APEX COURT- PROMOTIONS-whether the restriction introduced on the basis of educational qualification for participating in a Limited Departmental Competitive Examination (hereinafter referred to as “LDCE”) violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India. = The LDCE is meant for selection for promotion from the entire lot of Forest Guards irrespective of seniority but subject to minimum five years of service. In that situation, introducing an additional restriction of graduation for participation in the LDCE without there being any quota reserved for graduates will be discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India since it creates a class within a class. The merit of the 25 per cent cannot be prejudged by a sub-classification. It violates the equality and equal opportunity guarantees. The Forest Guards, irrespective of educational qualifications, having formed one class for the purpose of participation in the LDCE, a further classification between graduates and non-graduates for participating in the LDCE is unreasonable. It is a case of equals being treated unequally.- Rule 7(2) of the Recruitment Rules to the extent that it imposes the requirement of being a graduate is declared unconstitutional. However this judgment shall not affect the promotions already made. But for further promotions, the LDCE shall be held afresh granting opportunity to all eligible Forest Guards.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 17974 OF 2017
(Arising out of S.L.P.(C) No. 19262 of 2016)
MAHARASHTRA FOREST GUARDS
AND FORESTERS UNION … APPELLANT (S)
VERSUS
THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA AND
OTHERS … RESPONDENT (S)
J U D G M E N T
KURIAN, J.:
Leave granted.
2. The short but complex question arising for consideration in
this case is whether the restriction introduced on the basis of
educational qualification for participating in a Limited
Departmental Competitive Examination (hereinafter referred
to as “LDCE”) violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution
of India.
3. Undisputed facts of the case: The educational qualification
for appointment to the post of Forest Guard in the Forester,
Forest Guard, Ranger-Surveyor, Surveyor, Head Clerk,
Accountant and Clerk-cum-Typist (Recruitment) Rules, 1987
(hereinafter referred to as “the Recruitment Rules”) is Higher
REPORTABLE
Secondary School Certificate (hereinafter referred to as
“HSSC”). It is a feeder category for promotion to the post of
Forester. The relevant part of the Recruitment Rules, as
amended in 2013, read as follows :
“Rule -7. (1) Appointment to the post of Forester in the
Forest Department shall be made either:-
(a) by promotion of a suitable person from
amongst the persons holding the post of
Forest Guard on the basis of seniority as per
the circle gradation list and subject to fitness,
having not less than three years regular
service in that post; or
(b) By selection of a suitable person from
amongst the persons holding the post of
Forest Guard, on the basis of common merit
list prepared by the
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of
Forests (Administration Subordinate Cadre),
Maharashtra State, Nagpur, on the basis of
result of the “Limited Departmental
Competitive Examination”, conducted by the
Chief Conservator of Forests (Education and
Training), Pune on the basis of rules made for
the Limited Departmental Competitive
Examination by the Government, from time
to time.
(2) For appearing in the examination the candidates
shall, —
(a) have completed five years of regular service
as Forest Guard in the Forest Department;
(b) possess a degree of a statutory university or
any other qualification declared by the
Government to be equivalent thereto;”
(Emphasis supplied)
4. By the amendment introduced in the Recruitment Rules, 75
per cent of the posts in the category of Forester are to be
filled up on the basis of seniority-cum-fitness (Rule 7(1)(a)).
The remaining 25 per cent is to be filled up on the basis of
the LDCE (Rule 7(1)(b)).
5. Two main conditions have been prescribed to participate in
the competitive examination – (i) the candidate should have
completed minimum five years of service as Forest Guard
and (ii) the candidate should be a graduate. It is the
contention of the appellant that as far as the first condition is
concerned, the Department is well within its competence to
prescribe eligibility of minimum experience for a Forest
Guard to get promoted as Forester even on the basis of the
competitive examination since the post of Forester requires
experience in service and exposure in the field. However,
introducing a further restriction on the basis of educational
qualification to participate in the LDCE is discriminatory.
6. The contention of Shri Shekhar Naphade, learned Senior
Counsel appearing for the State is that the whole purpose
behind the amendment was to introduce young blood in the
post of Forester where they have to undertake physically
challenging responsibilities as well, and that is why
preference is sought to be given to graduates.
Laudable may be the object but the implementation of the policy
behind the object can only be in accordance with law. If the young
graduates are otherwise intellectually sharp and educationally
proficient, they would prove to be more meritorious in the
competitive LDCE. As the Rules now stand, opportunity has to be
thrown open to the youngsters who are non-graduates also in the
seniority list but who have completed the required number of years
of service and yet are otherwise alert, efficient and proficient. Denial
of the same would certainly be violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the
Constitution.
7. We are afraid, the reference made by the learned Senior
Counsel to the Constitution Bench decisions of this Court is
of no avail. There is no quarrel with the well-settled
proposition that there can be a classification based on the
educational qualification if so warranted by the
circumstances. But that is not what has been done in the
present case. Based on the educational qualification, a class
within a class has been created violating the guarantee of
equality by restricting the participation in the LDCE only to
graduates.
