Employer free to reject over-qualified applicants: SC

Verdict overturned Odisha HC’s decision allowing a graduate to be appointed as a peon with the Punjab National Bank

A prospective employer has discretion not to appoint a candidate who may have a “higher qualification”, but not the one prescribed for the job vacancy, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said courts have limited judicial review over such decisions by employers. Prescription of qualifications for a post is a matter of recruitment policy. Discretion lies with the employer.

“It is for the employer to determine and decide the relevancy and suitability of the qualifications for any post, and it is not for the courts to consider and assess,” Justice M.R. Shah, who authored the verdict, pointed out.

The apex court said courts allow a “greater latitude” for employers to prescribe the necessary qualification for a post.

“There is a rationale behind it… Qualifications are prescribed keeping in view the need and interest of an institution or an industry or an establishment as the case may be. The Courts are not fit instruments to assess expediency or advisability or utility of such prescription of qualifications,” the apex court judgment explained.

It, however, noted that an employer cannot act arbitrarily or fancifully in prescribing qualifications for posts.

The judgment came on an appeal filed by the Punjab National Bank against an Orissa High Court decision allowing an over-qualified candidate to be appointed as a peon.

The Supreme Court set aside the High Court decision of November 22, 2019 upholding an over-qualified candidate’s claim to a job as peon in the bank.

It noted that this candidate had deliberately not disclosed the fact that he was a graduate. It was known only later.

Besides, the prescribed qualification for the job was Class 12 pass. The Bank had a specific rule against appointing a graduate as peon.

“In the present case, prescribing the eligibility criteria/educational qualification that a graduate candidate shall not be eligible and the candidate must have passed 12th standard is justified. It was a conscious decision taken by the Bank in force since 2008. Therefore, the High Court has clearly erred,” the Supreme Court observed.

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