New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday held that candidates in the ‘Meritorious Reserved Category' (MRC) selected on merit and placed in the ‘general/unreserved category' in the Central Civil Services Examination could be given a choice to opt for a service of higher preference in terms of Rule 16 (2) of the CSE Rules.
This rule says: “While making service allocation, candidates belonging to SC/ST or OBCs recommended against unreserved candidates may be adjusted against reserved vacancies by the government if by this process they get a service of higher choice in the order of their preference.”
A Constitution Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices S.H. Kapadia, R.V. Raveendran, B. Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam said: “The reserved candidates belonging to the OBC/SC/ST categories who are selected on merit and placed in the list of general/unreserved category can choose to migrate to the respective reserved category at the time of allocation of services. Such migration as envisaged under Rule 16 (2) is not inconsistent with Rule 16 (1) or Articles 14, 16 (4) and 335 of the Constitution.”
The Centre appealed against a Madras High Court judgment holding ultra vires and unconstitutional Rule 16 (2) and directing it to rework service allocation dehors Rule 16 (2). Certain writ petitions were also filed. The Supreme Court stayed the judgment and referred the matter to a larger Bench.
Now, the CJI, writing the judgment, said: “MRC candidates who avail themselves of the benefit of Rule 16 (2) and are adjusted in the reserved category should be counted as part of the reserved pool for the purpose of computing the aggregate reservation quotas. The seats vacated by MRC candidates in the general pool will be offered to general category candidates.”
The Bench said: “By operation of Rule 16 (2), the reserved status of an MRC candidate is protected so that his/her better performance does not deny him/her the chance to be allotted to a more preferred service. The amended Rule 16 (2) only seeks to recognise the inter se merit between two classes — (a) meritorious reserved category candidates and (b) relatively low ranked reserved category candidates — for the purpose of allocation to the various Civil Services with due regard for the preferences indicated by them.”
The Bench said: “When MRC candidates are put in the general list on their own merit they do not automatically relinquish their reserved status. By operation of Rule 16 (2) the reserved status of an MRC candidate is protected so that his/her better performance does not deny such candidate the chance to be allotted to a more preferred service.”