Singh Vs. Union 0f India &
Ors  Insc 346 (30 March 2007)
A. K. Mathur & Lokeshwar Singh Panta
Lokeshwar Singh Panta, J.
The present appeal is filed against the judgment and order dated 27.09.2000
passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in Civil Writ
Petition No.13280- CAT/2000. By the said order, the High Court confirmed the
order recorded by the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench, Chandigarh
(for short "the CAT") in O.A.
No. 171 HR/2000.
Briefly stated the facts giving rise to the filing of this appeal are thus:
The Government of India, Ministry of Communications, Department of Posts,
respondent No. 1 herein, vide Circular dated 12.03.1993 revised the educational
qualifications for recruitment to various posts including the post of Extra
Departmental Delivery Agent (for short "EDDA"). As per the said
Circular, the minimum educational qualification for the post of EDDA, etc.
should be 8th standard pass and preference has to be given to the candidates
with Matriculation qualification. However, no preference should be given for
any qualification higher than Matriculation.
According to the appellant, the Directorate of Post Offices issued a letter
No.19-17/97-ED & Trg. dated 21.11.1997 to the Chief Post Master General
(CPMG), HR Circle Ambala, whereby the Department had decided that the merit of
candidates for selection of EDDAs should be prepared on the basis of the marks
obtained in preferential qualification (i.e.
Matriculation) if such candidates are available, otherwise on the basis of
the essential qualification, viz. 8th standard.
The Assistant Superintendent of Post Offices, North Sub- Division,
Kurukshetra-respondent No.3 herein, in compliance to the letter of
Superintendent of Post Offices, Kurukshetra Dn. 136118 dated 30.07.1998
notified one post of EDDA to the Employment Exchange in May 1999. In response
thereto, the Employment Exchange forwarded the names of some candidates
including the names of the appellant and Dharam Pal, respondent No.4 herein.
The vacancy was also notified through public advertisement. In all, 20
candidates applied for the post.
The case of the appellant is that he qualified his Matriculation examination
from the Board of School Education, Haryana, in the year 1987 by securing 503
marks out of 900 (i.e. 55.8%). The appellant also qualified Senior Secondary
Examination in the year 1991 from the Board of School Education, Haryana. It is
stated that respondent No.4 had secured 41% marks in the Matriculation
examination. In view of the Guidelines/Norms/Instructions issued by respondent
No.1, the merit of the candidates for the post of EDDA has been prepared on the
basis of marks obtained in the preferential qualifications, viz. Matriculation,
and the Selection Committee selected and appointed the appellant against the
post of EDDA on the basis of merit.
Respondent No.4 challenged the appointment of the appellant herein before
the CAT, Chandigarh Bench, Chandigarh, inter alia on the ground that as per the
Circular, the minimum qualification was 8th standard and as he has secured more
marks in 8th standard than the appellant, the appellant could not have been
selected on the basis of preferential qualification for the post in question.
The appellant and the Department contested the claim of respondent No.4
before the CAT in their separate counter affidavits. The CAT quashed the
appointment of the appellant to the post of EDDA vide order dated 24.08.2000
and directed the respondent-Department to hold a fresh selection in accordance with
Aggrieved by the order of the CAT, the appellant filed the writ petition
before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh, inter alia, on the
grounds that while considering the matter the entire approach of the CAT was
wholly erroneous in law and not sustainable. According to the appellant, the
CAT has ignored the latest Guidelines/Norms/ Guidelines/Norms/Instructions
issued by CPMG, Haryana, Ambala, a copy whereof was placed on the file of the
CAT, whereby the Competent Authority decided to consider the selection of the
candidates to the post of EDDA on the merits of preferential qualification,
viz. Matriculation. Further, the contention of the appellant before the CAT was
that respondent No.4 had no locus standi to challenge the selection and
appointment of the appellant on the basis of the marks obtained by him in 8th
standard examination in comparison to the marks of the appellant, because if
the marks secured in 8th standard by the candidates were to be taken into
consideration by the Selection Committee, respondent No.4 could not have been
selected as there were other candidates, who had secured more marks than
respondent No.4 in the minimum qualifying examination. The appellant submitted
before the High Court that the CAT has gone beyond its jurisdiction by making
an attempt to reframe and recast the Guidelines/Norms/Instructions framed by
respondent No. 1 in prescribing reasonable and appropriate qualifications for a
particular post and in the matters of making the appointment to the same.
