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The Madras High Court recently made critical note of the trend of overqualified persons applying for lower grade government jobs. Justice SM Subramniam observed,
“…on account of large scale unemployment problem in our great nation, it is unfortunate that the engineering degree holders, agricultural degree holders and other professional degree holders and the master degree holders are participating in the recruitment process even for Group-4 services and for basic services in Government departments and even in High Court services.“
The Court proceeded to emphasise that if such persons were so appointed, it would not only harm the quality of public administration, but it would also take away employment opportunities for others more suited to be employed to the post.
The observations were made in a plea filed by a Mechanical Engineering graduate, who had obtained his BE in 1999, challenging his non-appointment as an Assistant in the Revenue Department. While he had cleared the written examination, he was not cleared for appointment following the interview round.
The Government Order issued for recruitment had stated that those possessing BA/BSc/BCom degrees were eligible for the post. The petitioner contended that when it comes to selection for government services, professional degrees could be equated with Arts degrees. The Court, however, dismissed his plea given that the recruitment notification did not expressly state that BE candidates were eligible for the post.
Further, in view of allied concerns over the proclivity of overqualified persons to settle for lower-grade government jobs, the Court has also directed the state to revise its recruitment policies.
Public Administration deteriorates when overqualified persons are appointed to lower grade posts
The Court observed that the employment of overqualified persons for lower-grade public jobs would adversely affect the quality of public administration. As stated in the order,
“…if over qualified candidates were appointed for performing the duties and responsibilities attached to the Group-4 services and basic services, undoubtedly, efficiency level in the public administration would be brought down. After getting appointment, these over qualified persons are not performing their duties and responsibilities attached to the posts under Group-4 services as well as basic services.
… Acute unemployment issues prompted this over qualified persons to apply for such posts under Group-4 services as well as for the basic services. However, the competent authorities may not be in a position to effectively extract work from these employees with reference to the job responsibility…”
On similar considerations, the Court also added that,
“Equally, candidates, who are possessing under qualification cannot be allowed to perform higher responsibility.”
As regards the issues likely to arise if overqualified persons are appointed to low grade posts, the judge pointed towards recruitment of sweepers and other Grade-IV posts to the High Court itself. He observed,
“Even, the Madras High Court administration is facing the similar problems. Sweepers recently appointed for High Court services are the degree holders, diploma holders or master degree holders. The High Court is unable to extract work effectively and efficiently for better administration. These employees are evading to perform duties and responsibilities and they are sometime refusing to perform duties attached to the posts.
At the outset, these over qualified employees are not performing their duties with devotion and in the interest of the public at large. When the spirit of service was not shown by these employees, it would be very difficult by the administrators to perform their duties and responsibilities in a peaceful manner, so as to run administration smoothly.“
Similar issues are common when it comes to uniformed services including the states’s police force. The Court proceeded to observe,
“Large number of degree holders, professional degree holders, master degree holders are being appointed as Grade-II Police Constables in the Tamil Nadu Police Service. After appointment into police services, they are further preparing only for the competitive examination even during the duty hours. They are mostly associated with the smart phones as well as study materials.
Such an attitude can never be tolerated. No police person during the duty hours should evade the duty or commit dereliction of duty or negligence. Even the police officials are unable to control this, in view of the fact that it would be very difficult for them to control these kind of activities.”
Employment of overqualified personnel infringes employment opportunities of suitably qualified candidates
An allied concern raised by the Court was that if overqualified persons are allowed to be appointed to such lower-grade public jobs, those candidates whose qualifications are appropriate for the post would be deprived of opportunities.
“… [The] constitutional rights of the suitable candidates, who are actually qualified for the posts under Group-4 services and last grade services, [would be] infringed and those candidates cannot compete with the over qualified candidates in the matter of performing in the written examination…
…this Court is of the considered opinion that appointments of over qualified persons in the lower posts are to be stopped at once, in order to provide equal opportunity to the unemployed youths, who are all possessing suitable qualification for the particular posts notified.”
Review scheme of prescription of educational qualifications
Before parting with the matter, the Court also impleaded the Principal Secretary to the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department of the government with a view to initiate the review of the scheme of prescribing education qualifications for government jobs.
The judge noted,
“Currently, minimum educational qualifications and other related criterias are prescribed by the employers. However, no maximum educational qualifications are prescribed, so as to restrict the opportunity to more suitable candidates. This being the reason, these over qualified persons and professional degree holders are participating in the recruitment process for the posts under Group-4 services as well as basic services…
… [the] prescription of educational qualifications must be in consonance with the job profile and the nature of the posts. The concept of level playing field is to be adopted, while prescribing educational qualifications for the posts under Group-4 services and the basic services”
In order to address the issue highlighted, and given that efficient public administration is a constitutional mandate, the Court has directed the state to review the scheme of prescription of educational qualifications in commensuration with the nature of the jobs.
To this end, the government has been directed to pass suitable Government Orders, prescribing the minimum educational qualifications as well as maximum educational qualifications for government posts.
The Court has further ordered that these directions be carried out by the state within 12 weeks.