judicial review

A candidate should not be graduate when job requirement is 12th class pass

Chief Manager, Punjab National Bank & Anr. Vs. Anit Kumar Das-03/11/2020

Supreme Court of India

[Civil Appeal No. 3602 of 2020 arising out of S.L.P. (C) No. 8343 of 2020]

Three Judges Bench

Applications were invited by the appellant Bank for the post of Peon by publishing an advertisement in the local newspaper. The eligibility criteria mentioned in the said advertisement was that a candidate should have passed 12th class or its equivalent with basic reading/writing knowledge of English. It specifically provided that a candidate should not be a Graduate.  A candidate was also required to submit the biodata as per the prescribed format. The respondent herein, though a Graduate, applied for the said post. However, neither in the application nor in the biodata, he disclosed that he was a graduate. Respondent very cleverly he suppressed the material fact and declared his qualification as H.S.C., whereas as a matter of fact, he was holding a degree in the Bachelor in Arts. Had it been known to the bank that he was a graduate, he would not have at all been considered for selection as a Peon in the bank. That thereafter when scrutiny of the documents was going on and when the respondent – original writ petitioner produced a graduation certificate, at that time, the bank came to know that he was a graduate and therefore not eligible and therefore the bank rightly cancelled his candidature and he was not allowed to join the bank in the subordinate cadre


The prescription of qualifications for a post is a matter of recruitment policy

Extract of the Judgment

Once a conscious decision was taken by the employer – bank prescribing a specific qualification, thereafter unless it is found to be most arbitrary, the same cannot be the subjectmatter of a judicial review. Reliance is placed on the decisions of this Court in the cases of J. Rangaswamy v. Government of Andhra Pradesh (1990) 1 SCC 288, Yogesh Kumar v. Government of NCT of Delhi (2003) 3 SCC 548 and a recent decision of this Court in the case of Zahoor Ahmad Rather v. Imtiyaz Ahmad (2019) 2 SCC 404.

In the case of Yogesh Kumar (supra), it is observed and held by this Court that recruitment to public service should be held strictly in accordance with the terms of advertisement and the recruitment rules, if any. Deviation from the rules allows entry to ineligible persons and deprives many others who could have competed for the post.

In a recent decision of this Court in the case of Zahoor Ahmad Rather (supra), this Court has distinguished another decision of this Court in the case of Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission (2010) 15 SCC 596 taking the view that in a case where lower qualification is prescribed, if a person has acquired higher qualifications, such qualification can certainly be stated to presuppose the acquisition of the lower qualifications prescribed for the post.

In the said decision, this Court also took note of another decision of this Court in the case of State of Punjab v. Anita (2015) 2 SCC 170, in which case, this Court on facts distinguished the decision in the case of Jyoti K.K. (supra). While distinguishing the decision in the case of Jyoti K.K. (supra), it is observed in paras 25 and 26 as under:

“25. The decision in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] has been considered in a judgment of two learned Judges in State of Punjab v. Anita [State of Punjab v. Anita, (2015) 2 SCC 170 : (2015) 1 SCC (L&S) 329] . In that case, applications were invited for JBT/ETT qualified teachers. Under the rules, the prescribed qualification for a JBT teacher included a Matric with a two years’ course in JBT training and knowledge of Punjabi and Hindi of the Matriculation standard or its equivalent.

This Court held that none of the respondents held the prescribed qualification and an MA, MSc or MCom could not be treated as a “higher qualification”. Adverting to the decision in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] , this Court noted that Rule 10(a)(ii) in that case clearly stipulated that the possession of a higher qualification can presuppose the acquisition of a lower qualification prescribed for the post. In the absence of such a stipulation, it was held that such a hypothesis could not be deduced: (Anita case [State of Punjab v. Anita, (2015) 2 SCC 170 : (2015) 1 SCC (L&S) 329] , SCC p. 177, para 15)

“15. It was sought to be asserted on the basis of the aforesaid observations, that since the private respondents possess higher qualifications, then the qualification of JBT/ETT, they should be treated as having fulfilled the qualification stipulated for the posts of JBT/ETT Teachers.

It is not possible for us to accept the aforesaid submission of the learned counsel for the private respondents, because the statutory rules which were taken into consideration by this Court while recording the aforesaid observations inJyoti K.K. case [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] , permitted the aforesaid course. The statutory rule, in the decision relied on by the learned counsel for the private respondents, is extracted hereunder: (SCC p. 598, para 6) ‘6. Rule 10(a)(ii) reads as follows:

10. (a)(ii) Notwithstanding anything contained in these Rules or in the Special Rules, the qualifications recognised by executive orders or Standing Orders of Government as equivalent to a qualification specified for a post in the Special Rules [Ed.: The matter between two asterisks has been emphasised in original.] and such of those higher qualifications which presuppose the acquisition of the lower qualification prescribed for the post shall also be sufficient for the post.’

