As the Supreme Court has affirmed, the prescription of a higher education degree as a qualification for appointment to a post cannot be held to be a violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
Thus, while setting aside a Judgement of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the bench led by the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde observed that it quashed an administrative order of the Chief Justice prescribing those requirements for promotion to the rank of Head Assistant.
One of the reasons provided by the High Court for the quashing was that all individuals serving as senior assistants formed a homogeneous community and, hence, based on educational qualifications, no distinction can be made between them. Before the Supreme Court, the aggrieved parties argued that, for the purpose of elevation to a higher position, a designation is appropriate based on educational credentials, even within a homogenous community.
To address this, the bench referred to a 1968 Constitution Bench Judgment viz., also consisting of Justices AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian in the case of state of Mysore Condition & Anr. To vs. P. Narasinga Rao AIR 1968 SC 349, in which it was noted that Article 16(1) would not exclude a fair classification or a reasonable test for the selection of employees. The court further observed that it was held in a case of Jammu & Kashmir vs. Triloki Nath Khosa (1974) 1 SCC 19 that the Law providing for the qualifications of graduates for promotion to the exclusion of diploma holders was not contrary to Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Referring more to T.R. Kothandaraman vs. Water Supply and Drainage Board for Tamil Nadu (1994) 6 SCC 282, the bench stated.
‘In this respect, the legal situation was outlined as follows: (I) higher education qualifications are a valid classification basis, the acceptability of which depends on the facts and circumstances; (ii) higher education qualifications can be the basis not just for barring promotion; (iii) the limitations enforced cannot, however, be severely jeopardized by the probability of promotion.’
Further observation of court,
As pointed out in T.R. Kothandaraman (supra), the Court must be mindful of the need to preserve service quality, While the validity of the classification is judged. While these decisions were taken note of by the High Court, the High Court erred in believing that, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court was unable to determine the need for higher qualifications for the successful discharge of the duties of higher posts. From the evidence and conditions of the case, the non-graduates had chances to qualify themselves, which they indeed did. The graduation prescription, then, as a qualification for promotion.