Supreme Court Directs Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board To Consider Both Diploma and Degree Holders for Post of Junior Engineer

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Excerpt

The question before the court in the present case was whether an Electrical Engineering Degree would be considered as a higher qualification than a diploma and whether the engineering degree holders would be qualified for the appointment of the Junior Engineer position under the recruitment rules. 

Facts

On 27.06.18, the Himachal Pradesh Staff Selection Committee advertised 222 posts of Junior Engineers as per the order given by the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board. Many degree holders in the said criteria applied for the position and appeared for the exam. Even after qualifying for the exam and verifying all the documents, the results were not published. The degree holders filed a case in the High Court claiming that they possessed the qualification higher than the minimum prescription and thus they were entitled to the position. The diploma holders, on the other hand, argued that the possession of the degree holders could not be considered as a higher degree. The State Electricity Board took a neutral position and pointed out that the minimum qualification required for the post is a Diploma in Electrical Engineering from any recognized institution which is recognized by the Centre or State Government. The High Court highlighted that a diploma in engineering and a Degree in engineering are two different qualifications and the degree cannot be viewed as a higher qualification when compared to a Diploma in the said field. 

Arguments

The counsel for the degree holders argued that the diploma was only a minimum requirement for the post and the word ‘minimum’ was used intentionally without any bar under the rules that does not prevent the appointment of the degree holders for the post of Junior Engineer. The counsel relied on the decision of the Supreme Court in the Govt. of A.P. vs P. Dalip Kumar case which held that the expression ‘minimum’ empowers the employer to select a person with higher qualifications. It was also argued that according to the advertisement the minimum qualification would just be matriculation in diploma thus defeating the purpose of the rule.  

The counsel for the diploma holders side argued that the expression ‘minimum’ is used for the academic qualification i.e. not the diploma but the matriculation. It was contended that the candidates must have a diploma after 10 +2 and the matriculation. Thus, eliminating the degree holders from the eligibility criteria. It was argued that any rules of interpretation that exclude a better-qualified person rob the employer’s chance of selecting the candidate possessing better qualification.

Learned Counsel for the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board contended that it is not the concern of the court to determine rather it is the right of the employer to seek out and select the better-qualified candidates for a public appointment.  

Court’s Observation

The All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) prescribed that a student who acquires an Engineering Diploma of 3 years from an institution (after 10+2 Secondary Examination) were to be considered academically equivalent to students who passed the first year of the 4 year engineering degree. The court also considered the judgement given in Jyoti K.K. & Ors. v. Kerala Public Service Commission & Ors. questioning whether degree holders would be considered in the Kerala State Electricity Board for the post of Sub-Engineer. It was held in the case that degree holders can also be considered for the post. 

Court’s Decision

Based on contentions, the court was of the opinion that the diploma holder’s argument that the only matriculation was a minimum qualification is incorrect. The court clarified that only diploma holders who were 10+2 pass students would be eligible and that the matriculation could not be deemed as a criterion for eligibility. The court also clarified that two distinct quotas of 5% each have been set apart for the promotion of the Junior Engineers who possess a degree. 5% for enabling diploma holders and 5% enabling those who hold a degree before joining for the post of Junior Engineers. Thus, making degree holders competent for the position as well. The court also considered the latest amendment to the rules made on 03.06.2020 which declared that those possessing higher qualifications are also entitled to appointment and consideration. The court held that the appeal of the degree holders to be qualified has to succeed. The Himachal Pradesh State Electricity was directed to process the application of the candidates including degree holders. Depending on the merits and interviews, the electricity board can proceed with the final selection. 

Click here to view Judgement.


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