The Kerala High Court last week refused to allow disqualification of teaching candidates on the ground that they had not submitted their NET qualification certificates on time.
The bench comprising Justice CT Ravikumar and Justice VG Arun pointed out that the incomplete applications were due to technical glitches in the Public Service Commission (PSC) website and not for any fault of such candidates.
The court was hearing petitions challenging different orders of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal. The respondents were applicants for the lecturer's post under the Kerala Collegiate Education Department. They had, however, failed to upload their NET qualification, allegedly due to technical glitches in the PSC Website.
Despite informing PSC about the difficulty being experienced by them, they were all rejected at various stages of the selection process.
PSC had later decided to admit the applications if the requisite qualification is proven at the time of certificate verification, subject to the other criteria for selection being satisfied. This decision was, however, restricted to candidates in subjects which had not been interviewed for. This had been challenged by other candidates as discriminatory.
They had contended that PSC's decision was itself proof of the fact that there were technical flaws in the PSC Website, making it impossible for the applicants to upload their NET qualification.
Accepting such contentions, the Tribunal had ruled that the applicants would also be entitled to the benefit of PSC's decision, even though the subjects that they had applied for had already been interviewed for. PSC had now challenged this decision.
The high court, however, opined that denial of the benefit of PSC's decision to the applicants would result in "hostile discrimination", violating the principle of equality propounded in Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
It explained, "…the classification of applicants on the basis of the conduct of interview, prior and subsequent to decision No.14 of the Commission, has no rationale or nexus with the objective that is sought to be achieved by such classification. Hence, the reasoning adopted by the PSC for such classification and consequential rejection of applications, does not satisfy the twin test of reasonableness."
The court further absolved the candidates of any responsibility for not having uploaded their NET qualification and observed, "From the proceedings which culminated in decision No.14, it is evident that the failure to upload NET qualification along with their applications was not attributable to the candidates. In such circumstances, it would be unjust and arbitrary to reject the applications submitted by those candidates, for the only reason that their NET qualification was not uploaded…
…it has to be held that the error in the software of the Public Service Commission cannot be taken as a reason to reject the applications of the candidates."
PSC's petitions were therefore dismissed, with the court noting that the failure to upload the NET qualification was not for reasons attributable to the applicants.
Read the Judgment Here