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P. A. Chandran Vs. Board of Revenue (Excise) [1994] INSC 541 (24 October 1994)

Hansaria B.L. (J) Hansaria B.L. (J) Kuldip Singh (J) Majmudar S.B. (J)

CITATION: 1995 SCC Supl. (1) 159 JT 1994 (7) 509 1994 SCALE (4)688

ACT:

HEAD NOTE:

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by HANSARIA, J.- In these appeals, writ petitions and special leave petitions, in which we grant leave, the point for determination is whether the prescription of ratio of 1:1 for promotion to the post of Excise Preventive Officer from Excise Guard as between those who possess the qualification of S.S.L.C. (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) and those who do not possess this qualification, is constitutionally infirm. The Kerala High Court having held so and the State of Kerala having accepted the judgment and having issued certain Government Orders pursuant thereto, these appeals/writ petitions have been filed under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.

+ From the Judgment and Order dated 24-7-1987 of the Kerala High Court in O.P. No. 1828 of 1981-G 160 2.As to when educational qualification can form the basis of classification in the matter like one at hand was examined recently in detail by two of us (Kuldip Singh and Hansaria, JJ.) in Writ Petition (C) No. 3736 of 1982 and connected matters (T.R. Kothandaraman v. T.N. Water Supply & Drainage Board)1, judgment in which was rendered on 13-9-1994. The Bench laid down following legal propositions in this regard, after noting earlier important decisions on this point, in para 16 of the judgment: (SCC p. 290)

"(1) Higher educational qualification is a permissible basis of classification, acceptability of which will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.

(2) Higher educational qualification can be the basis not only for barring promotion, but also for restricting the scope of promotion.

(3) Restriction placed cannot however go to the extent of seriously jeopardising the chances of promotion. To decide this, the extent of restriction shall have also to be looked into to ascertain whether it is reasonable. Reasons for this are being indicated later."

3. In the aforesaid judgment, ratio of even 1:3 was upheld on the fact situation of some cases. Here the ratio being 1:1, the same has to be regarded as reasonable. The learned counsel appearing for non-S.S.L.C. Excise Guards, however, contend, in support of the impugned judgment, that this Court having held in N. Abdul Basheer v. K.K. Karunakaran2, that providing of ratio of 1:3 for graduates and non- graduates for promotion from the posts of Excise Preventive Officers to Second Grade Excise Inspectors is discriminatory, the same has to be held regarding the ratio at hand.

4. As to the aforesaid contention we would state that in Abdul Basheer case2 this Court regarded the ratio in question as discriminatory as the history did not point out if the two categories of incumbents were treated differently, as has been pointed Out in para 7 of the judgment in Kothandaraman1. The decision in Abdul Basheer case2 cannot, however, assist the non-S.S.L.C. Excise Guards because there are material on record in the present cases to show that ever since the Kerala State was formed (1-11- 1956), the Excise Preventive Officers were required to have educational qualification similar to that of S.S.L.C. This would be apparent from the fact that after the formation of the State, by issuing executive orders it was prescribed that for promotion to the cadre of Excise Preventive Officers the incumbents must have the minimum educational qualification of E.S.L.C. or S.S.L.C. This had been done by G.O. dated 23-8-1957, a copy of which is at Annexure A-4 to the appeal arising out of SLP (C) No. 12398 of 1987.

Thereafter G.O. dated 14-8-1959 (Annexure A5) was issued in which also the minimum educational qualification for promotion of Excise Guards to the cadre of Preventive Officer was mentioned as E.S.L.C. or S.S.L.C. Then came G.O.

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