Decided on January 31,1992



V.Sivaraman Nair, J. - (1.)In these writ petitions, the question raised is whether the respondent Life Insurance Corporation of India can restrict the candidates for pre-recruitment test after receiving the applications. The Life Insurance Corporation issued advertisement calling for applications for 50 posts of Sub-Staff including 12 for Scheduled Caste and 6 for Scheduled Tribe. In pursuance of the said advertisement, including those of petitioners, 3439 applications were received among which 635 belong to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Ex- Servicemen. 2804 are applications for the remaining 32 posts. Learned counsel for the petitioners contended that when the advertisement was issued calling for applications prescribing some qualifications and the petitioners are qualified for the said posts, they are entitled to participate in the pre-recruitment test. Learned counsel for the Life Insurance Corporation Sri J.V. Suryanarayana Rao contended that even though applications are received in pursuance of the advertisement the Life-insurance Corporation of India reserved its right to restrict the applications. In pursuance of the said right, the Life Insurance Corporation restricted the applications to 1:10 ratio. He further contended that this point squarely arose in the Judgment of this Court reported in 1990(2) ALT 316, wherein the appointment to Class III Posts by direct recruitment was considered. In the above judgment, the Supreme Court Judgments reported in AIR 1985 SC 1055 and AIR 1988 SC 2073 were referred. Both the said judgments deal with only the appointment to the posts by promotion. However, the Division Bench of this Court has adopted the same principle in the judgment though the matter relates to direct recruitment. Learned Counsel for the petitioners contended that the present rules are issued after the above advertisement, therefore, me rules have no retrospective effect and so the petitioners have to be permitted for appearing to the pre-recruitment test. As the question involved is an important one, involving participation of 2804 candidates for Class IV pre-recruitment test, I think it just and proper mat these writ petitions may be heard by a Division Bench.
(2.)In these writ petitions, petitioners are candidates seeking employment in the cadre of sub-staff (Peon/Sepoy) in the District Offices of the Life Insurance Corporation, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Prakasham. They applied pursuant to a notification issued by the Divisional Manager, Machilipatnam on 25-3-1991. All of them satisfy the educational qualifications specified in the notification, some of them being persons who have passed IX Standard or 9th Class, some others have passed S.S.C. or Matric or X Standard with less man 55% marks and yet others have passed P.U.C. /Inter/H.S.C /XII Standard with less than 45% marks. AH of them belong to the general category and do not belong to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. The Notification provides that Ex-Servicemen need have minimum educational qualification of a pass in VII Standard only. The other eligibility criteria are (1) Knowledge of Telugu, (2) Shall not be below 18 years and more than 25 years as on 1-3-1991. The Notification stipulated that "there will be a written test in Regional Language (viz., Telugu) of IX Standard level of 3 hours' duration. Those who are successful in the test will be called for interview. Final selection will be based on the results of the above test and interview". The notification also specifically mentioned that "depending upon the response, the Corporation reserves the right to allow only a limited number of candidates to sit for written test under categories I(i), (ii) and (iii)". Petitioners belong to categories I(i), (ii) and (iii) and therefore the reservation of right of the Corporation to limit the number of candidates to the written test applies to all the petitioners before us. After the written test, the selected candidates have to apply by submitting their bio-data in the prescribed proforma. Final selection has to depend upon interview. As indicated above the marks obtained in the written test and the interview have to be aggregated for purposes of selection and screening. Petitioners submit that the basis of limitation of candidates to be admitted for the written test was not intimated to them. They submit mat the written test is being conducted on 2-2-1992 and the respondent-Corporation has sent hall tickets of such examination only to a few of the candidates eliminating the petitioners. They submit that such elimination amounts to denial of opportunity for employment in public service and is therefore arbitrary and unreasonable since such refusal violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. Petitioners also complain that the free-fold classification of eligible candidates on the basis of 35% marks in 9th class, less than 55% marks in the 10th class, less than 45% marks in Intermediate and corresponding examinations is discriminatory. Petitioners submit that the elimination of some of the eligible candidates on the basis of a restriction of the number of candidates allowed to appear in the written test without intimating them in advance of their elimination or the basis thereof is violative of the principles of natural justice. They submit further that such elimination on the basis of a ratio of candidates to be called for the written test/examination to the number of available vacancies is unsupported by rules and is therefore illegal and discriminatory. Yet another submission is that the equation of candidates who passed IX Standard with 35% marks to those having 45% marks in S.S.C., Matric or X Standard and 55% in Intermediate or P.U.C. or XII Standard examination is unreasonable and in so far as it herds together and treats unequals as equals. It is on these submissions that the petitioners seek a direction in the nature of Writ of Mandamus to the respondents to issue hall tickets to all the petitioners and to allow them to appear for the written test for the post of Sub-Staff (Peon/Sepoy) to be held on 2-2-1992 at Machilipatnam.
(3.)The respondents have filed detailed counter affidavit traversing the averments contained in the writ petition. It is their submission that it is within the competence of an employer to prescribe the ratio of candidates to be considered or to short-list them or reduce the zone of consideration for purposes of selection. Respondent submits that such process of short-listing or reducing the zone of consideration may apply at the stage of interview as well as at the stage of written examination. It is also submitted that the enormity of number of applicants who have responded to the advertisement notifying only a few posts did compel adoption of reasonable methods of short-listing candidates or reducing the zone of consideration. Respondent submits that unless this Court is persuaded to hold mat the principles adopted in such short listing or reduction of zone of consideration is illegal, arbitrary and unreasonable, this Court may not interfere or grant the reliefs which the petitioners seek. Respondent has stated in the counter affidavit that the reduction of zone of consideration even for purposes of admitting the candidates for written examination has been sanctioned by instructions issued by the Chairman of the Corporation and which was communicated by letter dated 6-11-1991. Respondent submits that the above instructions were issued to clarify the recruitment procedure adopted in 1979 whereby those with S.S.C./H.S.C/XII Standard/Inter/P.U.C etc., were also made eligible to apply for appointment as sub-staff replacing the 1971 instructions restricting eligibility only to those who had studied upto and not beyond IX Standard. Classification of the candidates with IX Standard qualification and those with higher qualification is sought to be justified for the reason that the former are eligible for appointment only as sub-staff, whereas the latter are eligible for appointment in some higher posts also. The graded preference for short listing on the basis of marks and the decision to allow 10 times the number of vacancies in respect of 75% of the vacancies for IX Standard and 25% for candidates with higher qualifications also is sought to be justified on the same reason. He also submitted that in prescribing eligibility criteria, in classifying candidates and in effecting reservations, the Corporation took into consideration the nature of the job and its requirements and such considerations were fully justified. The respondent has stated that candidates with S.S.C./ H.S.C. Standard/P.U.C/Intermediate/XII Standard with not less than 53 marks in the qualifying examination have been allowed to write the examination scheduled to be held on 2-2-1992.

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