Courts cannot prescribe qualification or declare equivalency of a course, unless the rule itself prescribes equivalency; Supreme Court reiterates

prescribe qualification

Supreme Court: In an appeal, wherein the appellants were claiming promotion to the post of Superintendent BR Grade-I and Assistant Engineer as per Column 11 of the General Reserve Engineer Force Group ‘C’ and Group ‘D’ Recruitment Rules, 1982 (‘GREF Rules, 1982), the Full Bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Manoj Misra and Aravind Kumar*, JJ. while rejecting the appeal, reiterated that Courts can not prescribe the qualification and/or declare the equivalency of a course, until and unless the rule itself prescribes the equivalency.

The issue in this case was whether the appellants were entitled to be promoted to the post of Superintendent BR, Grade-I?

The appellants contended that as per column 11 of the GREF Rules, 1982, they are entitled to be promoted to said post which has been denied by Union of India on the premise that column 11 of GREF Rules, 1982 provides that a candidate should possess “Diploma in Civil Engineering” whereas appellants were possessing “Diploma in Draughtsman Estimating and Design”.

The Court noted that the GREF Rules 1982 have been framed by the Union of India under Article 309 of the Constitution of India. Rule 2 of the aforesaid Rules stipulates that it applies to the posts specified under Column 1 of the Schedule annexed to the Rules.

The Court rejected the contention that Diploma is equivalent to a Degree, as the rule itself is explicit and clear, as it prescribes for promotion to Superintendent BR Grade-I only to those candidates possessing Diploma in Civil Engineering with 5 years regular service in the grade in General Reserve Engineering Force.

The Court further said that it is trite law that Courts would not prescribe the qualification and/or declare the equivalency of a course, until and unless the rule itself prescribes the equivalency.

The Bench took note of Guru Nanak Dev University v. Sanjay Kumar Katwal, (2009) 1 SCC 610, wherein it was reiterated that equivalence is a technical academic matter. It cannot be implied or assumed, and of Zahoor Ahmad Rather v. Imtiyaz Ahmad, (2019) 2 SCC 404, wherein it was held that Judicial review can neither expand the ambit of the prescribed qualifications nor decide the equivalence of the prescribed qualifications with any other given qualification.

Thus, the Court said that the diploma courses offered by College of Military Engineering, Pune, recognised as a course for recruitment to the post under the Central Government vide notification dated 01-02-2001, issued by Ministry of Human Resource Development do not indicate that diploma courses specified therein, recognised by the Government to be treated as equivalent. Further, no material has been placed on record by the appellants to demonstrate that Diploma in Draughtsman Estimating and Design is equivalent to Diploma in Civil Engineering.

The Court said that the denial of promotion was on the ground that candidates do not possess the prescribed requisite qualification namely “Diploma in Civil Engineering”, and not because they possess a two-year diploma not three-year diploma.

Thus, the Court said that it is not true that eligibility for promotional post of Superintendent BR Grade-I is not conditioned by any year wise stipulations concerning the diploma course. Thus, the appeal was rejected.

[Unnikrishnan CV v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 343, decided on 28-03-2023]

*Judgment authored by: Justice Aravind Kumar

Know Thy Newly Appointed Supreme Court Judges- Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Aravind Kumar

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