The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Centre’s decision to scrap the 2012 Limited Competitive Examination (LCE) to fill up the shortage of officials in the Indian Police Service, saying it “was not arbitrary, discriminatory and capricious”. The top court said the decision taken by the central government to scrap the examination meant for officers of the state police service, central police organisation and the army “was taken in larger public interest”.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Deepak Gupta said it cannot be oblivious to the fact that if the Union is compelled to make the appointments, it will lead to a plethora of litigation where those recruited to the IPS between 2013 and 2018 will claim seniority over the persons who appeared in the LCE. “In view of the foregoing reasons, the decision of the Government to scrap the process of recruitment to the IPS through the LCE cannot be termed to be arbitrary, discriminatory or capricious. The decision is a reasonable one in the facts and circumstances of the case”, the bench said.
The top court accepted the Centre’s contention that when the committee headed by retired IPS officer Kamal Kumar made the recommendation for LCE, the vacancy of police officers was 30 per cent, but as on January 1, 2018, it had come down to 15.65 percent.
“When we examine the decision taken by the Central Government in a holistic manner, we have no doubt that the decision to scrap the LCE recruitment has been taken in the larger public interest. The decision is definitely not mala fide. It is not actuated by extraneous reasons. It cannot be said that the decision is arbitrary,” it said.
The bench said one cannot lose sight of the fact that the induction through LCE was mainly limited to persons belonging to the State Police Services and the Central Police Organisation and any such induction would have led to a consequential shortage in these organisations. “The gain, if any, in the IPS, would be set off by a consequent shortage in the State Police Services and the Central Police Organisation,” it said and added that the officers, who may have been selected in the year 2013 at the upper age limit of 35 years or 36 years would now be 5 years older.
“No doubt, they are members of the State Police Service or the Central Police Organisation, but their induction or recruitment in the IPS is delayed by more than 5 years. When the Government laid down a policy that upper age limit was 35 years, it must have had some reason for fixing the upper age limit. That purpose is now defeated,” it said. Various petitions were filed in different High Courts challenging the amendments made to the recruitment rules of IPS. Some candidates, who appeared in the LCE-2012, also approached the court seeking declaration of the results of the examination.
Some members of the armed forces engaged on Short Service Commission were not given permission to appear in the examination or interview on the ground that they could not leave the armed forces before completing their tenure of service. They too moved the court praying that they should be permitted to appear in the examination and interview. In 2015, 14 cases from different high courts were transferred to the apex court in view of the Centre’s plea seeking adjudication of the cases at one place.