The Madras High Court has held that applications of “overqualified” candidates in recruitment of public posts can be rejected, if the appointing authority had prescribed the maximum educational qualification expected.
Justice S Vaidyanathan made the observation on Thursday while dismissing a writ petition filed by an engineering graduate, challenging the rejection of her candidature for the post of Train Operator/Station Controller in Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL). The CMRL had rejected her application citing that the qualification expected for the job was a diploma.
During the hearing, the CMRL argued that it had informed applicants that those holding a BE/BTech or higher qualifications are not eligible for the posts mentioned in the petition. Meanwhile, the petitioner argued the rejection is unacceptable as “there is an unemployment situation in this country — more particularly in the State of Tamil Nadu”.
Admitting the “existence of an unemployment problem”, Justice Vaidyanathan dismissed the petition, stating that “the Court has no other option, but to hold that the petitioner is not entitled to relief on account of overqualification”.
A top source in CMRL, who was part of the recruiting process, said one of the reasons for insisting on such a rule against overqualification was that the apprehension that overqualified candidates taking up these roles would soon start studying further and try for promotions.
In 2014, the Allahabad High Court, while hearing a petition by a person denied the job of a peon in Punjab National Bank because he was overqualified, had observed that the employer can take disciplinary action against an employee if he fails to perform his/her duties. The court, however, stated that the employer cannot deny an opportunity to an eligible candidate “on the ground that if appointed, he would not perform his duties. Qualification prescribed is minimum. Higher qualification cannot become a disadvantage to the candidate.” Directing the employer to allow the petitioner to take up the position, the HC bench had said “higher education, if not a magic wand, is surely a jewel in one’s crown; if not a hero, it can never be a villain.”
Retired judge of Madras High Court, K Chandru, derided the overqualification issue, saying there is only “qualification”.
“Attitude of judges has completely undergone a change now. Originally, they used to say how can you punish people with merit. Now, it is happening the other way,” Chandru said.