whether a candidate is fit for a particular post or not has to be decided by the duly constituted expert body i.e. the Selection Committee. ? the High Court of Madras in Writ Petition No.33696 of 2007 , set aside the order of the Tribunal and directed the appellants and Union of India (DoPT) to convene a Selection Committee Meeting for reviewing the promotions made to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) for the year 2004 and promote the first respondent herein to the IAS from the date when his juniors were promoted with all the consequential benefits.= The question as to how the categories are assessed in light of the relevant records and as to what norms apply in making the assessment, is exclusively to be determined by the Selection Committee. Since the jurisdiction to make selection as per law is vested in the Selection Committee and as the Selection Committee members have got expertise in the matter, it is not open for the courts generally to interfere in such matters except in cases where the process of assessment is vitiated either on the ground of bias, mala fides or arbitrariness. It is not the function of the court to hear the matters before it treating them as appeals over the decisions of the Selection Committee and to scrutinise the relative merit of the candidates. The question as to whether a candidate is fit for a particular post or not has to be decided by the duly constituted expert body i.e. the Selection Committee. The courts have very limited scope of judicial review in such matters.” [Underlining added] In the present case, we find that neither the decision of the Selection Committee nor the decision-making process suffers from any arbitrariness. Since there was down-grading of the first respondent for the assessment year 2004, the first respondent was not included in the Select List. On overall assessment of service records, the name of the first respondent was not included in the Select List due to the statutory limit of its size and as officers with higher grading in the Select List were available as per the provisions of Regulation 5(5) of the Regulations. The High Court was not right in holding that the Selection Committee has miserably failed to assess all the aspects of the case in their proper perspective and that the promotions made to the IAS for the vacancies of the year 2004 is vitiated and the same is to be reviewed. The impugned judgment of the High Court cannot be sustained and is liable to be set aside. Insofar as the challenge by the first respondent to G.O. Ms. No.1125 dated 26.11.2011, the same shall be considered on its own merits without being influenced by any of the views expressed in this judgment.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.4626 OF 2009
UNION PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION …Appellant
VERSUS
JAWAHAR SANTHKUMAR AND OTHERS …Respondents
With
CIVIL APPEAL NO.4628 OF 2009
J U D G M E N T
R. BANUMATHI, J.
These appeals arise out of the impugned judgment dated
17.04.2008 passed by the High Court of Madras in Writ Petition
No.33696 of 2007 in and by which the High Court set aside the
order of the Tribunal and directed the appellants and Union of India
(DoPT) to convene a Selection Committee Meeting for reviewing the
promotions made to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) for the
year 2004 and promote the first respondent herein to the IAS from
the date when his juniors were promoted with all the consequential
benefits.

  1. Brief facts which led to filing of these appeals are as under:-
    1
    A meeting of the Selection Committee for promotion to the IAS
    of Tamil Nadu Cadre for the year 2004 was held on 18.12.2004
    against three vacancies as determined by the Central Government.
    The name of the first respondent was considered by the said
    Committee along with the names of respondent Nos.4 and 5. The
    position in the Eligibility List (EL), Selection List (SL) and the overall
    relative assessment (ORA) as assigned by the Selection Committee
    in respect of the first respondent vis-à-vis that of the officers
    included in the Select List are as under:-
    Year Respondent
    No.1’s Position
    Name & Position of Selected Officers
    SL 2004 Name EL ORA SL
    Vacancy: 03 In EL: S.No.04 TK Ponnusamy* 01 Very Good 01
    Size of SL: 03 ORA: Good N Mathivanan 02 Very Good 02
    Zone of Consideration: 09 In SL: Not included Smt. R. Vasuki 03 Very Good 03
    *Included provisionally subject to clearance
    in Criminal Proceedings pending against him
    and grant of Integrity Certificate by the State
    Government.
    The first respondent was duly considered for promotion in the year
    2004 and assessed as “Good” for that year. However, on the basis
    of overall relative assessment, the first respondent’s name could not
    be included in the Select List of 2004 due to lower grading and also
    due to the statutory limit on the size of the Select List. Respondent
    Nos.4 and 5 who were included in the Select List have been
    appointed by the Government of India by Notification dated
    29.04.2005.
