HC Judge trashes Selection of Halt Agents through Draw of Lots by Kids

Bangalore: The Karnataka High Court has struck down as unjust and illegal the railways’ selection of halt agents through draw of lots by children.

Halt agents are locals appointed on contract to issue tickets on a commission basis at small railway stations. When there’s more than one applicant, the railways usually resorts to the lottery system.

“According to the guidelines, a shortlist has to be drawn up by the selection committee. But the act of selecting the person for appointment is left in the hands of a child, and to the hands of fate. The person to be appointed is merely selected through a lottery. To say the least, there is no logical justification for adopting such a procedure where the selection to a post is left to fate and to fortuitous circumstances,” Justice Raghvendra S Chauhan observed recently while quashing the appointment of one SN Sathesha, as halt agent of Beeranahalli railway station, KR Pet taluk, Mysuru district.

The petitioner, BP Nagaraju Gowda, had challenged the condition mentioned in the railways’ advertisement of April 13, 2013, that the selection for the post of halt agent shall be done through a lottery system where a child would draw the lots.

The judge said the selection process ignores the requirement of merit. “It ignores the requirement of eligibility and suitability… Such a selection process is tantamount to shooting in the dark. Thus, the selection itself is unjust, unfair and unreasonable,” Nagaraju Gowda said.

“To say the least, the selection process has to be fair, just and reasonable. It can neither be arbitrary, nor unfair, nor capricious. Even if the selection process is for a temporary post, it has to satisfy the constitutional mandate of equality of opportunity. The procedure mentioned above clearly violates Article 16 of the Constitution,” the judge further said.

However, the judge declined to accede to Gowda’s prayer for regularizing his services as he had put in 25 years’ service, citing a division bench verdict holding that no master-servant relationship existed between the railway administration and the halt agent.