Courts can’t do interpretive re­writing of the advertisement thereby changing the conditions of eligibility

Supreme Court: Stating that the essential qualifications for appointment to a post are for the employer to decide, the bench of Arun Mishra and Navin Sinha, JJ said,

“The court cannot lay down the conditions of eligibility, much less can it delve into the issue with regard to desirable qualifications being at par with the essential eligibility by an interpretive re­writing of the advertisement. Questions of equivalence will also fall outside the domain of judicial review.”

The Court further held that if the language of the advertisement and the rules are clear, the Court cannot sit in judgment over the same. If there is an ambiguity in the advertisement or it is contrary to any rules or law the matter has to go back to the appointing authority after appropriate orders, to proceed in accordance with law.

“In no case can the Court, in the garb of judicial review, sit in the chair of the appointing authority to decide what is best for the employer and interpret the conditions of the advertisement contrary to the plain language of the same.”

The Court was hearing the appeal filed against the order of the High Court holding that candidates possessing the requisite years of experience in research and development of drugs and testing of the same, are also eligible to be considered for appointment to the post of Assistant Commissioner (Drugs) and Drug Inspectors under separate advertisements dated 04.01.2012 and 31.03.2015.

It was submitted before the Court that the academic qualifications coupled with the requisite years of practical experience in the manufacturing and testing of drugs were essential qualifications for appointment. Research experience in a research and development laboratory was a desirable qualification which may have entitled such a person to a preference only. The latter experience could not be equated with and considered to be at par with the essential eligibility to be considered for appointment. It was argued that the High Court erred in misreading the advertisement to redefine the desirable qualification as an essential qualification by itself.

The Court said that the plain reading of the advertisement provides that a degree in Pharmacy or Pharmaceutical Chemistry or in medicine with specialization in Clinical Pharmacology or Microbiology from a University coupled with the requisite years of experience thereafter in manufacturing or testing of drugs were essential qualifications. Preference could be given to those possessing the additional desirable qualification of research experience in the synthesis and testing of drugs in a research laboratory.

The Court also said that

“an expert committee may have been constituted and which examined the documents before calling the candidates for interview cannot operate as an estoppel against the clear terms of the advertisement to render an ineligible candidate eligible for appointment.”

[Maharashtra Public Service Commission v. Sandeep Shriram Warade, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 652, decided on 03.05.2019]

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