Courts told not to interfere in recruitment by institutions – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday held that courts should refrain from interfering in the internal governance of institutions in case it did not entertain an overqualified candidate for an advertised post.

“We hold that autonomy and free choice of an employing institution must be respected and should be allowed to recruit according to the advertised criteria,” observed Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in his judgment.

Headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, a three-judge bench had taken up an appeal of Waqas Aslam against Nov 21, 2019, Lahore High Court order in an intra-court appeal (ICA).

Recruitment should be made strictly in accordance with the criteria in the advertisement and the recruitment policy of a company since any deviation from the criteria would allow entry of ineligible persons and deprive many eligible candidates, Justice Shah observed.

Petitioners including Waqas Aslam and some other candidates had applied for the post of Line Superintendent (LS) Grade-I (BPS15) at the Lahore Electric Supply Company Limited (Lesco) in pursuance of an advertisement in 2015.

Autonomy and free choice of an employing institution must be respected, says SC

The petitioners hold BS in Electrical Engineering (BS degree) and were overqualified for the post advertised as the required qualification for the post was a Diploma in Associate Engineering (Electrical) (DAE) with “B” Grade from any government Poly Technical Institute plus three years’ experience.

However, the petitioners were not considered for the post on the ground that they did not meet the eligibility criteria/selection requirements as per the advertisement. The refusal by Lesco was challenged by the petitioners through a constitutional petition, which was allowed by a judge of the high court with a direction to Lesco to appoint the petitioners to the posts.

In return, Lesco challenged the order through the ICA which was allowed on Nov 21, 2019, by holding that the petitioners did not meet the requirements of the advertisement and secondly that the petitioners being overqualified for the post were not suitable for the position. The petitioners later challenged the judgment before the Supreme Court.

Justice Shah observed that Lesco publicly advertised various posts including 89 posts of LS, clearly specifying the eligibility criteria/qualification requirements for the posts. The eligibility criteria settled by the company and previously advertised in the public advertisement represent a policy decision of the respondent company.

While prescribing qualifications for a post and determining eligibility criteria, the employing institution is best suited to assess its needs based on the function and nature of the post, the judgment said.

One of the policy decisions of the respondent company is that LS must be a DAE holder and anyone overqualified will not be inducted. This being an internal policy decision of the respondent company, judicial review must tread warily and must not be extended to expand the ambit of the prescribed eligibility criteria as has been rightly held in the impugned judgment, Justice Shah observed.

It is also important to note that in the absence of any such stipulation in the advertisement or the recruitment policy of the respondent company, it is not possible for the court to draw an inference that a higher qualification pre-supposes the acquisition of a lower qualification or that a candidate having a higher qualification is better suited for the post as opposed to a candidate possessing the required qualification that has been expressly prescribed in the advertisement according to the nature of the post and the requirements of the employer, the judgment explained.

Therefore, the judgment said, it is not for the court to examine the qualification and eligibility in a recruitment process since the court, at best, can look into the legality of the recruitment process, but it cannot delve deeper into the design and need of the employing institution or second guess their selection criteria and job requirements.

It is also not open to the courts to embark upon comparing various degrees held by the applicants with the advertised qualifications and carrying out the function of an employer by comparison of these qualifications, observed Justice Shah.

The power of judicial review by the courts cannot be extended to determine equivalence or comparison of academic qualifications for a post or assume the role of a human resource department of an employing institution. This is a specific expert area and can be best resolved by the institution itself according to the suitability and requirements of a certain post as designed and desired by the employer, the judgment said.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2023

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