SC nod for ‘equivalent qualification’ for jobs

Bench confirms equivalency of degrees at the time of application

Veering away from the norm that an aspirant should have the “requisite qualification” at the time of notification of job vacancy, the Supreme Court said an “equivalent qualification” at the time of application will do equally well.

“The principle of service jurisprudence that a candidate must possess the requisite qualification for a post on the date of issue of employment notification cannot be applied in the appellants’ cases, as in our view, they possessed equivalent qualifications when they applied for the posts,” a Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose said in a recent judgment.

The judgment was based on appeals filed by two applicants to the posts of High School Assistants in Kerala.

The question before the court was whether their B.Ed. degrees were in the subjects fulfilling the eligibility criteria for the job notified by the State Public Service Commission in 2012.

The job required a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) degree in the subject of Natural Sciences.

The appellants, Praveen Kumar and P. Anitha Devi, represented by advocate Sarath S. Janardanan, had B.Ed degrees in Biological Science from the University of Mysore and the Bharathiar University in Coimbatore, respectively. Their degrees in Biological Sciences were considered “equivalent” to Natural Sciences’ degree from a varsity in Kerala. They were both shortlisted and even allowed to participate in the job interview.

However, their candidatures were put on hold after an objection came up on the ground that they were not qualified in the concerned subject for which the job was notified.

On fact, the Kerala PSC continued to object despite the State’s Higher Education Department issuing orders in 2019, specifically saying that Mr. Kumar’s and Ms. Devi’s degrees were equivalent to Natural Sciences degree from Kerala universities.

The PSC argued that the government orders in service cases cannot apply retrospectively. It said the duo were not qualified at the time of job application in 2012.

Justice Bose, however, disagreed with the Kerala High Court, which favoured the PSC, saying “the acceptance of the Government Orders (GOs) with retrospective effect would amount to change in the rule of the game mid-way, which is impermissible”.

“The GOs only confirmed the equivalency of their B.Ed. degrees. In our opinion, they shall be deemed to have had the equivalent qualification on the relevant date [of the job notification]. As we have held that the respective GOs only clarified or confirmed an existing status of certain educational qualifications,” Justice Bose observed, allowing their appeals.

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