Senior civil servants who challenged an edict banning them from the Selection Committee lost their case yesterday. High Court judge Mr Justice Raymond Sears said the Government was justified in issuing guidelines curtailing the political activities of high-ranking officials. 'Senior civil servants must recognise that the loss of some rights enjoyed by the public is a small price to pay to preserve the integrity of the civil service,' he said. But the chairman of the Senior Non-Expatriate Officers' Association, Hui Kwok-hung, said outside court: 'This is not a small price to pay. It's a very big price. These are our most important civil rights.' He said it was meaningless appealing against the decision with the deadline for nominations closing tomorrow. The association would not encourage members to risk disciplinary action by disobeying the ruling, he said. Instead, it would urge all non-directorate grade members to apply to join the committee. Would-be applicants Leung Chi-chiu, Ching Kam-cheong and Martin Cheung Kin-keung joined forces with the association to try to overturn the guidelines. Issued last month, the guidelines said directorate officers, police and government information officers would be barred from the committee. The officials argued that it made no sense to exclude only high-ranking civil servants, but Mr Justice Sears said directorate officers had always been treated as a distinct group. As the cream of the civil service, their loyalty was imperative to social order and they should not be seen to contradict government policy. 'If there is to be a smooth transition it is the civil service who will bring this about,' the judge said. Mr Leung, Mr Ching and Mr Cheung are among 1,171 civil servants who fall into the directorate category. Those of lower rank are allowed to take up Selection Committee seats. Mr Leung, 38, is a Health Department consultant, Mr Ching, 44, is a Transport Department chief engineer and Mr Cheung, 44, is chief engineer (civil) for the Housing Department. Deputy Secretary for Civil Service, Michael Stone, said the public must be assured that the civil service remained neutral and apolitical. Governor Chris Patten said the ban was 'right and sensible' and he was glad it had received legal endorsement.