In a recent Judgment dated 17.09.2020, Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta of the Allahabad High Court granted a significant relief to a U.P Public Service Commission Aspirant who otherwise would have missed his chance to sit for the Mains exam.
The Facts of Sarthak Raheja vs State of U.P and Ors. (Writ A No. 6591 of 2020) are as follows:-
The Petitioner, Mr Raheja, had registered for the U.P PCS exam and was able to clear the preliminary stage successfully. The next stage was the Mains exam. To appear for the exam, a candidate needs to fill an online application and then deposit fees for the same.
Another thing that a candidate was required to do is to download the form and self-attest testimonials and submit them to the office of the Commission. A candidate could either send it through a registered post or submit them in person. The rules also state that the submission should be made before the last date.
As per the notification from the Commission the last date for online submission was 23.03.2020 and for submission for the hard copy the date was 26.03.2020. Due to the imposition of the lockdown on 23.3.2020, the dates first changed to 19.04.2020 and then to 15.05.2020. Because of such unforeseen circumstances, the Petitioner was unable to submit his form in time.
The Crux of the Case:-
The Petitioner submitted before Court that he got stuck in Delhi due to the lockdown and was unable to get the testimonials which are at his home town ‘Prayagraj’. He also stated that as his residence in Delhi was declared a containment zone, he was unable to travel during lockdown 1.0. When he got to travel back to his hometown, he had to quarantine himself for 20 days, as per the rules.
After his quarantine ended, he went to the commission office with all his documents, but the authorities refused to accept it. The Petitioner then mailed the documents to the Commission and wrote them multiple emails. After getting no satisfactory response, he filed a case in the Allahabad High Court and prayed that he should be allowed to sit for the Mains exam.
The contention of the Petitioner
The counsel for the Petitioner stated that the Petitioner should be allowed to sit for the exam as the circumstances that arose due to Covid-19 lockdown was beyond his control. They also contended that if he was not allowed to sit for the exam, then his preparation for the exam will go to waste.
Arguments of the Respondent:-
The counsel for the Commission, Mr Nisheeth Yadav, submitted to the Court that the Commission wasn’t ready to accept his application as it submitted after the last date. The counsel also contended that the Petitioner downloaded a hard copy of the application on 27.02.2020, and he should have submitted it on time instead of waiting for the deadline.
To support his argument, the counsel for the Commission relied on Rajendra Pal vs State of U.P (Writ-A No.7401 of 2015) where a Full Bench of the Allahabad High Court held that if two modes of submission were notified along with the last date, then even the Courts should not provide any relaxation.
The decision of the Court
Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta acknowledged the fact that the case law quoted by the respondent was valid and was binding to his Court as well. However, the Hon’ble Judge took a lenient view and allowed the Petitioner to sit for the exam, which is to be held on 22.09.2020. He also stated that the Petitioner would be allowed to sit for the exam only if all his documents are in order.
The Hon’ble Judge reasoned that the Petitioner submitted his documents through mail at the very first opportunity that arose after the lockdown was lifted. The Commission had received the said documents.
Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta also allowed the respondents to file their Counter Affidavit in three weeks. As per the Judgement, the Petitioner is allowed to sit for the exam provisionally, subject to further orders in the case.