Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah*, JJ had held that it is for the employer to determine and decide the relevancy and suitability of the qualifications for any post, not the Courts.
“Qualifications are prescribed keeping in view the need and interest of an Institution or an Industry or an establishment as the case may be. The Courts are not fit instruments to assess expediency or advisability or utility of such prescription of qualifications. However, at the same time, the employer cannot act arbitrarily or fancifully in prescribing qualifications for posts.”
In the present case, applications were invited by the appellant Bank for the post of Peon by publishing an advertisement in the local newspaper. The eligibility criteria mentioned in the said advertisement was that a candidate should have passed 12th class or its equivalent with basic reading/writing knowledge of English. It specifically provided that a candidate should not be a Graduate as on 01.01.2016.
The respondent herein – original writ petitioner, based on the information provided by him in his application, was appointed. While scrutiny of the documents was going on, the appellant Bank came to know about a graduate certificate showing that the respondent was a graduate since 2014. Thus, it was noticed and found that he was not eligible as per the advertisement and the Circulars and that the respondent deliberately, wilfully and intentionally suppressed the fact that he was a graduate. Therefore, his candidature was cancelled and he was not allowed to join the bank in subordinate cadre. The High Court of Orissa, however, directed the appellant Bank to allow the respondent to discharge his duties as a Peon as per the appointment order.
The Bank submitted that considering the nature of the post – Peon/subordinate cadre, a conscious decision was taken by it that a candidate having the qualification of graduation shall not be eligible and the candidate who passed in 12th standard or its equivalent with basic reading/writing knowledge of English shall only be eligible. Hence, unless it is found to be most arbitrary, the same cannot be the subject-matter of a judicial review.
The Court held that prescribing the eligibility criteria/educational qualification that a graduate candidate shall not be eligible and the candidate must have passed 12th standard is justified and it is a conscious decision taken by the Bank which is in force since 2008. Therefore, the High Court has clearly erred in directing the appellant Bank to allow the respondent-original writ petitioner to discharge his duties as a Peon, though he as such was not eligible as per the eligibility criteria/educational qualification mentioned in the advertisement.
Considering the facts and circumstances of the case at hand, the Court noticed that in the application, the respondent did not disclose that he is a graduate from 2014 and only mentioned his qualification as 12th pass. Therefore, the respondent deliberately, wilfully and intentionally suppressed the fact that he was a graduate. Had it been known to the bank that he was a graduate, he would not have at all been considered for selection as a Peon in the bank.
The Court further held that once having participated in the recruitment process as per the advertisement, thereafter it is not open for him to contend that acquisition of higher qualification cannot be a disqualification and that too when he never challenged the eligibility criteria/educational qualification mentioned in the advertisement.
[Chief Manager, Punjab National Bank v. Anit Kumar Das, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 897, decided on 03.11.2020]
*Justice MR Shah has penned this judgment