    2
  2. Aggrieved by his non-appointment to the IAS, the first
    respondent filed OA No.749 of 2006 before the Central
    Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Madras Bench. The said application
    was dismissed by the Tribunal vide order dated 31.08.2007 holding
    that the first respondent’s name was included by the State
    Government in the list of officers eligible for consideration for the
    year 2004 and accordingly, the Selection Committee considered the
    first respondent’s ACRs and made a relative assessment of all the
    officers under consideration. The Tribunal pointed out that the
    Selection Committee makes its own assessment on the basis of
    entries made in the various columns and after discussion within the
    Committee, finally arrives at a classification “Outstanding”, “Very
    Good”, “Good” and “Unfit” to be assigned to an officer. Finding no
    irregularity by the Selection Committee in making the relative
    assessment, the Tribunal dismissed the application filed by the first
    respondent. The first respondent then filed review application in RA
    No.27 of 2007 in OA No.749 of 2006 seeking review of the
    Tribunal’s order dated 31.08.2007 and the said review petition came
    to be dismissed by the Tribunal vide order dated 03.10.2007.
  3. Aggrieved by the dismissal of his application, the first
    respondent filed writ petition in WP No.33696 of 2007. The High
    Court held that the Tribunal by its order dated 26.06.2002 directed
    3
    for fixation of the first respondent’s seniority in the cadre of District
    Revenue Officer; but the seniority of the first respondent was not
    refixed within a reasonable time by the State Government and the
    first respondent’s seniority was refixed vide G.O.Ms. No.924 dated
    05.09.2005 with a long and unexplained delay of 39 months which
    is unfair and thus, has caused much prejudice to the first
    respondent since in the meantime his juniors namely respondent
    Nos. 4 and 5 were promoted to the IAS. The High Court also held
    that as per Regulation 5(5), the classification of an individual by the
    Selection Committee is very crucial and for the year 2003, the
    overall assessment of the first respondent had been adjudged as
    “Very Good” by the Committee; whereas the overall assessment of
    the first respondent pertaining to Select List of 2004 was just “Good”
    and there was no reason whatsoever as to why suddenly the first
    respondent has been down-graded in his overall rating. The High
    Court also pointed out that for another person by name Shri T.K.
    Ponnusamy who was rated “Unfit” in 2003, was rated as “Very
    Good” in 2004 and there is no reason for such sudden hike in the
    classification/overall rating of Shri T.K. Ponnusamy. The High Court
    held that when T.K. Ponnusamy against whom criminal case was
    pending, was preferred over the first respondent for inclusion in the
    Select List, the same cannot be appreciated. The High Court set
    4
    aside the order of the Tribunal by holding that the Selection
    Committee and the Tribunal failed to assess all the aspects of the
    case in their proper perspective and directed the appellant and
    respondent Nos.2 and 3 to convene a Selection Committee Meeting
    for reviewing the promotions made to the IAS for the year 2004 and
    promote the first respondent to the IAS from the date when his
    juniors were promoted with all the consequential benefits.
  4. Being aggrieved, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
    and the Government of Tamil Nadu have preferred these appeals.
    When the appeals were taken up for hearing, it was brought to the
    notice of this Court that the first respondent has been dismissed
    from the service vide G.O.Ms. No.1125 dated 26.11.2011 on the
    allegation of possession of disproportionate assets and also on the
    ground of his involvement in a criminal case in Crime No.37 of 2008
    registered against him by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Unit,
    Trichy.
  5. Mr. S. Satyam Reddy, the learned Senior counsel appearing
    for the first respondent submitted that the first respondent has
    challenged the order of dismissal from service dated 26.11.2011 by
    filing a writ petition in WP No.28724 of 2011. It was stated that the
    High Court has quashed the said dismissal order dated 26.11.2011
    and the matter has been remanded back to the authorities for
    5
    consideration afresh. Since the above G.O.Ms. No.1125 dated
    26.11.2011 is a subsequent event, we have considered the present
    appeals independently on its own merit.
  6. Assailing the impugned judgment, Ms. Binu Tamta, learned
    counsel appearing for the appellant-UPSC submitted that the High
    Court erred in holding that had the first respondent’s seniority been
    fixed within reasonable time, the first respondent would have been
    promoted to the IAS. It was further submitted that the mere fact that
    the first respondent was eligible and there was no case pending
    against him does not ipso facto imply that his name should have
    been included in the Select List. The learned counsel further
    submitted that the selection from the State Civil Service Officers to
    IAS is strictly on the basis of merit, ability and suitability of the
    candidates and seniority is considered only where merit, ability and
    suitability are approximately equal. Placing reliance upon UPSC v.
