Supreme Court Lays Down the Age Bar Restrictions For Government Employees

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The case in hand is Gopal Prasad v. Bihar School Examination Board & Ors. The Appellant is a Calligraphist-cum-Assistant working with the Bihar School Examination Board. He was about 15½ years old at the time of his appointment in 1970.

The Bihar Service Code governs the terms and conditions for employment in the Board. It provides that the least qualifying age of entry into pensionable service is 16 years. It also provides that age for compulsory retirement is the date on which one attains 58 years of age.

The Board held a meeting to make a decision on those currently in service who they employed before the age of 18. Their resolution deemed those employed before this age to be 18 years old. It also superannuated Category-4 employees at the age of 60 years, and Category 3- employees at 58 years. 

Facts of the Case

The Appellant’s son had filed an RTI application inquiring about his father’s retirement date. The reply stated that the Board considers his father’s age in 1970 to be 18. Thus, the date for his retirement was 31st May 2012. 

The Appellant filed a writ petition before the High Court, challenging both the reply as well as the Board’s resolution. The Bench dismissed the petition, by the order dated 24.04. 2012.

Thus, the present appeal lay before the Supreme Court.

Arguments by the Appellant

The appellant argued that Rule 73 of the Bihar Service Code, 1952 prescribes 60 years of age as the criterion for superannuation. Therefore, it did not allow superannuation before attaining the age of 60. Additionally, the appellant argued that there is no rule prescribing the length of service as a criterion for superannuation. Thus, it did not allow superannuation based on 42 years of qualifying service. 

Arguments by the Respondent

Section 3 of The Majority Act, 1875 prohibits entry into public employment before one attains the age of 18. The age of superannuation would be 58 years/60 years, as the case may be. In any case, the total service one could render may not exceed beyond 40/42 years of service.

According to the Bihar Service Code, it is clear that there can be no entry in Government service before one attains majority.  The decision to retire the appellant on superannuation cannot be faulted with when he had completed 42 years of service in 2012. The respondent argued that this decision should not be revisited, as the High Court followed the same for more than fifteen years. 

Judgement

The Supreme Court reiterated that 18 years is the minimum age for entering public service. If the age at entry-level is open-ended, a minor of any age can seek his eligibility for public employment. This is manifestly illogical and cannot be the intention of the rulemaking authority.

The Court noted that the minimum and maximum age for entry and retirement in the service was 18 years and 60 years respectively. The Court determined that in any case, the total length of the period of Government service would not exceed 42 years. By one or other reasons, the Court cannot give any person taking undue advantage of the service rules to claim higher benefits. 

Thus, the Court held that the decision of the Board did not contravene any rules. It, therefore, dismissed the appeal. 


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