Adherence to rule of equality in public employment is a basic feature of our Constitution

High Court of Jammu and Kashmir: A Division Bench comprising of Ramalingam Sudhakar, J. and M.K. Hanjura, J. recently addressed a petition which challenged an order dated 9.12.2016 wherein, the appellants (petitioners) had been directed to accord the benefit of notional seniority to the respondents with effect from the time when the other candidates who had been granted with seniority along with directing the appellants to fix the pay and the benefits of the respondents accordingly.

The facts of the case are that an advertisement notice had been issued by the Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Recruitment Board for the post of teachers in the district of Jammu following which the respondents had submitted their application forms. The respondents were either graduates or post graduates and all of them possessed B.Ed degrees. The appellants had prescribed 50% weightage to the candidates’ 12th standard exam. Despite the respondents being comparatively more meritorious in that aspect, they had not been selected for the posts in question.

Aggrieved by the lower court’s decision upholding the appellants’ decision of not awarding the posts to the respondents, the latter had filed a Letters Patent Appeal wherein the criterion for the selection process was held to be unreasonable. This was followed by the J&K Service Selection Board reframing the criteria which was followed by the Board reevaluating the merit of all those who had filed the case in the first place and the respondents being appointed by the department. The respondents subsequently requested the court to issue a writ of mandamus to the petitioners commanding them to give effect to the respondents’ appointments from the year when the other selectees were appointed and that all such people be given benefits of the post from that very year itself.

A Single Judge Bench responded to the writ petition by disposing it off with directions to accord the respondents with notional seniority from the initial year of selection of the appointees resulting from the advertisement along with the benefits accruing out of the positions. The Division Bench upheld the decision of the Single Judge which only responded to a single individual’s writ petition for her recruitment in the disputed position. The Division Bench held that this decision needed to be upheld for others aggrieved by the initial decision of the Board which denied them their rightful position. The Court held that the law is that adherence to the rule of equality in public employment is a basic feature of our Constitution and since the rule of law is the core of our Constitution, a Court would certainly be disabled from passing an order upholding a violation of Article 14 or in ordering the overlooking of the need to comply with the requirements of Article 14 read with Article 16 of the Constitution. Therefore, consistent with the scheme of public employment, when the appointment is in terms of the relevant rules and after a proper competition among qualified persons, there can be no discrimination between the appointees on the same set of facts. [State v. Sushma Sharma,  2017 SCC OnLine J&K 732, order dated 7.12.2017]

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