Eligibility of min height discriminatory against women: HC stays selection of Forest officers in light of argument

Eligibility of min height discriminatory against women: HC stays selection of Forest officers in light of argument

Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on Thursday directed the Public Service Commission (PSC) not to finalise the selection for the posts of Forest Range Officers till further orders from the court.

A bench of Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey passed this direction after staying the operation of the Tribunal order passed on 12 July, 2021, directing the commission to proceed with the selection process while also directing to prepare the final select list of candidates who fulfil all the eligibility criteria mentioned in the advertisement notice.

The Tribunal had directed PSC to complete the exercise within three months. “Respondents would do well to ensure that the final list does not contain the name of candidates who do not fulfil the eligibility criteria, as per rules and conditions of advertisement notice,” The Tribunal order said.

The aggrieved petitioners, mostly the women candidates, challenged the Tribunal order before the High Court questioning the mandate of SRO 359 of 1970 dated 24th of July, 1970, to the extent of prescribing the criterion of height of 5 feet 6 inch as being violative of their rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Petitioner counsel Salman Khurshid submitted before court that it has to be examined whether the Jammu and Kashmir Forest (Gazetted) Service Recruitment Rules, 1970, are gender discriminatory in nature and whether these Rules could be applied selectively to the selection made in terms of Advertisement Notification No. PSC/Exam/2018/19 dated 15th of March, 2018.

The counsel further submitted that whether non-qualification of criteria of height as prescribed under the Rules would render the dispensation of service as ineffective against the post of Range Officer, Grade-I.

“Whether the Selection Body is permitted to change the stand after making the selections in respect of any post and the Rule having not been followed consciously during the previous selections can be invoked for debarring/ declaring the Petitioners as ineligible to complete for the Post in question,” the counsel said.

It was contended that the Tribunal, while passing the judgement, had not appreciated the contentions raised by the petitioners in their true and correct perspective, thereby resulting in violation of the rights guaranteed to the petitioners under the Constitution.

It was also pleaded that the rule-making power vested with the legislation is to be exercised within the circumference of the Constitutional scheme and that the said power cannot be allowed to be exercised in a manner to qualify to be unreasonable and of the nature of perpetuating inequality on the basis of physical standard of the measure of height.

The counsel proceeded to contend that the Tribunal, while dealing with the issue of challenge thrown to the rules by the Petitioners, has left the said aspect of the matter on a premise that the adjudication of constitutional validity of a Rule cannot be undertaken by the Tribunal

“And that, in such circumstances, the Tribunal, instead of directing the Respondents to complete the process of selection by strictly adhering to the rules, ought to have referred the same to this Court and seized its hands from the adjudication of the case of the Petitioners,” the petitioner counsel said.

After hearing the parties, the court said, “We, prima facie, find force in the submissions made by the Senior Counsel representing the Petitioners. That being so, we are included to show indulgence.”

“Subject to Objections from the other side and till the next date of hearing before the Bench, the operation of the impugned Order dated 12th of July, 2021 passed by the Tribunal in TA No. 62/5610/2020 shall remain stayed with further direction to the Respondents not to finalize the selection in question,” the court said and directed. PTI

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