A stipulation in the UGC criteria for National Eligibility Test, has been struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court of Kerala, observing that it would infringe the fundamental right to equal opportunity granted to ‘General’ category candidates.
The UGC (University Grants Commission) mandated stipulation for obtaining minimum marks by the candidates to the NET(National Eligibilty Test). However there was a relaxation in the marks to be obtained by the candidates of reserved categories. Based on the said marks, about 15 % of the total number of such candidates based on their rank, which included reserved and general category were held qualified to be assistant professors.
The petitioners impugned the relaxation in marks granted to reserved categories. According to the petitioners, the criteria stipulated in Step III would result in a larger number of candidates to be qualified to be appointed from the reserved category, apart from the normal seats available for the reserved categories. In short, the number of candidates from reserved category would be more than normal stipulated criteria which in turn would mar the chances, of persons from general categories.
Accepting the plea of the petitioners, the court struck down the above criteria as violative of constitutional provisions contained in Article 16(1) which guaranteed equality in matters of public employment. The court observed that the classification adopted above would result in ‘reverse discrimination’.
Justice P.B.Suresh Kumar opined: “When more than 50% of the vacancies in the post of Assistant Professor in Universities and Colleges are open vacancies and when NET qualification is mandatory for staking a claim for selection in the said vacancies, a criterion which is likely to eliminate more than 50% of the candidates from general category from acquiring the NET qualification cannot be said to be a valid one, especially when they, or at least a substantial number among them, are more meritorious than the candidates who are NET qualified from the reserved categories. For the aforesaid reasons, I have no hesitation to hold that the impugned criteria would infringe the fundamental right to equal opportunity guaranteed to the candidates belonging to the general category under Article 16(1) of the Constitution and hence unconstitutional.”
The court even though observed that minimum marks could be prescribed for candidates from reserved categories,it held that such provision should not hamper the chances of candidates from general category. The court observed:-“While it is the Constitutional obligation of the instrumentalities of the State to ensure that sufficient number of candidates are NET qualified from reserved categories to stake claim for appointment against the seats reserved for them, the instrumentalities of the State are equally obliged to ensure that the provision made for protecting the rights of reserved categories does not affect the sufficiency of the candidates from general category to stake claim for appointment against open vacancies. If the candidates from general category are eliminated while ensuring the interests of the candidates from reserved categories, it is beyond dispute that the candidates belonging to reserved categories will be able to claim not only the seats reserved for them, but also the open seats, for, there is no interdiction for them to claim appointment against open vacancies on merit. Situation of that nature would certainly be a situation of reverse discrimination.”
Read the Judgment here.
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