(emphasis supplied)

A perusal of the Rule clearly reveals that the possession of higher qualification would presuppose the acquisition of the lower qualification prescribed for the posts. Insofar as the present controversy is concerned, there is no similar statutory provision authorising the appointment of persons with higher qualifications.”

(emphasis supplied)

We are in respectful agreement with the interpretation which has been placed on the judgment in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] in the subsequent decision in Anita [State of Punjab v. Anita, (2015) 2 SCC 170 : (2015) 1 SCC (L&S) 329] . The decision in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] turned on the provisions of Rule 10(a)(ii). Absent such a rule, it would not be permissible to draw an inference that a higher qualification necessarily presupposes the acquisition of another, albeit lower, qualification.

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. The decision in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] turned on a specific statutory rule under which the holding of a higher qualification could presuppose the acquisition of a lower qualification.

The absence of such a rule in the present case makes a crucial difference to the ultimate outcome. In this view of the matter, the Division Bench [Imtiyaz Ahmad v. Zahoor Ahmad Rather, LPA (SW) No. 135 of 2017, decided on 12102017 (J&K)] of the High Court was justified in reversing the judgment [Zahoor Ahmad Rather v. State of J&K, 2017 SCC OnLine J&K 936] of the learned Single Judge and in coming to the conclusion that the appellants did not meet the prescribed qualifications. We find no error in the decision [Imtiyaz Ahmad v. Zahoor Ahmad Rather, LPA (SW) No. 135 of 2017, decided on 12102017 (J&K)] of the Division Bench.” That thereafter it is observed in para 27 as under:

While prescribing the qualifications for a post, the State, as employer, may legitimately bear in mind several features including the nature of the job, the aptitudes requisite for the efficient discharge of duties, the functionality of a qualification and the content of the course of studies which leads up to the acquisition of a qualification. The State is entrusted with the authority to assess the needs of its public services. Exigencies of administration, it is trite law, fall within the domain of administrative decisionmaking.

The State as a public employer may well take into account social perspectives that require the creation of job opportunities across the societal structure. All these are essentially matters of policy. Judicial review must tread warily. That is why the decision in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596: (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] must be understood in the context of a specific statutory rule under which the holding of a higher qualification which presupposes the acquisition of a lower qualification was considered to be sufficient for the post. It was in the context of specific rule that the decision in Jyoti K.K. [Jyoti K.K. v. Kerala Public Service Commission, (2010) 15 SCC 596 : (2013) 3 SCC (L&S) 664] turned.

Thus, as held by this Court in the aforesaid decisions, it is for the employer to determine and decide the relevancy and suitability of the qualifications for any post and it is not for the Courts to consider and assess. A greater latitude is permitted by the Courts for the employer to prescribe qualifications for any post. There is a rationale behind it. Qualifications are prescribed keeping in view the need and interest of an Institution or an Industry or an establishment as the case may be.

The Courts are not fit instruments to assess expediency or advisability or utility of such prescription of qualifications. However, at the same time, the employer cannot act arbitrarily or fancifully in prescribing qualifications for posts. In the present case, prescribing the eligibility criteria/educational qualification that a graduate candidate shall not be eligible and the candidate must have passed 12th standard is justified and as observed hereinabove, it is a conscious decision taken by the Bank which is in force since 2008.

Therefore, the High Court has clearly erred in directing the appellant Bank to allow the respondentoriginal writ petitioner to discharge his duties as a Peon, though he as such was not eligible as per the eligibility criteria/educational qualification mentioned in the advertisement.

 Even on the ground that respondent – original writ petitioner deliberately, wilfully and intentionally suppressed the fact that he was a graduate, the High Court has erred in directing the appellant Bank to allow the respondent – original writ petitioner to discharge his duties as a Peon. In the application/biodata, the respondentoriginal writ petitioner did not mention that he was a graduate.

Very cleverly he suppressed the material fact and declared his qualification as H.S.C., whereas as a matter of fact, he was holding a degree in the Bachelor in Arts. Had it been known to the bank that he was a graduate, he would not have at all been considered for selection as a Peon in the bank. That thereafter when scrutiny of the documents was going on and when the respondent – original writ petitioner produced a graduation certificate, at that time, the bank came to know that he was a graduate and therefore not eligible and therefore the bank rightly cancelled his candidature and he was not allowed to join the bank in the subordinate cadre.

As held by this Court in the case of Ram Ratan Yadav (supra), suppression of material information and making a false statement has a clear bearing on the character and antecedents of the employee in relation to his continuance in service. A candidate having suppressed the material information and/or giving false information cannot claim right to continuance in service.

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