We have perused the impugned order of the High Court.
The High Court, without going into the merit of the case, dismissed the writ
petition in limine, merely on the ground that it had already disposed of
similar matter being CWP No.11812-CAT of 2000 on 04.09.2000, wherein similar
kind of order recorded by the CAT was challenged. The observation of the CAT
extracted by the High Court in the order of CWP No.
11812-CAT of 2000 reads as under:
"5. We have been taking a view that preference clause can be operated
by any department where they find that other things are equal amongst two
candidates who are found most meritorious, may be having equal marks in the
middle standard. When other things are equal amongst such candidates, resort
can be taken to the preference clause and that is only situation where it can
be operated and enforced."
The High Court based upon the above extracted observation has held:
"Without calling upon the other side, we are of the view that where the
Tribunal has used the words that circular dated November 27, 1997, was being
struck down, it was in the sense that the way the petitioners had interpreted
the circular it was not well founded and the interpretation of the circular
should be as given in para 5 of the judgment of the Tribunal, which has already
been quoted above. We, as a matter of abundant caution, hold that the circular
dated November 27, 1997, will not stand quashed but the petitioners will
implement the same in the manner as interpreted by the Tribunal in para 5 of
the judgment which has already been quoted above."
Aggrieved by the order of the High Court, the appellant is before this
Having heard the learned counsel for the parties and having examined in
detail the material on record, we are of the view that the order of the High
Court maintaining the order of the CAT is wrong and cannot be sustained.
We have perused the Guidelines/Norms/Instructions dated 24.03.1993
formulated by the Government of India, Ministry of Communications, Department
of Posts, on the subject of revision of educational qualifications prescribed
for recruitment to various categories of ED Agents. Sub-clause (iv) of Clause 2
of those Guidelines/Norms/Instructions prescribes that the minimum educational
qualifications for ED Delivery Agents, ED Stamp Vendors and other categories of
ED should be 8th standard. Preference may be given to the candidates with
Matriculation qualification. However, it is specified that no preference should
be given for any qualification higher than Matriculation. It appears from the
record that the Directorate, Post Offices, vide another Circular No.19-17/97-ED
& Trg. dated 21.11.1997, has decided that the merit of candidates for
selection to the post of EDDA should be on the basis of the marks obtained in preferential
qualification (i.e. Matriculation) if such candidates are available, otherwise
on the basis of the essential qualification, viz. 8th standard.
Copies of the latest Guidelines/Norms/Instructions issued by respondent No.
1 were signed by CPMG, HR Ambala respondent No. 2 herein who forwarded them to
the Superintendent of Post Offices in his Division. Superintendent of Posts,
Kurukshetra, Dn. 136118 circulated the Circular of respondent No. 1 to all
recruiting units established in his Division for information and necessary
action. Consequently, Assistant Superintendent of Post Offices, North Division,
Kurukshetra respondent No. 3 herein issued requisition to the Employment
Exchange for sponsoring the names of eligible candidates for filling up the
post of EDDA. In addition, applications were invited from open market through
public notice. In all, 20 candidates including the appellant and Dharampal respondent
No. 4 herein appeared before the Selection Committee constituted for the
selection to the post of EDDA. The Selection Committee had selected the
appellant on the basis of the preferential qualification because he has,
admittedly, secured 55.8% marks in comparison to respondent No. 4 who secured
41% marks in the Matriculation examination. It is not in dispute that the
requisite minimum qualification for the post of EDDA has been prescribed as 8th
standard. The selection of the appellant has been made by the Selection
Committee strictly in accordance with the latest Guidelines/Norms/Instructions
framed by the Department from time to time.
These Guidelines/Norms/Instructions clearly stipulate that if the
candidates, who have passed Matriculation examination, are available for
selection to the posts of EDDA, the selection should be made by the Selection
Committee on the basis of the marks obtained by the candidates in preferential
qualification (i.e. Matriculation) and in the absence of Matriculate
candidates, the selection has to be made on the basis of essential
qualification, viz. 8th standard.
