Article 14 not meant to perpetuate illegality, nor does it envisage negative equality

Once an order is bad at the time of appointment itself, it cannot be sanctified later and employees so appointed cannot claim any relief on a par with regular employees, the Supreme Court has ruled.

“A person employed in violation of provisions is not entitled to any relief including salary. For a valid and legal appointment, mandatory compliance with the said constitutional requirement is to be fulfilled,” said a Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan

Writing the judgment, Justice Chauhan said: “The equality clause enshrined in Article 16 requires that every such appointment be made by an open advertisement so as to enable all eligible persons to compete on merit. In the absence of an enabling provision for grant of relaxation, no relaxation can be made. Even if such a power is provided under the statute, it cannot be exercised arbitrarily.”

The Bench allowed an appeal filed by the Orissa government against a judgment of the Orissa High Court directing the State to pay revised UGC scales of pay to Mamata and others, who were appointed though they did not fulfil the eligibility norms for the enhanced salary structure.

“At the relevant time of appointment of the respondents/teachers, there has been a requirement of good second class i.e. 54 per cent marks in the master's course and none of the respondents secured the said percentage and their appointments were approved after a long time,” the Bench said.

It was crystal clear that a teacher who had been appointed without his possessing the requisite qualification at the initial stage “cannot get the benefit of grant-in-aid scheme unless he acquires the additional qualification and therefore the question of grant of UGC pay scale would not arise in any circumstance unless such teacher acquires the additional qualification making him eligible for the benefit of the grant-in-aid scheme.”

The Bench said: “It is a settled legal proposition that Article 14 is not meant to perpetuate illegality and it does not envisage negative equality. Thus, even if some other similarly situated persons have been granted some benefit inadvertently or by mistake, such an order does not confer any legal right on those who did not have the prescribed qualification.”

The Bench said: “Excellence of instruction provided by an educational institution depends directly on the excellence of the teaching staff. Therefore, unless they themselves possess a good academic record/minimum qualifications prescribed as eligibility, it is beyond the imagination of anyone that standard of education can be maintained/enhanced. We have to be very strict in maintaining high academic standards and maintaining academic discipline and academic rigour if our country is to progress. Democracy depends for its very life on a high standard of general, vocational and professional education. Dissemination of learning with search for new knowledge with discipline all round must be maintained at all costs. It is necessary to maintain a high academic standard and academic discipline.”

In this case, the Bench held, if a person did not possess the requisite qualification on the date of appointment he/she would not be entitled to the grant-in-aid scheme. If the person overcame the deficiency, his/her case would be considered for the UGC pay scale from the date of his/her doing so.

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