Srinagar- In a landmark judgment, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh has allowed a plea by seven candidates “to ascend peak of their achievement” to become Range Officer Grade-I in forest department rather than “descend to the abyss of absurdity of a rule relating to the height requirement.”
Allowing a petition by the seven candidates who were dropped despite high merit on account of their lesser height than prescribed for the posts advertised by the JKPSC on 8 February 2018, Justice Rajnesh Oswal and Justice Rahul Bharti begun the judgment by observing that Mount Everest, standing at the height of 29030 ft., with a claim of being the highest point on Earth, succumbed to ascent by 6 ft. tall Sir Edmund Hillary in May, 1953 and 5 ft. tall Junko Ishibashi in May, 1975 making them first man and woman to be at the peak of the Mt. Everest to be followed in their footsteps by many men and women to scale the peak.
“As the long height was not an advantage for Sir Edmund Hillary, so was the short height not a handicap for Junko Ishibashi to conquer the Everest,” the court said, adding, “However, given to the then Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir and also for the Jammu & Kashmir Public Service Commission, seven (7) female candidates, found short in height by two or three inches but otherwise found meritorious to be in final select list, are not to be reckoned height fit to be Range Officer Grade-I in the J&K Forest (Gazetted) Service.”
Present case, the court said, has this scenario presenting before it for adjudication at the call and challenge of seven female candidates.
“A relevance serving opening to this judgment is catching the contour of the case at the outset and that is as to whether with respect to an employment/recruitment in/to public service, a prescribed physical standard, in terms of height and chest measurement, can be agender without bearing any distinction between two sexes i.e. male and female; and whether on that basis seven (7) female candidates, who competed amongst 567 contestants to come out fully qualified on the basis of written test, interview and walk test so as to figure in final selection list of 28 candidates against 44 posts under selection , can be faltered at the last step to appointment just because their height is found to be short by few inches to the gender prescribed height standard.”
The court responded in affirmative to the contentions by the seven candidates by holding that these seven candidates should not have been made or held hostage by the JKPSC as being a constitutional body to a discriminatory, unfair, unreasonable and unintelligible height requirement. The court further said that the JKPSC should have been left for the government of UT of J&K to address its discernment and discretion in favour of seven candidates by exercise of its rule relaxing power and appoint them as Range Officers-Grade “who at the end of day are the merit makers making the Jammu & Kashmir Forest Gazetted Service to get for the very first time in its history induction of 8 women officers borne out of single selection process.”
Ultimately, the court reckoned that the ends of justice would be served by directing the JKPSC to consider recommending for appointment the names of the seven candidates to the government of J&K at the first instance on account of their merit based and proved claims.
It also directed the Government of UT of J&K having the executive power as well as the power under rule 4 of the J&K Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules, 1956 to relax the rigor of any service rule, to consider accepting JKPSC recommendation with respect to the seven candidates and granting appointment to them as Range Officer-Grade I by relaxing the height requirement in their favour in acknowledgement of their meritorious position in the selection process.
The court also ended its verdict by epilogue by Maya Angelou’s quote: “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
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