GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has held that the Government cannot arbitrarily cancel an earlier selection process simply by publishing a new selection-related advertisement, and directed the appointing authority to issue appointment letters to three Gaon Burahs who had approached the court via a Writ Petition.
The petitioners submitted that they had been selected for the post of Goan Burah of different villages in the Jorhat district via an Employment Notice dated July 18, 2016, but were subsequently not given their respective appointment letters even though the police verification process had been completed. The petitioners contended that instead of giving them their appointment letters, the Government issued a fresh advertisement on May 28, 2018, seeking applications for the appointment of Gaon Burahs.
The standing counsel of the Revenue & Disaster Management Department and the Government Advocate argued that a fresh advertisement had to be issued for the selection of Gaon Burahs in view of certain amendments being made, and notified via a Notification dated April 10, 2018, to the Executive Instructions contained in the Assam Land Revenue Regulations, 1886.
The High Court noted that the major differences made via the amendments in question pertained to raising the lower-age limit and omission of the earlier clause that the "Deputy Commissioner should make the appointment after obtaining Police Verification Report and no criminal case should be pending against the candidate." Instead, a new clause was added: "Preference shall be given to the family members of Gaon Burahs and view of the Mouzadar shall be taken into consideration." These apart, the amendments stipulated that a Selection Board would be constituted for the appointment of Gaon Burahs.
Nevertheless, the court stated that the Supreme Court has laid down that once advertisements have been issued on the basis of a circular operating at that particular time, the effect would be that the selection process should continue on the basis of the criteria which were laid down, and it cannot be on the basis of the criteria which has been made subsequently.
Further, the Supreme Court has also held that "though the Legislature may pass laws with retrospective effect subject to the recognized Constitutional limitations, it is equally well settled that no retrospective effect should be given to any statutory provision so as to impair or take away an existing right, unless the statute either expressly or by necessary implication directs that it should have retrospective effect."
The High Court noted that: "In the present case, the amendment made to the Executive Instructions vide Notification dated 10.04.2018 has not been given any retrospective effect and as such, the doing away with the selection process that has been completed prior to the Notification dated 10.04.2018 is patently unfair and unreasonable."
Consequently, the court set aside the later advertisement dated May 28, 2018, with regard to the selection of Gaon Burahs of the villages of the three petitioners and directed the Revenue & Disaster Management Department to issue appointment letters to the petitioners if there is no criminal case against them.