    K. Rajaiah and others (2005) 10 SCC 15, the learned counsel for
    the appellant submitted that the Selection Committee can evolve its
    own classification which may be at variance with the gradation given
    in the ACRs and the High Court could not have faulted the
    classification of the first respondent for the year 2004 as “Good”.
    The learned counsel further submitted that inclusion of Shri T.K.
    Ponnusamy against whom criminal case was pending in the Select
    6
    List in terms of Regulation 5(5), was only provisional and the same
    could not have been faulted by the High Court.
  7. Reiterating the above submissions, Mr. Yogesh Kanna,
    learned counsel appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu contended
    that the High Court was not right in holding that the authorities
    concerned acted with prejudicial attitude and that an illegality was
    perpetuated on the first respondent.
  8. The learned Senior counsel for the first respondent submitted
    that when the State Administrative Tribunal by its order dated
    26.06.2002 restored the seniority of the first respondent making him
    senior to respondent Nos.4 and 5, the State Government
    deliberately delayed issuance of the order fixing the seniority of the
    first respondent and the first respondent’s seniority was fixed by
    G.O.Ms. No.924 dated 05.09.2005 but in the meanwhile,
    respondent Nos.4 and 5 were promoted to the IAS pursuant to the
    Select List of 2004 by the same order G.O.Ms. No.924 dated
    05.09.2005. It was submitted that the long and unexplained delay
    of 39 months in refixing the seniority of the first respondent is unfair
    and the same caused serious prejudice to the first respondent. The
    learned Senior counsel further submitted that Regulation 5(2)
    stipulates that the Selection Committee shall consider the cases of
    Members of the State Civil Services in the order of seniority and the
    7
    High Court has rightly held that the seniority would influence the
    process of selection. It was further submitted that no reasons have
    been assigned by the Selection Committee for down-grading the
    first respondent from “Very Good” to “Good”. The learned Senior
    counsel submitted that a person with tainted antecedents (Shri T.K.
    Ponnusamy) had been rated as “Very Good”; whereas on earlier
    occasion, he was found “Unfit”, and there were no valid reasons for
    down-grading the first respondent from “Very Good” to “Good”. The
    High Court, therefore, rightly held that the findings of the Selection
    Committee are vitiated on account of non-application of mind and
    rightly issued the directions to the appellants to convene a Selection
    Committee Meeting for reviewing the promotions made to the IAS
    for the year 2004.
  9. We have considered the submissions of both sides and
    carefully perused the impugned judgment and other materials on
    record. The point falling for consideration is whether the High Court
    was right in holding that the Selection Committee did not follow the
    uniform standards in classifying individual officers which has a direct
    bearing on their selection to the IAS. Yet another point falling for
    consideration is whether the High Court was right in directing the
    appellant to convene a Review Selection Committee Meeting and
    8
    promote the first respondent to the IAS from the date his juniors
    were promoted with all consequential benefits.
  10. All India Services Act, 1951 has been enacted for the purpose
    of regulating the recruitment and conditions of service of persons
    belonging to the Indian Administrative Services. Under Section 3 of
    the said Act, the Central Government has framed the IAS
    (Appointment by Promotion) Regulations, 1955 (Promotion
    Regulations). In accordance with the provisions of the said
    Promotion Regulations, the Selection Committee, presided over by
    the Chairman/Member of the UPSC makes selection of the State
    Civil Service Officers for promotion to the Indian Administrative
    Service. In Regulation 5(1) of the Promotion Regulations, the
    number of vacancies against which selection is to be made for a
    particular recruitment year for promotion to the Indian Administrative
    Service of the State Cadre is determined by the Government of
    India (DoPT) in consultation with the State Government concerned.
