned provides that no person shall be appointed by the
University as a member of the academic staff, except on the recommendation
of a Selection Board constituted for the purpose in accordance with the
provisions of the Statutes made in that behalf. The posts of SRAs and JRAs
are classified as academic as per Statute 71 of the MAU statutes 1990. The
process of amendment to the statute 75 and 76 is now underway. The
affidavit further states that the University will not be in a position to
undertake the selection process of posts advertised on 23rd March 2012 and
that selection will be done by Recruitment Board as per the new selection
procedure. The affidavit is, however, silent as to the procedure that
shall be followed by the Selection Board constituted for the purpose. Be
that as it may the establishment of a Selection Board and formulation of
proper procedure to be followed by the Board will go a long way in making
the process of selection and recruitment objective, fair and reasonable
apart from bringing transparency to the norms and the process by which such
recruitments were made. We only hope that the process of amendment of
relevant statute is expedited by the University and concluded as far as
possible within six months from today and process of filling up of posts of
SRAs and JRAs currently held by the petitioners and those that were
advertised in terms of advertisement dated 23rd March 2012 undertaken in
accordance with such procedure.

26. In the result, the appeals fail and are hereby dismissed but in the
circumstances without any order as to costs. We however direct that the
University-respondent shall take necessary steps for constituting the
Selection Board in terms of Section 58 of the Act as amended by Maharashtra
Act No. XXXII of 2013 and advertise the vacancies currently available,
together with the posts that are presently held by the appellants for
recruitment in accordance with the procedure that may be prescribed in
accordance with law. The entire process shall be completed by the
University within six months. The appellants shall also be allowed to
apply and participate in the selection process against the vacancies so
advertised in relaxation of the upper age limit prescribed for such
recruitment. For a period of six months or till the process of selection
and appointment based on the selection process is completed by the
respondent, whichever is earlier, the appellants shall be allowed to
continue in service on the same terms as are currently applicable to them.
In case any one of the appellants is selected by the new selection process,
he shall be granted benefit of continuity of service. But such of the
appellants who do not compete for the selection or are not selected for the
posts that may be advertised shall stand ousted from service on completion
of the period of six months hereby granted. No costs.

 
…………..…………………..…..…J.
(T.S. THAKUR)
…………..…………………..…..…J.
(C NAGAPPAN)
New Delhi
April 4, 2014

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