On 1st October 2020, a Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Justice Lok Pal Singh heard the case of Pravin Kumar & Ors. v. State of Uttarakhand.
A Writ of Mandamus was sought by the petitioners commanding the respondents to consider the candidature of the petitioner for the post of Assistant Agriculture Officer Grade-III on the basis of equivalent and higher qualification of B.Sc. forestry and M.Sc. Agriculture obtained by the petitioner and consequently select and appoint him and give him all the consequential benefit.
Facts of the Case
The Uttarakhand Subordinate Service Selection Commission issued an advertisement inviting applications for 96 vacant posts of Assistant Agriculture Officer Grade-III. The minimum qualification and preferential qualification were prescribed as:
“Educational qualification – Graduate degree in Agriculture from a recognized Institution or University Preferential qualification – being other facts equal, the candidate will be given preference in direct recruitment to those who:
- had served the territorial army for at least 02 years or
- possessed “B” certificate in N.C.C”
Pursuant to the advertisement, the petitioner applied for the post of Assistant Agriculture Officer Grade-III. The petitioner was informed that his candidature had been rejected as he did not possess the minimum qualification as prescribed in the advertisement, which was B.Sc. (Agriculture). It was also stated that selection was made as per the provisions of Service Rules for the said post and the minimum educational qualifications prescribed for the said post was a Graduation degree in Agriculture. The contention of the petitioner was that he possessed a higher qualification than that prescribed in the advertisement. As such, the respondent had no authority to reject the candidature of the petitioner.
Contentions of the Petitioner
Learned counsel for the petitioners submitted that rejecting the candidature of the petitioners on the ground of not possessing the minimum qualification was not justified. They further contended that the petitioners possessed a higher qualification than the qualification prescribed, and thus, were fully entitled to be considered for appointment on the said post.
The learned counsel for the petitioners placed reliance on the following judgments in order to support their arguments:
- Jyoti K.K. vs. Kerala Public Service Commission (2002) Supp. 1 JT 85
- Tariq Islam vs. Aligarh Muslim University and others (2001) 8 SCC 546
- Mohd. Riazul Usman Gani and others v. District & Sessions Judge, Nagpur and others (2000) 2 SCC 606
- Smt. Reena Naulia vs. State of Uttarakhand & Others
The learned Counsel also contended that the Petitioner was fully qualified for the post since the petitioner was a Science Graduate in Agriculture and had also done her post-graduation and a PhD in Agriculture.
Contentions of the Respondent
Learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the employer was the best judge to decide the question of qualification for the post so advertised. It was argued that the petitioners did not possess the requisite educational qualification as per the advertisement and relevant Rules. Therefore, the candidature of the petitioners had been rightly rejected on account of non-possessing the requisite minimum qualification.
The learned counsel for the respondents placed reliance on the following judgments in order to support their arguments:
- Ranajit Kumar Meher vs. State of Orissa and others, (2017) 4 SCC 568
- Prakash Chand Meena and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others (2015) 8 SCC 484
- Krishna Chandra Joshi and another vs. Rakesh Negi and others (2017) 1 U.D. 12
- Navraj vs. the State of Uttarakhand and another WPSB No.110 of 2015
- Deepak Singh and others vs. State of U.P. and others 2020 (1) ALJ 596
The Court referred to the Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Agriculture Service Rules, 1993 which stated that the educational qualification for the post of Assistant Agriculture Inspector Grade-III is also prescribed as a graduation degree in agriculture from any recognized University or Institution. The advertisement in this case, as well as in the Rules of 1993, the educational qualification prescribed for the post of Assistant Agriculture Officer Grade-III is a graduation degree in Agriculture.
The Court referred to the case of State of Rajasthan & Ors. v. Lata Arun, AIR 2002 SC 2642 which held that “It is not for Courts to decide whether a particular educational qualification should or should not be accepted as equivalent to the qualification prescribed by the authority.”
The Court further referred to the following cases which stated that the qualifications for appointment to a post essentially lie at the decision of the employer:
- Maharashtra Public Service Commission v. Sandeep Shriram Warade and others, (2019) 6 SCC 362
- Mohd. Sujat Ali v. Union of India AIR 1974 SC 1631
The writ petition lacked merit and was thus dismissed by the Court. The Court was of the view that none of the petitioners possessed the requisite qualification for the post of Assistant Agriculture Officer Grade-III. Thus, the Court had no hesitation in holding that the candidature of the petitioners had rightly been rejected by the respondents on the ground of non-fulfilment of the requisite educational qualifications.
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