Kerala High Court: V.G.Arun, J., held that the practice of confining selection process to CLAT PG-2021 candidates only for the post of Assistant Law Officer at NTPC was prima facie discriminatory. However, without expressing anything further on the matter the Bench had adjourned the matter for further hearing with the direction to the Central Government and NTPC to file a detailed counter affidavit in that regard.
The petitioner was an aspirant to the post of Assistant Law Officer notified by the National Thermal Power Corpn. Ltd. (NTPC) and was presently pursuing her studies in LLM at the Cochin University of Science and Technology. Though, the petitioner had the notified qualification of 60% marks in Bachelor’s Degree in Law and registration with the Bar Council, she was aggrieved by the discriminatory manner in which the selection process was being confined to candidates who had appeared for CLAT-2021 PG programme.
The petitioner submitted that, being a public sector undertaking falling within the definition of Article 12 of the Constitution, the NTPC could not shut out the chances of persons like the petitioner, merely for the reason that she was pursuing her PG programme in a University that was not part of the consortium of National Law Universities. The petitioner argued that there was no nexus between the objectives sought to be achieved by imposing such a condition, since CLAT exam is meant for assessing academic brilliance of students, whereas the NTPC was seeking to select the best among legal professionals. Reliance was placed by the petitioner on the decision of the Supreme Court in Lt. Col. Nitisha v. Union of India, 2021 SCC online SC 261, to contend that the imposition of such restrictive condition amounts to indirect discrimination.
The question for consideration before the Bench was whether, after having prescribed LLB degree from any recognised Indian University with 60% marks as qualification, the eligibility criteria could be restricted to candidates who had appeared for CLAT-2021 PG Programme and CLAT score made the basis for selection? Also, whether persons having requisite qualifications could be compelled to appear for the CLAT PG Programme as a condition precedent for accepting their applications?
Considering the above, the Bench opined that prima facie the condition was discriminatory. The Bench stated,
“Even if the CLAT exam conducted by the Consortium of National Law Universities is capable of selecting the brightest students; that is no justification for thwarting the career prospects of law graduates like the petitioner.”
Consequently, the Bench directed the Government to accept the application submitted by the petitioner, subject to the final outcome of the petition. On being pointed out that applications are to be submitted online and the system may not accept the applications which are not in conformity with the notification, the Bench further directed that the petitioner shall be permitted to submit her application by logging on to the website of NTPC and if the application is not accepted by the system, that can be brought to the notice of the Court. The matter was posted on 20-02-2022 for further hearing. [Aishwarya Mohan v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 78, order dated 05-01-2022]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioner: Maitreyi Sachidananda Hegde, Advocate
For the Union of India: S.Manu, ASG and N.S.Daya Sindhu Shree Hari, Central Government Counsel