21 Sep 2023 11:05 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court has ruled that Cost Accountants cannot be treated at par with Chartered Accountants in matters of public employment. The court remarked that Cost Accountant and Chartered Accountant are not at all similarly placed and are governed by two independent statutes, and that it is for the employer to decide the qualifications for posts, keeping in view the nature of the job...
The Delhi High Court has ruled that Cost Accountants cannot be treated at par with Chartered Accountants in matters of public employment.
The court remarked that Cost Accountant and Chartered Accountant are not at all similarly placed and are governed by two independent statutes, and that it is for the employer to decide the qualifications for posts, keeping in view the nature of the job for which the advertisement has been issued.
The bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula upheld the Single Judge’s order, where the plea challenging the preference given to Chartered Accounts over the Cost Accountant for the post of Director (Finance) in Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) was dismissed.
The bench remarked that the Single Judge had rightly concluded that the nature of the job permits the Government to prefer better qualified persons if the job entails the work to be handled specifically by a person having specific qualification.
The bench remarked that the decision to give preference to Chartered Accountants over Cost Accountants had been taken by the expert committee of the government, and the Court cannot substitute its view in place of the view taken by the expert bodies which is based upon deliberation, thorough research and application of mind.
“The nature of job, the duties and responsibilities of particular qualification for a post is the sole domain of the employer/authorities who are empowered to carry out the process of selection, and, therefore, in the considered opinion of this Court, in respect of policy matters, the question of interference by a Court in exercise of its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India does not arise,” the court said.
The court further said that considering the overall responsibility of the Director (Finance) in a CPSE, a conscious decision was taken to give preference to Chartered Accountants to promote all aspects of finance, accounts and funds management of the CPSEs, and also to enable CPSEs to formulate policies which optimize the well-being of their business, finance and accounts. Thus, there was a rational nexus between the basis of classification and the object intended to be achieved. Therefore, the court said there was no arbitrariness in the preference clause contained in the Advertisement for the post.
“In the present case, the experts have formed an opinion to give preference to Chartered Accountants over Cost Accountants, and, therefore, the decision taken by the Respondents cannot be treated as arbitrary or violative of the Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India as argued by the Appellant,” the court said.
The appellant, who was serving as an employee at the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) on the post of Chief General Manager, challenged the condition imposed in the advertisement dated 25.11.2022 issued by the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) inviting applications for the post of Director (Finance) in IOCL, in so far as it gave preference to persons who were qualified Chartered Accountants over those who were qualified Cost Accountants.
It was the case of the appellant that prior to 19.08.2021, the qualification of Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant were treated at par. However, an internal meeting took place on 19.08.2021 by the members of the PESB for discussing the qualifications required for appointment to the post of Director (Finance), where a decision was taken that preference would be given to Chartered Accountants over and above the Cost Accountants. Based on the recommendations of the PESB, an advertisement was issued by PESB on 25.11.2022 for the post, containing the preference clause.
The appellant had filed a writ petition challenging the advertisement and his exclusion from the shortlisted candidates for the post, which was dismissed by the Single Judge.
During the pendency of the writ petition, by an interim order, the Single Judge had allowed the appellant to appear in the interview process, even though he was not shortlisted, subject to the outcome of the case. But the appellant was still not selected for the said position.
In the appeal filed before the Division bench, the appellant argued that candidates who were junior to him, were included in the shortlist for the interview only because they were Chartered Accountants and the appellant was a Cost Accountant and, therefore, their inclusion in the list of shortlisted candidates was bad in law.
It was the case of the appellant that the decision of the PESB giving preference to Chartered Accountants over and above the Cost Accountants, was bad in law. The appellant claimed that Chartered Accountants and Cost Accountants are equally placed, and the findings arrived at by the Single Judge that Chartered Accountants are best suited persons for the post of Director (Finance), is erroneous.
At the outset, the court observed that the selection process for the Director level post is conducted by PESB- a high-power body constituted by the Government of India- which advises the Government on appointment of top management position of various CPSEs, including the IOCL. The court noted that since its inception, PESB has been managing the selection and appointment of top management post of CPSEs.
The bench remarked that the policies related to Board Level appointments are formulated by the concerned authority keeping in mind the current needs and situation. Accordingly, the PESB took a conscious decision to give preference to Chartered Accountants for the post, the court said, adding that the decision of the expert committee of government cannot be interfered with except if the decision is arbitrary or the Constitutional Committee is improper.
PESB, the court said, is an independent Board which is assigned to carry out the process of selection keeping in view the DoPT’s resolution dated 03.03.1987.
“Thus, it is the Board which is competent to revise educational qualification/qualifications for the post of Director (Finance) and the same was done on 19.08.2021 by giving preference to Chartered Accountants over Cost Accountants and the decision by PESB dated 19.08.2021 is applicable to all CPSEs,” the court observed.
The court was further of the view that the appellant, in spite of the fact that he was treated as a shortlisted candidate only on account of the interim order passed by the Single Judge, was not selected in the interview; thus, he had failed to prove his worth in the process of selection and therefore, he was not entitled for any relief.
Since the appellant had participated in the entire process of selection and had not been able to prove his worth, the court said the Single Judge was justified in dismissing the writ petition.
Counsel for the Appellant: Mr. Gagan Gupta and Ms. Yashi Agrawal, Advocates.
Counsel for the Respondent: Ms. Manisha Agrawal Narain, CGSC with Mr. Sandeep Singh Somaria, Ms. Shivangi Gumber and Ms. Khushi Mangla, Advocates for Respondent No.1/ PESB. Mr. S. Sirish Kumar and Mr. Nirbhay N. Singh, Advocates for Respondent No.2. Mr. Vinayak Mehrotra and Mr. Saurav Rajurkar, Advocates for Respondent No.4. Mr. Rohan Thawani, Mr. Pratul Pratap Singh and Ms. S. Ambica, Advocates for Respondent No.5.
Title: Ruchir Agrawal v. Public Enterprises Selection Board & Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 870
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