J&K and Ladakh HC | “Neither irrational, unreasonable nor arbitrary”; HC holds higher qualification than the maximum qualification prescribed is not suitable qualification

Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court: The Division Bench of Ali Mohammad Magrey, Sanjay Dhar, JJ., held that in case of appointments to Class-IV posts, higher qualification than the prescribed 10+2 may not be suitable for many reasons;

Firstly, a highly qualified person may not be in a position to discharge the menial work which is required to be done by a Class-IV employee;

Secondly, if such highly qualified candidates are allowed to compete with candidates with lower qualification, as prescribed, it is but obvious that they will score above them and would get selected to the detriment of the candidates possessing the requisite eligibility; and

Thirdly, such candidates of higher qualification, if selected, would always be looking for a better job and, as soon as they are selected in some other better discipline, they would leave the Class-IV post rendering the entire selection as useless, besides forcing the employer to get those posts re-advertised and re-filled.

Background

On one hand, the case of the appellant was that consequent to his selection as an Attendant (Class- IV) he was not appointed as such under “Physically Handicapped Category”. On the other hand, one Ahtisham-ul-Haq-petitioner had filed a Petition questioning the  selection of the appellant on the grounds that:

(i) the Advertisement Notice specifically prescribed maximum and minimum educational qualification and that no additional weightage was to be given for higher qualification;

(ii) that in terms of the Act of 1988, 3% reservation is provided for Physically Handicapped persons and this reservation operates horizontally; and

(iii) that the appellant has sworn a false affidavit saying that his educational qualification is not more than 10+2 when he actually held the qualification of B.A, M.A. (Political Science) and B.Ed.

The Single Judge, after clubbing the two Petitions, passed a common judgment holding that the candidates with higher qualification are not eligible to apply when the advertisement notice prescribes minimum and maximum qualification; the Court declared that the appellant was overqualified and, therefore, could not apply for the post in question. Hence, the single Judge quashed the selection list of Class-IV posts insofar as it related to the selection of the appellant figuring in the category of Physically Handicapped/Open Category, besides directing the official Respondents to accord consideration to the selection and the appointment of the Petitioner as against the Class-IV post (Attendant) on the basis of the merit secured by him in the selection process.

Opinion and Analysis

Opining that the appointment to the aforesaid Class-IV posts had to be made on the basis of the suitability vis-à-vis the qualification held by the person and the nature of the job, for which purpose the decision of the employer is final, provided it is not arbitrary in nature, the Bench clarified,

“To put it in other words, the suitability and the qualifications for any post have to be laid down by the employer and the same are not liable to be interfered with judicially, until and unless the policy decision in that regard is found to be irrational or arbitrary.”

The Bench stated that laying down of the criteria of the minimum and the maximum qualification for the Class-IV post as matric and 10+2, respectively, was neither irrational, unreasonable nor arbitrary. Accordingly, the decision of the Single Judge was held to be in accordance with legal position governing the subject, i.e any higher qualification than the one prescribed for a particular post may not be a suitable qualification and that the employer, in its wisdom, is justified in excluding candidates with higher qualification from the ambit of selection.

Decision

Consequently, the Bench held that higher qualification may not be suitable qualification for every post and, if candidates with higher qualifications are excluded, the same could not be faulted with and said to be illegal or perverse. Hence, the appeal was dismissed. [Firdous Ahmad Ganai v. State of J&K, 2021 SCC OnLine J&K 901, decided on 15-11-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Appellant: Z. A. Shah, Senior Advocate with A. Hanan Kalwal, Advocate

For the Respondents: S. A. Makroo, Senior Advocate with Mohammad Amin Bhat, Advocate; and Bikramdeep Singh, Government Advocate

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