    Thereafter, the State Government forwards a proposal to the
    Commission along with seniority list, eligibility list (three times the
    number of vacancies) of the State Service Officers, integrity
    certificates, details regarding disciplinary proceedings and details of
    penalties imposed on the eligible officers etc. and complete ACR
    dossiers of the eligible officers. When the Selection Committee
    9
    meet for selection for the recruitment year, the above documents
    are placed before the Selection Committee in accordance with the
    provisions of Regulation 5(4) of the Promotion Regulations. The
    Committee duly classifies the eligible State Civil Service Officers
    included in the zone of consideration as “Outstanding”, “Very Good”,
    “Good” or “Unfit”, as the case may be, on an overall relative
    assessment of their service records. Thereafter, as per the
    provisions of Regulation 5(5) of the Promotion Regulations, the
    Selection Committee prepares a list by including the required
    number of names firstly from the officers finally classified as
    “Outstanding”, then from amongst those similarly classified as “Very
    Good” and thereafter, from amongst those officers classified as
    “Good”. The relevant part of the Regulations 5(4) and 5(5) reads as
    under:-
    “5(4). The Selection Committee shall classify the eligible officers as
    “Outstanding’, ‘Very Good’, ‘Good’ and ‘Unfit’ as the case may be on an
    overall relative assessment of their service records.
    5(5). The List shall be prepared by including the required number of
    names first from amongst the officers finally classified as ‘Outstanding’
    then from amongst those similarly classified as ‘Very Good’ and
    thereafter from amongst those similarly classified as ‘Good’ and the
    order of names inter-se within each category shall be in the order of their
    seniority in the State Civil Service.”
    10
  11. While assessing the suitability of the officers for promotion, the
    Selection Committee, as per the uniform and consistent practice
    followed in the matter of induction to the All India Services,
    examines the service records of each of the eligible officers, with
    special reference to the performance of the officers during the last
    five years (preceding the year for which the Select List is being
    prepared), deliberating on the quality of the officer as indicated in
    the various columns recorded by the reporting/reviewing/accepting
    authority in the ACRs for different years and then after detailed
    mutual deliberation and discussion, finally arrives at a classification
    to be assigned to each officer.
  12. While doing so, the Selection Committee determines the
    overall grading recorded in the Confidential Reports (CRs) to ensure
    that the overall grading in the CRs is not inconsistent with the
    grading/remarks under various specific parameters or attributes.
    The Selection Committee takes into account orders regarding
    appreciation for the meritorious works done by the officers
    concerned and also keeps in view the orders awarding penalties or
    any adverse remarks duly communicated to the officer, which, even
    after due consideration of his representation are not expunged. The
    UPSC after taking into consideration the records received from the
    State Government under Regulation 6 and the observation of the
    11
    Central Government received under Regulation 6A of the Promotion
    Regulations, takes a final decision on the recommendations of the
    Selection Committee in accordance with the provisions of
    Regulation 7 of the Promotion Regulations. The selection of the
    State Civil Service Officers for promotion to IAS is made in a fair
    and objective manner on the basis of relevant records and following
    the relevant Rules and Regulations. The above procedure is
    uniformly followed for all the States/Cadres in the matter of
    induction to All India Services.
  13. Insofar as the present case, the first respondent’s name was
    included by the State Government in the list of officers eligible for
    consideration for the year 2004. Accordingly, the Selection
    Committee also considered the ACRs and made a relative
    assessment to all the officers under consideration. The name of the
    first respondent could not be included in the Select List of the year
    2004 as the overall grading given to him by the Selection
    Committee was lower and there were only three vacancies. Since
    the name of the first respondent could not be included in the Select
    List for promotion to the IAS Cadre in the year 2004, the first
    respondent was not considered for promotion.
  14. Contention of the first respondent is that though Shri T.K.
    Ponnusamy was having criminal case, his name was included in the
    12
    Select List and when the person having criminal case was included
    in the Select List, the name of the first respondent ought to have
    been included. The High Court also held that Shri T.K. Ponnusamy
    who was classified as “Unfit” for the Select List 2003 has been
    adjudged as “Very Good” for the Select List 2004 and the sudden
    hike in the classification/overall rating of Mr. T.K. Ponnusamy has
    been remained unanswered throughout.
  15. Of course, Shri T.K. Ponnusamy was having a criminal case;
    but as noted above, he was included provisionally in the Select List
    2004 subject to his clearance in the criminal case pending against
    him and grant of integrity certificate by the State Government and
    such an officer who is included in the zone of consideration has to
    be considered even if disciplinary proceedings are pending against
    him. We find substance in the contention of the appellant-UPSC
    that the Selection Committee acted strictly in accordance with the
    Regulations which are statutory in nature and the selection of
    respondent Nos.2 and 3 does not, therefore, suffer from any
    violation of statutory rules.
