High Court directs SSB to reframe teachers list

GK File Photo of J&K High Court Srinagar/Mubashir Khan

The High Court Tuesday directed the Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (SSB) to reframe teachers list and ruled that a candidate cannot be deprived of the weightage of higher qualification if she or he omits to fill the requisite column in an online application form.

Dismissing a batch of appeals by SSB which had challenged it’s single bench’s decision, a division bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey and Justice Vinod Chatterjee Koul directed the board to add points for higher qualification of candidates who had omitted to fill it in their online application forms for teachers’ posts advertised in 2017.

The court also directed the board to re-draw the select list issued expeditiously within eight weeks.

In December 2017, the board had invited applications from eligible candidates for selection against the posts of teachers by issuing 40 separate notifications for districts of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Thereafter, the board issued the provisional shortlists with respect to the notifications issued on the basis of the criteria with 85 points for multiple choice based written test, 5 points for B Ed, 5 points for M Ed, 2 points for PG (2 years) or integrated PG (5 years) one point for M Phil and for Ph D (after M. Phil) 2 points and 3 points in case of direct Ph D.

After issuance of the provisional shortlists, a number of aggrieved competing candidates made representations before the board stating that they had not been given additional points for higher qualification on the ground of same having been omitted in their online application forms following which they approached the court.

The single bench had directed the board to call the aggrieved candidates for counseling, verify their documents and assess their grade by awarding weightage of higher qualification denied to them on account of having omitted filling up the requisite column in their online application forms.

The issue before the court for consideration was whether the candidates who inadvertently omitted to bubble the relevant field while submitting their application forms could be denied the benefit subsequently.

After hearing senior lawyer Z A Shah on behalf of the aggrieved candidates and the SSB through its counsel, the division bench said: “We find that the origin of the controversy lies in the format of the application form so prescribed by the board for the selection process in question. This is so because the column relating to qualification, as appeared in the online application form, had shown B Ed and M Ed and the candidates by mentioning the higher qualification of M Ed, obviously and clearly meant that they had already obtained B Ed qualification without which they could not have acquired the higher M Ed qualification.”

The court pointed out that where a candidate had made a mention of higher qualification of M Ed, it was implicit in such qualification itself that the candidate had already obtained the lower qualification of B Ed without which it was not possible to acquire the reflected higher qualification.

“We do not feel that the candidates and writ petitioners by mentioning the qualification as M Ed had violated any of the terms and conditions mentioned in the application format,” the court said.

Regarding the case of the board that only such candidates who had entered the requisite qualification in their application forms would get preference, the court said: “This claim does not match with the qualification column of B Ed and M Ed so prescribed by the board in the application format, thereby misleading the candidates and writ petitioners in filing up their application forms.”

Apart from this perspective, the court said an identical question was decided by a single bench headed by Justice Magrey in terms of judgment dated 1 June 2015 wherein the court had held that the candidate could not be deprived of legitimate right for omission to bubble the relevant field while submitting the application form.

The bench said that the controversy before them stands settled by the judgment, which, as stated by senior counsel Shah had not till date been reversed or modified or set aside by any other higher forum.

While the court dismissed the appeals by the board, the court allowed the petitions against the consideration orders passed by the board and quashed the orders.

“The board is directed to assign appropriate points to all the relevant qualifications omitted by the writ petitioners in their online application forms including the qualification of B Ed to the credit of the writ petitioners in case the same have been acquired by these petitioners prior to the last cut-off date of the advertisement notice concerned. Evaluate their merit on the basis of such award of points and redraw the final selection lists for the posts in question accordingly,” the court said. “This exercise should be undertaken and concluded by the board expeditiously, and, in any case, no later than eight weeks from the date of this order.”