8. The Constitution Bench Judgment of this Court in Roshan
Lal Tandon v. Union of India1
, is a case where direct
1
(1968) 1 SCR 185
recruits i.e. apprentice train examiner, and promotees i.e.
skilled artisans were integrated into one group as Grade-‘D’.
Thereafter, 80 per cent vacancies in Grade-‘C’ were to be
filled up from class of apprentice train examiners and the
remaining 20 per cent from among the train examiners on
the basis of selection. That was held to be bad on the
ground that “once the direct recruits and promotees are
absorbed in one cadre, they form one class and they cannot
be discriminated for the purpose of further promotion to the
higher grade-‘C’”.
9. In State of Mysore and another v. P. Narasing Rao2
, the
same Constitution Bench held the higher qualification of
S.S.L.C. to be a relevant consideration for fixing higher
pay-scale than that of non-matriculate tracers. That
classification, on the basis of higher qualification, was
upheld.
10. The State of Jammu and Kashmir v. Shri Triloki Nath
Khosa and others3
is a later Constitution Bench decision of
1973 where Roshan Lal (supra) and Narsing Rao (supra)
have been discussed. The question posed in Triloki Nath
Khosa (supra) is as follows – “if persons drawn from
different sources are integrated into one class, can they be
2
(1968) 1 SCR 407
3
(1974) 1 SCC 19
classified for purposes of promotion on the basis of their
educational qualifications?”. That was answered in the
affirmative. This was a case where promotion from the
integrated cadre of Assistant Engineers to Executive
Engineers was limited to persons possessing a Bachelors
Degree in Engineering or equivalent with seven years
service. It was held :
“31. Classification, however, is fraught with the
danger that it may produce artificial inequalities and
therefore, the right to classify is hedged in with salient
restraints; or else, the guarantee of equality will be
submerged in class legislation masquerading as laws
meant to govern well marked classes characterized by
different and distinct attainments. Classification,
therefore, must be truly founded on substantial
differences which distinguish persons grouped together
from those left out of the group and such differential
attributes must bear a just and rational relation to the
object sought to be achieved.
xxx xxx xxx xxx
50. We are therefore of the opinion that though
persons appointed directly and by promotion were
integrated into a common class of Assistant Engineers,
they could, for purposes of promotion to the cadre of
Executive Engineers, be classified on the basis of
educational qualifications. The Rule providing that
graduates shall be eligible for such promotion to the
exclusion of diploma-holders does not violate Articles
14 and 16 of the Constitution and must be upheld.”
11. There was also no sub-classification as in the instant case.
Having upheld the Rule, it was further held at paragraph-51
as follows:
“51. But we hope that this judgment will not be
construed as a charter for making minute and
microcosmic classifications. Excellence is, or ought to
be, the goal of all good governments and excellence
and equality are not friendly bed-fellows. A pragmatic
approach has therefore to be adopted in order to
harmonize the requirements of public services with the
aspirations of public servants. But let us not evolve,
through imperceptible extensions, a theory of
classification which may subvert, perhaps submerge,
the precious guarantee of equality. The eminent spirit
of an ideal society is equality and so we must not be
left to ask in wonderment: What after all is the
operational residue of equality and equal opportunity?”
(Emphasis supplied)
12. The concurring words of Krishna Iyer, J. at paragraphs-57 and
58 are also relevant:
“57. Mini-classifications based on
micro-distinctions are false to our egalitarian faith and
only substantial and straightforward classifications
plainly promoting relevant goals can have
constitutional validity. To overdo classification is to undo
equality. If in this case Government had prescribed that
only those degree holders who had secured over 70 per
cent marks could become Chief Engineers and those
with 60 per cent alone be eligible to be Superintending
Engineers or that foreign degrees would be preferred
we would have unhesitatingly voided it.
“58. The role of classification may well recede in
the long run, and the finer emphasis on broader
equalities implicit in the concluding thought of the
leading judgment will abide. The decision in this case
should not — and does not — imply that by an undue
accent on qualifications the Administration can cut back
on the larger tryst of equalitarianism or may hijack the
founding and fighting faith of social justice into the
enemy camp of intellectual domination by an elite. The
Court, in extreme cases, has to be the sentinel on the
qui-vive.”
(Emphasis
supplied)
It may be seen that it is a case where promotion to the post of
Executive Engineer and above was wholly assigned to graduates, a
classification based on educational qualification. There is no such
reservation or even a quota reserved for graduates in the instant
case.
13. T.R. Kothandaraman and others v. Tamil Nadu Water
Supply and Drainage BD and others4
discussed all the
previous judgments on classification and held at
paragraph-13 as follows:
“13. The aforesaid bird’s-eye view of important
decisions of this Court on the question of prescribing
quota in promotion to higher post based on the
educational qualification makes it clear that such a
qualification can in certain cases be a valid basis of
classification; and the classification need not be
relatable only to the eligibility criteria, but to
restrictions in promotion as well. Further, even if in a
case the classification would not be acceptable to the
court on principle, it would, before pronouncing its
judgment, bear in mind the historical background. It is
apparent that while judging the validity of the
classification, the court shall have to be conscious
about the need for maintaining efficiency in service and
also whether the required qualification is necessary for
the discharge of duties in the higher post.”
