Ahmadi, J. -
(1.)Delay condoned. Special leave granted.
(2.)This appeal arises out of the decision of the Patna High Court whereby it struck down the selection made for appointments in the junior teaching posts in medical colleges in the State and directed a fresh selection list to be prepared after shifting the last date for receipt of applications to 30th June, 1988. The facts giving rise to this appeal, briefly stated, are as under.
(3.)The State of Bihar published an advertisement inviting applications for appointment to the posts of (i) Assistant Professor (clinical subject), (ii) Registrar, (iii) Assistant Clinical Pathologist, (iv) Anaesthetist, (v) Resident Medical Officer, and (vi) Demonstrator (Tutor) in non-clinical subject for different Medical Colleges and Medical College Hospitals in the State of Bihar. For the post of Assistant Professor only such officers who had worked as Resident or Registrar in Medical Hospitals recognised for imparting M.B.B.S. studies by the Medical Council of India and having three years experience of such post were considered eligible. The last date for receipt of the application was fixed as 31 st January, 1988. Purusant to the said advertisement applications were received from eligible candidates and the select list or panel was prepared for appointments to the respective posts. The respondents and some intervenors who held appointments as junior teachers in one or the other Medical Colleges in the State questioned the validity of the State's action of inviting applications for preparation of a list for appointments to the advertised posts mainly on the ground that the last date for receipt of applications fixed as 3 1 st January, 1988 (hereinafter called 'the cut-off-date) deprived them of the opportunity to compete for the posts as they did not complete the requisite experience criterion of three years by that time. It was contended that this cut-off date was arbitrarily fixed and was, therefore, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The High 'Court took the view that the State Government had deviated from its usual practice of fixing the cut-off-date as 30th of June of the relevant year. This is clear from the following observation made by the High Court:
"..........advertisement in the past including one in the year 1983 (Annexure-1) always fixed 31st June as the date ......."
The use of the word 'always' indicates that the High Court was under the impression that in the past the cut-off date was always fixed as 31st June (it should be 30th June) for the preparation of the panel for appointments to the posts in question. Elsewhere also in the judgment there are observations which disclose that the High Court laboured under the belief that the cut-off-date was always fixed as 30th of June of the relevant year. This becomes obvious from the following criticism also:
"If the State is determined to achieve such a goal and is ready to make its activity predictable it is a welcome sign but such desired predictability can equally be achieved by adhering to the schedule of the past and maintaining 30th June of the year as the 1ast date for the application. If they had not followed any rule in the past and they propose to follow a rule in this regard in future, they can do so without causing any violation to any legal right of any incumbent by at least showing adherence to the reckoning date which until now had been the last date of the month of June of the year ."
On this line of reasoning the High Court came to the conclusion that the State Government had acted arbitrarily in fixing the last date for receipt of applications as 31 st January, 1988 under the advertisement published on 29th December, 1987. The High Court while upholding the contention based on Article 14 further observed "we would have ignored the arbitrariness in taking 31st January of the year as the reckoning date had we not taken notice of recalcitrance of the respondents in taking no step in the years intervening the selection in the year 1983 and the present selection". The High Court, therefore, felt satisfied that there was no rationale in departing from the past practice and selecting 31 st January, 1988 as the last date. It felt that in all fairness 30th of June of the year would be the preferable date for reckoning the eligibility of the candidates. The State Government was, therefore, directed to shift the last date for receipt of the applications from 31 st January, 1988 to 30th June, 1988 and to prepare a fresh panel thereafter and make appointments to the posts in question therefrom.