Employer’s hiring choice endorsed

The Supreme Court has held that overqualified people for a post did not necessarily mean that it required lower credentials.

"Recruitments, therefore, are to be made strictly in accordance with the criteria in the advertisement and the recruitment policy of the respondent company,” read a five-page judgment authored by SC’s Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah upholding the Lahore High Court's verdict.

“Any deviation therefrom, would allow entry to ineligible persons and deprive many eligible candidates,” it added.

The petitioners had applied for the post of line superintendents grade-I (BPS-15) at the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) in pursuance of an advertisement in 2015.

The petitioners were not considered for the post on the grounds that they did not meet the eligibility criteria or selection requirement as per the advertisement. The refusal on behalf of Lesco was challenged by the petitioners through a constitutional petition.

It was allowed by a single judge of the LHC and the company was directed to appoint the petitioners to the posts.

Later, the company challenged the judge's verdict before a division bench of the LHC through an intra-court appeal, which was allowed through a judgment dated November 21, 2019.

The second LHC verdict held that the petitioners did not meet the requirement of the advertisement and secondly that they, being overqualified for the post, were not suitable for it.

Now, the petitioners had challenged the LHC judgment before the apex court.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, led by Justice Shah, heard the matter.

The judgment held that the autonomy, agency and free choice of the employing institution must be respected and it should be allowed to recruit according to the criteria advertised.

It added that anyone overqualified for the post, if not entertained by the employing company, especially if it was an institutional policy, the court must refrain from interfering in its internal governance.

The SC verdict noted that inducting candidates possessing a higher qualification than the advertised criteria for the post would also have a social impact as it would deprive people with less education of job opportunities.

“It will cause injustice to those applicants who possess a DAE [diploma of associate engineer], the prescribed qualification in the advertisement, because applicants with a higher qualification would seek automatic preference based on their qualification even when such qualification is not prescribed in the advertisement,” the SC noted.

The top court observed that it would also disrupt the working of the institution by having overqualified people working as line superintendents and affect their hierarchy in the organisation.

"The court must take into account [the] socio-economic perspectives in order to ensure that employment opportunities are created for all tiers of the society, it added.

“The Division Bench of the [Lahore] High Court has, therefore, rightly repelled the contention of discrimination by placing reliance on judgments of this court. The eligibility criteria, advertised in accordance with the recruitment policy of the respondent company, creates a distinct class of persons who are DAE holders and are eligible to apply for the post of [the] line superintendent,” the judgment read.

The SC observed that the petitioners, who did not hold the desired qualification, did not belong to the class of candidates.

“As such, there is no discrimination if the employing institution decides to only consider candidates who hold the prescribed qualification of DAE instead of the petitioners who do not possess the same and are over or differently qualified. Consequently, it cannot be held that the respondent company’s policy of not inducting applicants with a higher qualification to the post of line superintendent is discriminatory or arbitrary. In fact, such an internal policy provides social justice by opening up employment at different tiers," it added.

The judgment noted that there was no force in the contention that as the petitioners possessed a higher qualification than what had been advertised, they were to be necessarily considered eligible for the post.

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