Can State discriminate between persons having experience in home State from those having experience in other States? Is there any intelligible differentia? SC answers

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai*, JJ., dismissed an appeal challenging the decision of State of Rajasthan to place persons having experience in Rajasthan and those having experience in other States on different footings for extending benefits of State notification proving bonus marks. Approving the findings of Rajasthan High Court, the Bench held,

“…the experienced candidates in other States cannot be compared with the candidates working in the State of Rajasthan, as every State has its own problems and issues and the persons trained to meet such circumstances, stand on a different pedestal.”

Factual Backdrop

The State of Rajasthan had framed rules known as Rajasthan Ayurvedic, Unani, Homeopathy and Naturopathy Services (Amendment) Rules, 2013. Subsequently, the a State notification was issued on 30-05-2018 providing that the candidate who had worked under the Government, Chief Minister BPL Life Saving Fund, NRHM Medicare Relief Society, AIDS Control Society, National TB Control Program, Jhalawar Hospital and Medical College Society, Samekit Rog Nirgrani Pariyojna or State Institute of Health Family Welfare (SIHFW), would be entitled to bonus marks as per the experience attained. The notification provided,

“For 1 year of experience, the bonus marks will be 10, for 2 years of experience the bonus marks will be 20 and for 3 years of experience it will be 30. The advertisement also provided that only such of the candidates who were having experience certificate from the competent authority as mentioned in the said advertisement would be entitled to the bonus marks.”

On being aggrieved by the decision of the State to limit the benefit of the notification to those who had experience under NRHM in Rajasthan only and exclude those who had experience of working under the NRHM scheme on contract basis in different States, the appellants had approached the High Court vide various writ petitions seeking a direction to the State to accept the experience certificate of the petitioners which was issued by the NRHM authorities of different States, so as to qualify them for getting the bonus marks.

Findings of the High Court

The Single Judge of the High Court allowed the said writ petitions and directed the State of Rajasthan to grant bonus marks to the appellants. However, by the impugned judgment the Division Bench set aside the order of the Single Judge holding that the intention of the State of Rajasthan was to confine the benefit of award of bonus marks to those employed in the schemes within the State of Rajasthan and not in other States.

Was there any intelligible differentia?

Rule 19 of the Rules, 2013 provided that the Appointing Authority shall scrutinize the applications received by it and require as many candidates qualified for appointment under these rule as seem to it desirable for interview. The appellants argued that a plain reading of Rule 19 of the said Rules would clearly show that the experience of working anywhere in the country under the NHM/NRHM schemes would be sufficient to qualify a candidate to get bonus marks as both category of candidates either belonging to State of outside were doing same kind of work.

Therefore, the appellants alleged that to discriminate between employees working under the NHM/NRHM schemes in the State of Rajasthan as against those working outside the State of Rajasthan, was without intelligible differentia, not having the nexus with the object sought to be achieved and as such, was palpably arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Analysis and Observations

Noticing that the policy of the State of Rajasthan was that while selecting Nurse Compounder Junior Grade, the bonus marks were to be given to such employees who had done similar work under the State Government and under the various schemes, the Bench stated that when Rule 19 is read with sub clause (ii) of Clause 7 of the advertisement, the policy and object of the State of Rajasthan would be clear.

Sub clause (ii) of Clause 7 of the advertisement enlists the authorities who are competent to issue experience certificate for contractual employees. The list revealed that most of the competent authorities are the authorities who are heads of the institution like Government Medical College, Government Dental College, Director, Public Health, All Chief Medical and Health Officer of the State, All Primary Medical Officers, etc. Insofar as the NHM/AIDS is concerned, the competent authority is mentioned as Project Director, NHM/AIDS. Hence, the Bench opined that reading ‘Project Director, NHM/AIDS’ to be a Project Director of NHM/NRHM anywhere in the country would be reading the said words without context. The Bench expressed,

“When sub clause (ii) of Clause (7) of the advertisement mentions all other authorities who are the heads of the various establishments in the State of Rajasthan, the term ‘Project Director, NHM’ will have to be construed as ‘Project Director, NHM’ within the State of Rajasthan.”

The Bench noted that in Jagdish Prasad v. State of Rajasthan, (D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 12942/2015, dated 09-02-2016) the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court had held that the Government of Rajasthan had conducted several training programmes for the persons working with it on contractual basis, as well as under different schemes. The training programmes mainly pertained to the peculiar working pattern in the rural areas of the State of Rajasthan including tribal and arid zones and such a training is mandatory and non-joining of the same would result in non-renewal of service contracts. It had been held by the High Court that persons having special knowledge in working in the State of Rajasthan form a class different than the persons not having such experience of working in the State.

Approving the findings of the he Division Bench in the aforementioned case, the Bench stated that the experienced candidates in other States cannot be compared with the candidates working in the State of Rajasthan, as every State has its own problems and issues and the persons trained to meet such circumstances, stand on a different pedestal.

Verdict

In the light of the above, the Bench concluded that the policy of the State of Rajasthan to restrict the benefit of bonus marks only to such employees who have worked under different organizations in the State of Rajasthan and to employees working under the NHM/NRHM schemes in the State of Rajasthan could not be said to be arbitrary. The impugned order was upheld.

[Satya Dev Bhagaur v. State of Rajasthan, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 206, decided on 17-02-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice B.R. Gavai


Appearance by:

For the Appellants: Rishabh Sancheti, Himanshu Jain and Alpana Sharma, Advocates

For the State: Manish Singhvi, Senior Advocate


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together

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