The Prescription of Higher Educational Qualification for Promotion to a Post Cannot be Held as Violative of Article 14 and 16: Supreme Court

The prescription of higher educational qualification for promotion to a post cannot be held as violative of Art14 and 16: SC

The prescription of higher educational qualification as a qualification for promotion to a post cannot be held as violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution, restated the Apex Court. The Court ruled while setting aside a Judgment of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court which quashed an administrative Order of the Chief Justice prescribing certain qualifications for promotion to the post of Head Assistant.

One of the explanations for quashing specified by the High Court was that all persons working as Senior Assistants constituted a homogenous group and hence there cannot be any differentiation among them on the basis of educational qualifications. Before the Apex Court, the aggrieved parties contended that a classification is permissible on the basis of educational qualifications, even within a homogenous group, for the purpose of promotion to a higher post.

To response, this, the bench, referred to a 1968 Constitution Bench Judgment viz. State of Mysore & Anr. vs. P. Narasinga Rao AIR 1968 SC 349, wherein it was held that Article 16(1) does not bar a reasonable classification of employees or reasonable test for their selection. The court further noted that in Jammu & Kashmir vs. Triloki Nath Khosa (1974) 1 SCC 19, it was held that the Rule providing for graduates to be eligible for promotion to the exclusion of diploma holders is not violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Also referring to T.R. Kothandaraman vs. Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (1994) 6 SCC 282, the bench noted:

“The legal position in this regard was summarized as follows: ­ (i) Higher educational qualification is a permissible basis of classification, acceptability of which will depend on the facts and circumstances; (ii) Higher educational qualification can be the basis not only for barring promotion, but also for restricting the scope of promotion; (iii) restriction placed cannot however go to the extent of seriously jeopardising the chances of promotion.”

As pointed out in T.R.Kothandaraman (supra), the Court shall have to be conscious about the need for maintaining efficiency in service, while judging the validity of the classification. Though the High Court took note of these decisions, the High Court fell into an error in thinking that in the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court could not establish the necessity for higher qualification for the efficient discharge of the functions of higher posts. It is apparent from the facts and circumstances of the case that the non-graduates have had opportunities to qualify themselves, which they have also done. Therefore, the prescription of graduation as a qualification for promotion to the post of Head Assistant cannot be held as violative of Articles 14 and 16, the bench observed while allowing the appeal.

Case Name: ASHOK KUMAR vs. STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR

Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NOs.5189­ & 5192 0F 2017

Coram: CJI SA BOBDE, Justices AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian

The prescription of higher educational qualification for promotion to a post cannot be held as violative of Art14 and 16: SC

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