14. Having held so, the legal position was summarised at
paragraph-16, which reads as follows:
4
(1994) 6 SCC 282
“16. From what has been stated above, the
following legal propositions emerge regarding
educational qualification being a basis of classification
relating to promotion in public service:
(1) Higher educational qualification is a
permissible basis of classification,
acceptability of which will depend on the
facts and circumstances of each case.
(2) Higher educational qualification can be the
basis not only for barring promotion, but also
for restricting the scope of promotion.
(3) Restriction placed cannot however go to the
extent of seriously jeopardising the chances
of promotion. To decide this, the extent of
restriction shall have also to be looked into to
ascertain whether it is reasonable. Reasons
for this are being indicated later.”
(Emphasis supplied)
15. It was a case where the validity of the Rule which prescribed
ratio of 3:2 for direct recruits and promotees – the former
being degree holders and latter being diploma holders was
challenged as violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the
Constitution of India. It was held that higher educational
qualification has relevance in so far as holding of higher
promotional post is concerned in view of the nature of
function and duties attached to the post. Still further, this
Court held that prescribing a lesser quota for diploma
holders does not suffer from such an infirmity as to make a
diploma holder totally unfit for holding the post and hence
the ratio was not “inequitable so as to mock at the
guarantee of equality”.
16. The factual and legal position in the instant case is entirely
different. There is no quota reserved for the graduate Forest
Guard for promotion to the post of Forester. Seventy-five per
cent of the posts are to be filled through the regular
promotion channel based on seniority and twenty-five per
cent is “by selection of suitable persons from amongst the
persons holding the post of Forest Guard,
on the basis of common merit list prepared by the
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests
(Administration Subordinate Cadre), Maharashtra State,
Nagpur, on the basis of result of the “Limited Departmental
Competitive Examination. …..”.
17. The challenge is on the further rigor put on the eligibility to
appear in the LDCE. The whole purpose of the LDCE is to
encourage and facilitate the Forest Guards to get
accelerated promotion on the basis of merit. Since seniority
is the criterion for promotion to three-fourth of the posts,
one-fourth is given a chance to compete in a competitive
examination. It is also to be noted that there is no quota
prescribed on the basis of higher educational qualification.
The situation would have been different if, in the first place,
there had been a classification wherein 75 per cent of the
posts have to be filled based on seniority and 25 per cent
reserved for graduates and again subject to inter-se merit in
the competitive examination. That is not the situation in the
present case. The LDCE is meant for selection for promotion
from the entire lot of Forest Guards irrespective of seniority
but subject to minimum five years of service. In that
situation, introducing an additional restriction of graduation
for participation in the LDCE without there being any quota
reserved for graduates will be discriminatory and violative of
Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India since it creates
a class within a class. The merit of the 25 per cent cannot be
prejudged by a sub-classification. It violates the equality and
equal opportunity guarantees. The Forest Guards,
irrespective of educational qualifications, having formed one
class for the purpose of participation in the LDCE, a further
classification between graduates and non-graduates for
participating in the LDCE is unreasonable. It is a case of
equals being treated unequally.
18. Rule 7(2) of the Recruitment Rules to the extent that it
imposes the requirement of being a graduate is declared
unconstitutional. However this judgment shall not affect the
promotions already made. But for further promotions, the
LDCE shall be held afresh granting opportunity to all eligible
Forest Guards.
19. The appeal is allowed as above. There shall be no order as to
costs.
………………………J.
(KURIAN JOSEPH)
………………………J.
(R. BANUMATHI)
NEW DELHI;
November 3, 2017.
ITEM NO.1501 COURT NO.5 SECTION IX
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (C) No(s). 19262/2016
MAHARASHTRA FOREST GUARDS AND FORESTERS
UNION Petitioner(s)
VERSUS
THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA AND ORS. Respondent(s)
Date : 03-11-2017 This petition was called on for Judgment today.
For Petitioner(s) Mr. Satyajit A. Desai, Adv.
Ms. Anagha S. Desai, AOR

For Respondent(s) Mr. Shivaji M. Jadhav, Adv.
Mr. K. Parameshwar, Adv.
Ms. Astha Deep, Adv.
Mr. Brij Kishore Shah, Adv.
For M/S. S.M. Jadhav And Company, AOR

Mr. Nishant Ramakantrao Katneshwarkar, AOR
Ms. Deepa Kulkarni, Adv.
Mr. Somiran Sharma, AOR

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph pronounced the reportable
Judgment of the Bench comprising His Lordship and Hon’ble Mrs.
Justice R. Banumathi.
Leave granted.
The appeal is allowed.
Pending Interlocutory Applications, if any, stand disposed of.
(JAYANT KUMAR ARORA) (RENU DIWAN)
COURT MASTER ASSISTANT REGISTRAR
(Signed reportable Judgment is placed on the file)