Equivalence Of Qualification Is To Be Determined By Recruiting Authority, Not Courts In Judicial Review – Supreme Court Reiterates
A two-judge Bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari has held that Judicial Review can neither expand the ambit of the prescribed qualifications nor decide the equivalence of the prescribed qualifications with any other qualification.
The Court further held, "Equivalence of qualification is a matter for the State, as recruiting authority, to determine."
An appeal was preferred against the order of the Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the order passed in CWP No. 20630 of 2006 in Suman Lata and Ors. vs. State of Haryana and Ors.
The Appellants, in this case, were impleaded as Respondents before the High Court as the outcome of the result of the said Writ Petition was likely to affect their service career.
In this case, an advertisement was issued by the Haryana State Staff Selection Commission inviting applications to fill up 816 posts of Arts and Crafts teachers in the State of Haryana. One of the conditions of the eligibility criteria was –
"Two-year Diploma in Art and Craft examination conducted by the Haryana Industrial Training Department or an equivalent qualification recognized by the Haryana Education Department."
The Petitioners, however, had passed their two-year Diploma in Art and Craft from the Kurukshetra University and had applied for the advertised post. But their applications were rejected as they had passed their two-year diploma in Art and Craft from Kurukshetra University which was not recognized as an equivalent qualification by the Haryana Education Department, which led to the filing of Writ Petitions before the High Court.
The High Court had allowed the Writ Petitions and held that the Petitioners had a legal right to be considered for the post of Arts and Crafts teachers as the Diploma pursued by them from the Kurukshetra University was equivalent to that of a Diploma from Industrial Training and Vocational Education Department, Haryana, as specified in the advertisement.
It was contended by the Appellants before the Supreme Court that the diploma in Arts and Craft granted by the Kurukshetra University was not equivalent to the Diploma given by Industrial Training and Vocational Education Department, Haryana. The Appellant further argued that Diploma in Art and Craft by the Industrial Training and Vocational Education Department, Haryana was given to students who attended regular classroom teaching.
Furthermore, most of the subjects were practical subjects and their studies could not be possible through distance education, argued the Appellant.
The Diploma granted to the Petitioners was only for enhancing their academic qualification, the Appellant pleaded before the Bench.
Additionally, the counsel for the Appellant argued that 'equivalence' was a technical matter and the Apex Court could not direct the authorities to recognize it as equivalent when the expert's view was otherwise.
The issue which was dealt with by the Court was whether the diploma in Art and Craft by Kurukshetra University through distance education was recognized by the Haryana Education Department as an equivalent qualification to the diploma in Art and Craft Examination conducted by the Haryana Industrial Training Department.
The Apex Court held that most of the subjects in the Arts and Crafts course were practical subjects and their study was not possible through distance education. While the Kurukshetra University granted the Diploma in the course through distance education. In this context, the Court observed –
"This diploma cannot be equated with the diploma given through regular class room studies."
Further, the Court also noted that Kurukshetra University had already issued a clarification in this regard that a diploma in Art and Craft from the Kurukshetra University does not guarantee any specific job. It had further declared that the Diploma granted by the University was not meant for appointment to the post of Arts and Crafts teachers.
"When the experts in the Education Department have held the diploma in Art and Craft by the Kurukshetra University is not equivalent to the two-year diploma in Art and Craft awarded by the Haryana Industrial Training Department, we are of the view that the High Court was not justified in equalizing them," asserted the Bench.
While relying on various precedents, the Court held that it was not for the Courts to consider the relevance of qualification prescribed for various posts, since it was a technical academic matter and would be considered by the appropriate authority. [Mohammad Shujat Ali & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors, J. Ranga Swamy v. Government of Andhra Pradesh and Others, State of Rajasthan & Ors. v. Lata Arun, Guru Nanak Dev University v. Sanjay Kumar Katwal & Anr., Zahoor Ahmad Rather & Ors. v. Sheikh Imtiyaz Ahmad & Ors.]
Additionally, the Bench observed, "The High Court erred in holding that the degree/diploma in Art and Craft given by the Kurukshetra University is equivalent to two-year Diploma in Art and Craft examination conducted by the Haryana Industrial Training Department or diploma in Art and Craft conducted by Director, Industrial Training and Vocational Education, Haryana."
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the Appeal and set aside the impugned order of the High Court t in C.W.P. No.20630 of 2006.