Unless there is any allegation of mala fide against experts, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has cautioned High Courts against interfering with selection of candidates for award of LPG dealership unless there is an allegation of mala fide against experts on the committee set up for the purpose. “It is the settled legal position that courts have to show deference and consideration to the recommendation of a committee consisting of distinguished experts in the field,” said a Bench of justices P. Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi.

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said that in appointments/selection, normally the courts should be slow to interfere with the opinions expressed by the experts on the selection committee unless there was any allegation of mala fide against them.

In the instant case, N.K. Santhosh, an applicant, challenged in the Kerala High Court the award of LPG dealership to Sajeesh Babu K for Edavanna in Malappuram District. Both a single judge and Division Bench set aside the grant of dealership to Sajeesh Babu.

Allowing his appeal and setting aside the High Court order, the Supreme Court said: “The experts had evaluated the qualification, experience and published work of the appellant and admittedly, there is no allegation of mala fide against the three experts on the selection committee.

“In such circumstances, it would normally be wise and safe for the courts to leave the decision of selection of this nature to the experts who are more familiar with the technicalities/nature of the work.

“The expert committee evaluated the experience certificates produced by the appellant herein, interviewed him by putting specific questions as to direct sale, home delivered products, hospitality/service industry, etc, and awarded marks. We hold that the High Court ought not to have sat as an appellate court on the recommendations made by the committee.”

The Bench said: “The single judge as well as the Division Bench committed an error in interfering with the decision of the selection committee. Looked at from any angle, the High Court was not justified in upsetting the decision of the committee, particularly in the absence of any mala fide against them and there is no warrant for a direction to reassess the marks of the appellant afresh.”

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