Article 16 of the India constitution talks about the right to equal opportunity in the matters of public employment. This constitutional provision reads as:
1. There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
2. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office under the State.
3. Nothing in this article shall prevent Parliament from making any law prescribing, in regard to a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Government of, or any local or other authority within, a State or Union territory, any requirement as to residence within that State or Union territory prior to such employment or appointment.
When it comes to providing Government jobs the article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity to the Indian citizens. The clauses 1 and 2 make it clear that no citizen shall face any classism or discrimination with regard to public employment. These two are the basis for equal employment opportunity and eliminate categorization, be it religion, race, place of birth, caste or any other thing. This will include qualification as well. Nobody can be deprived of a job by the Govt (state) by saying "you are more qualified” . This is a ridiculous argument.
The article 16 gives Parliament the power to make any law prescribing the requirements “for a class or classes of employment or appointment to an office under the Central, State, UT or the local authority.”
Clause 4 of the Article acts as a guideline for the government for making any provision for the reservation of appointments in favour of any backward class of citizens who are “not adequately represented in the services under the State”.
Like Article 14, 15 and 17, this article and its provisions indicate the government’s commitment to protect the interests of the SCs and STs.
The 77th and 81st amendments are considered as technical amendments to protect reservation to SC/ST employees in promotions and in filling backlog of vacancies
Through the 85th amendment of the Constitution the Article 16 (4A) was inserted and amended to give the state the power to provide quota in promotions with consequential seniority. Clause 4A was inserted after the Supreme Court observed that the reservation of appointments/posts under Article 16(4) is restricted to initial appointment and it cannot extend to reservation in the matter of promotion.
While upholding the insertion of clause 4 A, the Supreme Court imposed a condition – every time a government wants to exercise its power under Article 16(4A), “it must take up a specific exercise to demonstrate that the SCs/STs were not adequately represented.”
SSRB violating constitution
The J&K Services Selection Recruitment Board (SSRB) through its advertisement No: 01 of 2020 dated: 20.06.2021 advertised around 8575 class IV posts under UT, divisional and district cadre. Almost 50 % posts were reserved under various categories.
Under SRO 99 of 2008, the minimum qualification for class IV posts is 10th and 12th but graduates, post graduates or higher qualified candidates were also allowed to apply but no points were to be given for the higher qualification they possessed. There are hundreds of graduates and post graduates already working in various Govt departments and they also get promotion opportunities. After 6 to 7 years many Class IV employees (peons, orderlies etc) especially in education and many other Govt departments get promoted as Junior Assistants (clerks) provided they qualify the computer test. These qualified people become a good human resource for Govt organizations. Even when they are peons or orderlies, the office or section heads avail their technical services as well. I have seen many qualified orderlies doing computer work in the Govt offices.
Complaint in Grievance cell
A class IV job aspirant namely Pawan Kumar from Jammu fileded a grievance before the Government Grievance Cell (GGC) on 13.07.2020 vide grievance No: 999001452885. Pawan Kumar’s application was not being accepted on the portal as mentioned above. This was the problem with many other candidates. The Government Grievance Cell (GGC) forwarded Pawan Kumar’s query to SSRB which provided an unsatisfactory reply to him. He again requested GGC to intervene and appealed Lt Governor Manoj Sinha for his personal intervention. Pawan wanted clarification on whether higher qualified candidates were eligible for applying for Class IV posts ? The GGC sought a clarification of the fresh grievance from the General Administration Department (GAD). The GAD sent its reply on 4.11.2020 which reads “
“For these posts class 10th as minimum and class 12th as maximum qualification has been kept as eligibility , however any person who has qualification higher than this can also apply”
The GAD’s reply made it clear that even high qualified candidates could apply for the class IV posts. Out of 4 lakh candidates who applied for Class IV posts, 3 lakh plus appeared for the written test around February end and March 1st week this year. The complete merit list was made public by SSRB on 25th May 2021 and the shortlist was published on 26th June 2021. In the same list SSRB asked shortlisted candidates to submit required documents for verification. The SSRB in addition to it directed the shortlisted candidates to give an undertaking that their qualification was not higher than 10 +2 . This unrealistic provision frustrated most of the graduate and post graduate candidates who had already been shortlisted for class IV posts.
If the constitution impresses on equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any Govt office, how can the state ask graduates or post graduate candidates to give an undertaking that their qualification isn’t above 10+2 ? Will Govt give all the graduates and post graduates better jobs than a class IV job; they will submit an affidavit. It is a known fact that Govt can’t do this. When the GAD has already clarified the matter before the written test was held , how can SSRB come up with these irrational conditions? When SRO 99 of 2008 is already a benchmark for the appointment of class IV employees, how can a new provision be inserted especially at a time when the final result is out ?
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder and Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.