  16. Selection from the State Civil Service to IAS is strictly on the
    basis of merit, ability and suitability of the officers. In M.V.
    Thimmaiah and others v. Union Public Service Commission and
    others (2008) 2 SCC 119, it was held as under:-
    13
    “21. Now, comes the question with regard to the selection of the
    candidates. Normally, the recommendations of the Selection Committee
    cannot be challenged except on the ground of mala fides or serious
    violation of the statutory rules. The courts cannot sit as an Appellate
    Authority to examine the recommendations of the Selection Committee
    like the court of appeal. This discretion has been given to the Selection
    Committee only and courts rarely sit as a court of appeal to examine the
    selection of the candidates nor is the business of the court to examine
    each candidate and record its opinion…….
    ……..
  17. Therefore, in view of a catena of cases, courts normally do not sit as
    a court of appeal to assess ACRs and much less the Tribunal can be
    given this power to constitute an independent Selection Committee over
    the statutory Selection Committee. The guidelines have already been
    given by the Commission as to how ACRs to be assessed and how the
    marking has to be made. These guidelines take care of the proper
    scrutiny and not only by the Selection Committee but also the views of
    the State Government are obtained and ultimately the Commission after
    scrutiny prepares the final list which is sent to the Central Government
    for appointment. There also it is not binding on the Central Government
    to appoint all the persons as recommended and the Central Government
    can withhold the appointment of some persons so mentioned in the
    select list for reasons recorded. ……. This assessment cannot be made
    subject of court’s or Tribunal’s scrutiny unless actuated by mala fide.
  18. …… The Selection Committee normally abides by the assessment
    made by the reporting officer and the reviewing authority. But the
    Selection Committee is not powerless. After reviewing the candidates’
    performance, the Selection Committee can certainly make its own
    assessment. The guidelines which have been issued by the Commission
    also enable the Selection Committee to assess the remarks made by the
    reporting officer or the reviewing officer and after taking into
    consideration various factors like the meritorious work done or any
    punishment or adverse remarks made or subsequently expunged on
    representation can review the assessment about the candidates. Such
    14
    review of the assessment is fully within the competence of the Selection
    Committee ……”
  19. As pointed out earlier, the first respondent has been ordered
    to be promoted to the cadre of DRO by the order of the State
    Tribunal dated 26.06.2002. But the first respondent’s seniority was
    refixed on 05.09.2005 vide G.O.Ms. No.924. Of course, the first
    respondent’s seniority was refixed by the State Government
    subsequent to the Selection Committee Meeting for 2004. The High
    Court held that had the first respondent’s seniority been fixed within
    reasonable time as per the direction of the Tribunal, the first
    respondent’s classification/overall rating would have been correctly
    assessed by the Selection Committee. The High Court further held
    that when a candidate of doubtful integrity was considered,
    definitely, the first respondent would have also been considered and
    promoted to the IAS and only because of the delayed action of the
    State Government or improper action of the Selection Committee,
    the prospect of the genuine candidate should not be put at stake.
    With those findings, the High Court took the view that the first
    respondent has been victimised for the simple reason that he has
    approached the legal forum for redressal of his genuine grievances.
  20. The learned Senior counsel for the first respondent has
    reiterated the findings of the High Court and submitted that the High
    15
    Court rightly observed that non-fixation of seniority as directed by
    the Tribunal within a reasonable time has prejudicially affected the
    case of the first respondent in getting his promotion. The learned
    Senior counsel submitted that as per Regulation 5(2), for inclusion
    in the Select List, the Committee shall consider the cases of
    members of State Civil Service in the order of seniority and only
    because of delay in refixation of the seniority, name of the first
    respondent could not be included in the Select List.
