Pointing out that in the instant case, where the first choice of selecting candidates possessed with BSc Forestry qualification was a matter of prescription and not mere preference, the first bench comprising Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said ranking candidates with BSc Forestry as first choice could not be said to be arbitrary, keeping in view that the post is that of a Forest Apprentice.
“It is no doubt true that equivalent qualifications are mentioned, but the proviso to the Rule gives an option to the employer to have a BSc Forestry qualified candidate as the first choice. This is not to prohibit or exclude candidates having equivalent qualifications, as they can still be offered appointment in the event there are no candidates available with BSc in Forestry degree,” the bench said, adding that a rule of preference cannot override the Special Rules for selection.
Senior counsel Nalini Chidambaram had contended that the alternative qualification of Bachelor’s Degree in any of the subjects contained in Clause 1 (b) was equivalent to the Bachelor’s Degree in Forestry. Therefore, the appellants who pursued their studies in Tamil qualify as PSTM candidates and are entitled to be offered the benefit against 20 per cent of the vacancies on a par with those who possess BSc in Forestry.
But appearing for the State, Additional Advocate General SR Rajagopal submitted that the appellants cannot claim their consideration against 20 per cent vacancies, as they have no such vested right. Once the seats are filled up with the candidates with BSc Forestry degree, there would be no necessity of going to the second category of equivalent qualifications.
Appointment can be offered to those with other degrees only after exhausting the candidates with a degree in Forestry. “It is at that stage that they can be given preference, but not over and above the candidates possessed of a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry,” he argued.