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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has invalidated the Jharkhand High Court’s resolution, which introduced a fresh requirement of 50% aggregate marks for candidates in examinations for the selection of district judges. Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sanjay Kumar held that altering the aggregate marks post-examination is arbitrary and impermissible.

The court instructed the High Court to recommend candidates who have succeeded based on merit or select lists for filling existing vacancies without enforcing the full court resolution mandating a 50% aggregate mark for each candidate.

Highlighting that the High Court’s resolution on March 23, 2024, deviated from statutory rules and was therefore impermissible, the court stated that preventing a candidate’s appointment without finding them unsuitable violates recruitment rules and fails the Article 14 test, deeming it arbitrary.

The court clarified that determining cut-off marks is within the High Court’s authority, but such decisions must be made before the commencement of the examination. The bench emphasized that the High Court administration cannot use rules to make a blanket decision deviating from the specified selection criteria.

Maintaining the “no change in the rule midway” principle as integral to service jurisprudence, the court rejected the validity of the full court resolution.

A group of candidates led by Sushil Kumar Pandey contested the resolution’s validity, arguing against the imposition of a 50% aggregate mark as a qualifying criterion for district judge posts.

The High Court, in its defense, claimed that applying a higher aggregate mark is not prohibited by rules or regulations. It argued that being on the select list does not confer a legal right to appointment, justifying the resolution by stating the need to find better candidates without considering a candidate unsuitable for the appointment process.