  21. We find no merit in the above contention of the first
    respondent that his seniority would have enabled his name to be
    included in the Select List. As discussed earlier, gradation is made
    by the Selection Committee on the merits based on the relative
    assessment. Seniority would become relevant only when the merit
    of the candidates is equal. Observing that the seniority is
    considered only where merit, ability and suitability are approximately
    equal, in R.S. Dass v. Union of India and others 1986 (Supp) SCC
    617, the Supreme Court held as under:-
    “18. The amended provisions of Regulation 5 have curtailed and
    restricted the role of seniority in the process of selection as it has given
    primacy to merit. Now the Committee is required to categorise the
    eligible Officers in four different categories, namely “Outstanding”, “Very
    Good”, “Good” and “Unfit” on overall relative assessment of their service
    records. After categorisation is made the Committee has to arrange the
    names of officers in the Select List in accordance with the procedure laid
    16
    down in Regulation 5(5). In arranging the names in the Select List the
    Committee has to follow the inter se seniority of officers within each
    category. If there are five officers who fall within the “Outstanding”
    category their names shall be arranged in the order having regard to
    their inter se seniority in the State Civil Service. The same principle is
    followed in arranging the list from amongst the officers falling in the
    category of “Very Good” and “Good”. Similarly if a junior officer’s name
    finds place in the category of “Outstanding”, he would be placed higher
    in the list in preference to a senior officer included in the “Very Good” or
    “Good” category. In this process a junior officer if categorised
    “Outstanding” or “Very Good” would supersede his seniors. This cannot
    be helped. Where selection is made on merit alone for promotion to a
    higher service, selection of an officer though junior in service in
    preference to his senior does not strictly amount to supersession. Where
    promotion is made on the basis of seniority, the senior has preferential
    right to promotion against his juniors but where promotion is made on
    merit alone, senior officer has no legal right to promotion and if juniors to
    him are selected for promotion on merit the senior officer is not legally
    superseded. When merit is the criteria for the selection amongst the
    members of the service, no officer has legal right to be selected for
    promotion, except that he has only right to be considered along with
    others. In Gurdayal Singh Fiji v. State of Punjab (1981) 4 SCC 419 this
    Court held that a member of State Civil Service has no legal right to
    promotion, instead he has only right to be considered along with others.
    But assuming that appellants/petitioners stood superseded by the
    reason that junior officers to them were included in the Select List, no
    reasons were necessary to be recorded in view of the amended statutory
    provisions.”
  22. Re: Contention regarding down-grading and nonrecording of reasons:- From the UPSC File No.F.6/18/2003-AIS,
    dated 24.12.2003, pertaining to the Select List of 2003, the ‘overall
    17
    relative assessment’ of the first respondent had been adjudged as
    “Very Good” by the Committee. But, as per UPSC File
    No.F.6/18/2004-AIS dated 18.12.2004 pertaining to the Select List
    of 2004, the ‘overall relative assessment’ of the first respondent has
    been adjudged just as “Good”. The High Court held that there was
    no reason recorded as to why suddenly the first respondent has
    been down-graded in his classification/overall rating. The High
    Court has also pointed out that Shri T.K. Ponnusamy who was
    classified as “Unfit” for the Select List of 2003, has been adjudged
    “Very Good” for the Select List of 2004 which shows that the
    Selection Committee was not following uniform standard in
    classifying/overall rating of the assessment of the individual which
    has a direct bearing on their selection to the IAS.
  23. Power to classify the candidates is the function of the
    Selection Committee. In the process of selection under Regulations
    5(4) and 5(5) of the Promotion Regulations, the Selection
    Committee is not required to record reasons by assigning overall
    relative assessment in respect of the eligible officers or for selecting
    a junior officer, having higher merit, in preference to that of a senior
    officer. In R.S. Dass v. Union of India and others 1986 (Supp) SCC
    617, the Supreme Court held that when any senior officer is
    superseded, the amended Regulation 5(5) does not require the
    18
    Committee to record reasons for the supersession and that the
    amended Regulations do not require the Selection Committee to
    record reasons for the supersession of the officers of the State Civil
    Service.
  24. After referring to R.S. Dass, in K. Rajaiah, the Supreme Court
    held as under:-
    “9. We cannot also endorse the view taken by the High Court that
    consistent with the principle of fair play, the Selection Committee ought
    to have recorded reasons while giving a lesser grading to the first
    respondent. The High Court relied on the decision of this Court in
    National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences v. Dr. K. Kalyana
    Raman 1992 Supp (2) SCC 481. Far from supporting the view taken by
    the High Court, the said decision laid down the proposition that the
    function of the Selection Committee being administrative in nature, it is
    under no obligation to record the reasons for its decision when there is
    no rule or regulation obligating the Selection Committee to record the
    reasons. This Court then observed: (SCC p. 485, para 7)
    “Even the principles of natural justice do not require an
    administrative authority or a Selection Committee or an examiner
    to record reasons for the selection or non-selection of a person in
    the absence of statutory requirement. This principle has been
    stated by this Court in R.S. Dass v. Union of India 1986 Supp
    SCC 617 (SCC at p. 633)….”
