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Unlawful rejection of a candidate due to a late OBC-NCL certificate submission: Kerala High Court

Unlawful rejection of a candidate due to a late OBC-NCL certificate submissionis is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research v. Smitha V S (WA.No.2029 OF 2018) through a Division Bench of Alexander Thomas and K. Babu, JJ.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The current appeal was filed in opposition to the Single Judge’s order, which rejected the appellants’ arguments and interfered with the decision to reject the respondent’s candidacy in the OBC-NCL category. Instead, the Single Judge instructed the appellants to accept the respondent’s certificate and treat her as an eligible OBC-NCL candidate after carefully considering the opposing arguments based on the materials presented to the Court.

The respondent was in the non-creamy layer category of OBC. She had submitted an application for the position of Technical Assistant, Chemistry in response to the appellant, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, which had issued a call for applications. There was one opening for each of the general category, OBC category, and Scheduled Caste category. Later, due to a delay in the filing of the non-creamy layer certificate, her representation was cancelled.

The appellants claim that in order to be qualified to be considered under the OBC category, an applicant needed to have a non-creamy layer certificate for the relevant financial year, which was requirement No.10 in the selection notification. The appellants further argued that the respondent was only short-listed under the general category during the document verification process because she had not included a valid OBC-NCL certificate with her application. The respondent was put in second place on the waiting list for the UR (unreserved) category in the choose list because she was unable to provide the needed OBC – NCL certificate.

The respondent was deemed unsuccessful because she failed to submit the needed OBC-NCL certificate for the current fiscal year together with the application and because she provided no explanation for her failure to do so when completing the online application.

JUDGMENT

Four steps were explicitly listed in clause 26 of the selection notification’s “How to Apply” section. Take a printout of the completed application form, attach proof of payment, and send it, along with self-attested copies of the certificates for educational qualifications and experience. Therefore, the Court concluded that certificates proving educational qualification, experience, and community were required to be supplied along with the hard copy of the application after reading Clause 26 and step 4 therein read with Clause 11. OBC-NCL certificate was therefore excluded. Therefore, there was no requirement that a paper copy of the application be submitted together with a copy of the OBC-NCL certificate for the current year.

In the current instance, the respondent’s application was submitted before the specified deadline, and she also provided a certificate attesting to her OBC status, which incidentally also attested to her NCL eligibility. Only the change in income for the fiscal year 2017–18 was at issue. Given the aforementioned factors, the Court determined that the learned Single Judge’s considered conclusions in the contested judgement in favour of the respondent interfering with the contested decision of the appellants that resulted in the rejection of her application for the position of Technical Assistant (Chemistry) reserved for OBC-NCL could not be characterised as unlawful, incorrect, or perverse.

The Court therefore noted that in the facts and circumstances of this case, rejecting the respondent’s application on the basis of the OBC category’s tardy filing of the pertinent OBC-NCL certificate would essentially mean eliminating a qualified candidate with significant research experience. The respondent’s rights and opportunities under Articles 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution will inevitably result in a situation where they are flagrantly infringed.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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