It appears that the CAT as well as the High Court, both have lost sight of
the object and import of the Guidelines/Norms/Instructions dated 21.07.1998
laid down by a Competent Authority. The CAT is not competent to lay down
criteria for the selection and appointment to the post of EDDA. It is the
prerogative and authority of the employer to lay down suitable service
conditions to the respective posts.
In our view, in service jurisprudence the prescription of preferential
qualification not only refers to numeric superiority but is essentially related
to better mental capacity, ability and maturity to shoulder the
responsibilities, which are entrusted to the candidates after their selection
to a particular post. All the more, it is important for efficient and effective
administration. The basic object of prescribing a minimum qualification is to
put a cut off level for a particular job in accordance with the minimum
competency required for the performance of that job. The object of prescribing
preferential qualification is to select the best amongst the better candidates
who possess more competence than the others.
Sub-clause (iv) of Clause 2 puts a limit with respect to preferential
qualification by way of a clear stipulation that no preference should be given
to the qualification above Matriculation. Hence, the preferential qualification
was considered to be more effective and efficient and also it was a clear
assumption that a candidate possessing the same is best suited for the post in
Shri U.S. Puria, Assistant Director General (ED), Department of Posts, New
Delhi, in his counter affidavit filed on behalf of respondent Nos. 1 and 2 has
stated that Dharam Pal, respondent No. 4, was appointed provisionally as EDDA
by the Area Sub-Divisional ASPOs with effect from 26.04.1997 on compassionate
ground in place of his father Babu Ram who died on 26.04.1997 while working as
EDDA, Tangore, B.O. in Kurukshetra. He stated that the appointment of
respondent No. 4 was subject to the approval of Chief Post Master General,
Haryana Circle, Ambala. Respondent No. 4 worked as EDDA from 26.04.1997 to
31.03.1999. The Circle Selection Committee later on has found that two sons of
the deceased Babu Ram were already in employment, therefore, the claim of
respondent No. 4 for appointment to the post of EDDA on compassionate grounds
was rejected. The charge of EDDA, Tangore B.O., Kurukshetra was handed over to
Budh Singh, a regular ED employee of Kurukshetra Division, who was on
deputation to Army Postal Service and discharged from the said service on
15.03.1999. Budh Singh joined service on 31.03.1999 when respondent No. 4 was
relieved from the job.
However, Budh Singh absented from the duty w.e.f. 1.4.1999.
Departmental proceedings were initiated against Budh Singh as per the Rules.
Finally, Budh Singh was removed from the service by the Competent Authority
vide order dated 15.09.1999. In these circumstances, the post of EDDA was
notified to the Employment Exchange and general public by the
respondent-Department. The respondent Nos. 1 and 2 had justified the selection
and appointment of the appellant on the basis of marks secured by him in
Matriculation examination, which according to them is a preferential
qualification, as per the Guidelines/Norms/Instructions prescribed by the
In Government of Andhra Pradesh v. P. Dilip Kumar and Anr. [(1993) 2 SCC
310], this Court in paragraph 13 held as under:
"13. ....There is nothing arbitrary or unreasonable in the employer
preferring a candidate with higher qualification for service. It is well
settled by a catena of decisions that classification on the basis of higher
educational qualification to achieve higher administrative efficiency is
permissible under our constitutional scheme."
Further, in paragraph 15 it is observed as under:
"15. ...It is true that notwithstanding the preference rule it is
always open to the recruiting agency to prescribe a minimum eligibility
qualification with a view to demarcating and narrowing down the field of choice
with the ultimate objective of permitting candidates with higher qualifications
to enter the zone of consideration."
In view of the above-stated factual situation and settled position of law,
the orders of the CAT as well as the High Court cannot be sustained.
For the above-said reasons, the appeal is, accordingly, allowed. The
judgment and order dated 27.09.2000 of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh
in CWP Nos.13280-CAT/2000 confirming the order of the CAT, Chandigarh Bench, Chandigarh,
in O.A. Nos.171 HR/2000 is quashed and set aside. Respondent Nos. 1 to 3 are
directed to take necessary steps for facilitating the resumption of the duties
of the appellant on the post of EDDA. In the facts and circumstances of the
case, there shall be no order as to costs.