Puneet Sharma vs. UOI (Delhi High Court)

DATE: May 17, 2019 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 18, 2019 (Date of publication)
AY: -
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ITAT Members' Appointment: The action of the Selection Committee of short-listing only 24 candidates for interview out of 649 applications is not violative of Article 14. The criteria of short-listing Advocates in practice for at least 20 years and with income of not less than Rs. 1.40 lakh for post of Judicial Member is rational and reasonable and not arbitrary

It is further provided that Selection Board may adopt such criteria as it may deem fit, but which shall not be less than the eligibility criteria prescribed under Sub-sections (2) and 2(A) of Section 252 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (43 of 1961) and Rule 3 in case of candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes categories.

5.3 The Committee, in its meeting dated 01st May, 2019, decided that only those applications which are complete in all respects and filed on or before the last date of submission i.e. 20th August, 2018 shall be considered. 5.4 649 applications were received by Department of Legal Affairs’ circular dated 06th July, 2018 for 37 members (Judicial/Accountant) in ITAT.

Considering the huge number of applications received for the above-mentioned posts, the interim Search-cum-Selection Committee deemed it fit to conjointly read Section 252 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and Rule 4A of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Members (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 1963.

Considering the above provisions, guidelines, status of applications and on perusal of list of candidates in decreasing order of their experience, the interim Search-cum-Selection Committee decided to call 24 most experienced applicants who were practicing Advocates for interview.

5.5 The above-mentioned principle has been upheld by the Supreme Court in catena of judgments wherein it has been held that if the number of applications are enormous in number with reference to the number of posts available to be filled up then the Selection Board has no option but to short-list such applications on some rational and reasonable basis.

In this regard, reliance is placed on Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission v. Navnit Kumar Potdar,(1994) 6 SCC 293. Relevant portion of the aforesaid judgment is extracted and reproduced hereunder for ready reference:

“9. …Once the applications are received and the Selection Board or the Commission applies its mind to evolve any rational and reasonable basis, on which the list of applicants should be short-listed, the process of selection commences. If with five years of experience an applicant is eligible, then no fault can be found with the Commission if the applicants having completed seven and half years of practice are only called for interview because such applicants having longer period of practice, shall be presumed to have better experience… xxx xxx

13 …where the selection is to be made purely on the basis of interview, if the applications for such posts are enormous in number with reference to the number of posts available to be filled up, then the Commission or the Selection Board has no option but to short-list such applicants on some rational and reasonable basis.”

5.6 Reliance is also placed on Union of India v. T. Sundararanian, AIR 1997 SC 2418 and Arun Tewari v. Zila Mansavi Shikshak Sangh, AIR 1998 SC 331.

5.7 The petitioner in W.P.(C) 5365/2019 submitted the application after the last date of submission prescribed in the circular dated 06th July, 2018 and therefore, his candidature was rejected by the Committee.

5.8 The petitioner in W.P.(C) 5361/2019 is having only 13 years of practice as an Advocate and therefore, his name is not amongst the short-listed candidates.

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