    …………
    That being the legal position, the Court should not have faulted the socalled down gradation of the first respondent for one of the years.
    Legally speaking, the term “downgradation” is an inappropriate
    expression. The power to classify as “outstanding”, “very good”, “good”
    and “unfit” is vested with the Selection Committee. That is a function
    incidental to the selection process. The classification given by the State
    19
    Government authorities in the ACRs is not binding on the Committee. No
    doubt, the Committee is by and large guided by the classification
    adopted by the State Government but, for good reasons, the Selection
    Committee can evolve its own classification which may be at variance
    with the gradation given in the ACRs. That is what has been done in the
    instant case in respect of the year 1993-94. Such classification is within
    the prerogative of the Selection Committee and no reasons need be
    recorded, though it is desirable that in a case of gradation at variance
    with that of the State Government, it would be desirable to record
    reasons. But having regard to the nature of the function and the power
    confided to the Selection Committee under Regulation 5(4), it is not a
    legal requirement that reasons should be recorded for classifying an
    officer at variance with the State Government’s decision.” [Underlining
    added]
  25. The ratio of the above decision squarely applies to the case in
    hand. When the Selection Committee has given its own
    classification, the court cannot sit in appeal over the assessment
    made by the Committee of experts. In Union Public Service
    Commission v. M. Sathiya Priya and others (2018) 15 SCC 796, the
    Supreme Court held as under:-
    “17. The Selection Committee consists of experts in the field. It is
    presided over by the Chairman or a Member of UPSC and is duly
    represented by the officers of the Central Government and the State
    Government who have expertise in the matter. In our considered opinion,
    when a High-Level Committee or an expert body has considered the
    merit of each of the candidates, assessed the grading and considered
    their cases for promotion, it is not open to CAT and the High Court to sit
    over the assessment made by the Selection Committee as an appellate
    authority. The question as to how the categories are assessed in light of
    20
    the relevant records and as to what norms apply in making the
    assessment, is exclusively to be determined by the Selection
    Committee. Since the jurisdiction to make selection as per law is vested
    in the Selection Committee and as the Selection Committee members
    have got expertise in the matter, it is not open for the courts generally to
    interfere in such matters except in cases where the process of
    assessment is vitiated either on the ground of bias, mala fides or
    arbitrariness. It is not the function of the court to hear the matters before
    it treating them as appeals over the decisions of the Selection
    Committee and to scrutinise the relative merit of the candidates. The
    question as to whether a candidate is fit for a particular post or not has to
    be decided by the duly constituted expert body i.e. the Selection
    Committee. The courts have very limited scope of judicial review in such
    matters.” [Underlining added]
  26. In the present case, we find that neither the decision of the
    Selection Committee nor the decision-making process suffers from
    any arbitrariness. Since there was down-grading of the first
    respondent for the assessment year 2004, the first respondent was
    not included in the Select List. On overall assessment of service
    records, the name of the first respondent was not included in the
    Select List due to the statutory limit of its size and as officers with
    higher grading in the Select List were available as per the provisions
    of Regulation 5(5) of the Regulations. The High Court was not right
    in holding that the Selection Committee has miserably failed to
    assess all the aspects of the case in their proper perspective and
    that the promotions made to the IAS for the vacancies of the year
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    2004 is vitiated and the same is to be reviewed. The impugned
    judgment of the High Court cannot be sustained and is liable to be
    set aside.
  27. In the result, the impugned judgment dated 17.04.2008
    passed by the High Court of Madras in Writ Petition No.33696 of
    2007 is set aside and these appeals are allowed. Insofar as the
    challenge by the first respondent to G.O. Ms. No.1125 dated
    26.11.2011, the same shall be considered on its own merits without
    being influenced by any of the views expressed in this judgment.
    ………………………..J.
    [R. BANUMATHI]
    ………………………..J.
    [A.S. BOPANNA]
    ….………………………..J.
    [HRISHIKESH ROY]
    New Delhi;
    November 15, 2019
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