Punjab and Haryana High Court: In an interesting case Anil Kshetarpal, J., addressed the question of equivalence of qualifications for the purpose of recruitment.

On 28-06-2015, the Haryana Staff Selection Commission issued a recruitment notice inviting the applications for filling up 193 posts of Post Graduate Teachers (Home Science) (Group-B Service) and 5 posts in District Mewat. The essential qualifications as per recruitment notice was as under:-

E.Q. M.Sc. Home Science with at least 50% marks and B.Ed. from recognized University

About 7 writ petitions had been filed claiming that the qualifications of petitioners were equivalent to M.Sc. Home Science and therefore, they were entitled to be considered for appointment. None of the petitioners possessed the degree of M.Sc. Home Science but degrees in M.Sc. Food and Nutrition, M.Sc. (Extension Education), M.Sc. (Dietetics and Food Service Management), M.Sc. in Food Science and Technology and M.Sc. Food Technology.

The grievances of the petitioners were that the Expert Committee constituted by State had given a report in favour of some petitioners also that in the year 2012, the posts with the same qualification were advertised and M.Sc. Food and Nutrition was considered as an equivalent qualification and certain candidates were selected and appointed. It was further contended that one Pushpa Rani with similar qualification, had been appointed in the Mewat Cadre.

Counsel for State, Samarth Sagar while relying on decision of Supreme Court in Anand Yadav v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2020 SCC Online SC 823, contended that,

In the exercise of its power of judicial review, the High Court was not expected to go into the question of equivalence of qualifications. He submitted that the question of equivalence of qualification for recruitment was a matter which should be left to the employer, recruitment agency and the experts.

 Noticing that a Committee of experts was nominated by the State and a report dated 15-07-2019 had been produced. The Expert Committee found that the qualifications of M.Sc. in Food Science and Technology and M.Sc. Food Technology were not equivalent qualifications. However, it had been opined that a degree in M.Sc. Home Science (Food and Nutrition), M.Sc. Home Science (Food, Nutrition and Dietetics), M.Sc. Home Science (Human Development and Family Relations) etc. were equivalent to a degree in M.Sc. Home Science as per the UGC Norms.

The Court attempted to get an opinion from UGC in this aspect but failed, as the commission had taken a policy decision not to give such opinions. Reliance was placed on Zahoor Ahmed Rather v. Sheikh Imtiyaz Ahmad, (2019) 2 SCC 404, by the Court wherein the Supreme Court had held,

“The prescription of qualifications for a post is a matter of recruitment policy. The state as the employer is entitled to prescribe the qualifications as a condition of eligibility. It is no part of the role or function of judicial review to expand upon the ambit of the prescribed qualifications. Similarly, equivalence of a qualification is not a matter which can be determined in exercise of the power of judicial review. Whether a particular qualification should or should not be regarded as equivalent is a matter for the state, as the recruiting authority, to determine.”

In view of the above, the Bench held that entire dispute was required to be remitted to the employer-the State and the Recruiting Agency, to take a concluding decision on this aspect. Hence, State was directed to treat these writ petitions as representations and decide the matter by passing speaking and reasoned orders after granting an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners. [Dimpal Bhardwarja v. Haryana Staff Selection Commission, 2021 SCC OnLine P&H 264, decided on 02-02-2021]

Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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