Devan Ramachandran, J.
1. In the fasciculous of the large volume of pleadings, materials and documents in these cases, is a short question posed for our consideration, as to whether, for the purpose of appointment as Assistant Professors in various subjects under the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, a candidate should have the Master's degree in the particular subject or whether the stand of the University, in having accepted candidates who have Master's Degree in allied subjects or other relevant subjects also, can be found to be justified.
2. The examination of the various issues in these cases is centered on the qualification prescribed by the University in the Notification issued by it on 05.08.2014, which is then to be tested on the touchstone of the qualifications prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in the 'University Grants Commission on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education, Regulation 2010' (hereinafter referred to as Regulations for short).
3. In the Employment Notification, which has been placed on record in the writ petitions, the qualification for Asst. Professor has been shown as under:
'3. ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
i) Good academic record as defined by the concerned university with at least 55% marks (or an equivalent grade in a point scale wherever grading system is followed) at the Master’s Degree level in a relevant subject from an Indian University, or an equivalent degree from an accredited foreign university]
ii) Besides fulfilling the above qualifications, the candidates must have cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted by the UGC, CSIR or similar test accredited by the UGC like SLET/SET.
iii) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub - clauses (i) and (ii) above, who are, or have been awarded a Ph.D. Degree in accordance with the University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of Ph.D. Degree) Regulations, 2009, shall be exempted from the requirement of the minimum eligibility condition of NET/SLET/SET for recruitment and appointment of Assistant Professor.
iv) NET/SLET/SET shall not be required for such Master Programmes in disciplines for which NET/SLET/SET is not conducted.'
4. The relevant clause of the UGC Regulations viz. Clause 4.4.1. which relates to the qualification for Assistant Professor in Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences, etc is as under:
'i) Good academic record as defined by the concerned university with at least 55% marks ( or an equivalent grade in a point scale wherever grading system is followed) at the Master's Degree level in a relevant subject from an Indian University or an equivalent degree from an accredited foreign university.
ii. Besides fulfilling the above qualifications, the candidate must have cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted by the UGC, CSIR or similar test accredited by the UGC like SLET/SET.
iii. Notwithstanding anything contained in subclauses (I) and (ii) to this Clause 4.4.1 candidates, who are, or have been awarded a Ph.D Degree in accordance with the University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of Ph.D. Degree) Regulations, 2009 shall be exempted from the requirement of the minimum eligibility condition of NET/SLET/SET for recruitment and appointment of Assistant Professor or equivalent positions in Universities/Colleges/Institutions. iv. NET/SLET/SET shall also not be required for such Master's Programmes in disciplines for which NET/SLET/SET is not conducted.'
5. It is ineluctable, from the above extracted prescriptions in the notification as well as the Regulations, that what is mandated therein is that a candidate must have at least 55% marks (or an equivalent grade wherever grading system is followed) at the Master's Degree level in a relevant subject. What grips our attention at this point are the two phrases therein, viz. 'Master's Degree level' and ' in a relevant subject'.
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contentions of the writ petitioners, who had applied for but have been found ineligible by the relevant Selection Committee, is that they possess the particular qualification viz., Master's Degree in Fisheries Science in the respective subjects and that only they ought to have been found qualified to be considered under the employment notification. To make it clear, the singular assertion of the writ petitioners is that inclusion of the party respondents in the Rank List in preference to them, even though they do not have Master's Degree in the relevant subject, should be declared as illegal and unlawful and that they be removed from the rank list thus, enabling only the writ petitioners to be considered.
7. The focus of their contentions is that the word 'Master's Degree' in the employment notification concedes only to a degree of Master of Fisheries Sciences (M.F.Sc.) and that it should be in the particular subject to which the notification relates to. In effect, their submission is that when selection to a particular post of Assistant Professor is considered, only those candidates who possesses M.F.Sc in that particular subject alone be considered and that candidates who possess M.Sc or even M.F.Sc in other subjects be excluded. As a corollary to the primary submissions above, some of the writ petitioners have an added contention that the process of selection itself is vitiated, since it is in violation of Clause 2(c) of Chapter 9 of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies First Statute, 2013) (hereinafter referred to as First Statutes for convenience).
8. We notice that the averments, pleadings and submissions made on behalf of the various writ petitioners was considered in great detail by the learned Single Judge, with reference to the various documents produced before her and that the learned Judge has proceeded to assess the petitioners' contention in extenso, to thereafter hold that it lacked sustenance in law. On such basis, the learned Judge dismissed the writ petitions, against which the various writ petitioners have filed these appeals.
9. We have heard the learned counsel appearing for the various petitioners, namely, Shri Pirappancode V.S. Sudhir, Smt. M.U. Vijayalakshmi and Shri S. Ramesh as well as the learned counsel for the party respondents, Shri V. Girishkumar, Shri Isaac Kuruvilla Illikkal, Shri S.P. Aravindakshan Pillai, Shri A. Jayasankar, Shri P. Ramakrishnan, Shri M.L. Sajeevan, Shri Brijesh Mohan and Shri S. Vishnu, Shri E.S. Ashraf, the learned Government Pleader appearing for the State and Shri Millu Dandapani, the learned Standing Counsel for the University.
10. Since all these writ appeals, in its core disposition, are similar, if not identical in nature and since the reliefs claimed for in one are entwined to the reliefs claimed for in the others, we deem it appropriate to consider all of them together and dispose of it by this judgment. However, for the sake of convenience, we will treat W.A.No.2448 of 2015 as the lead case and reference to parties, documents and materials in this judgment will be as has been arrayed and shown in the said writ appeal, unless otherwise specifically stated.
11. We see that the posts, to which the claim has been impelled in these cases are that of Assistant Professor in Fish Breeding, Assistant Professor in Fishery Biology and Fish Taxonomy, Assistant Professor in Fish Processing Technology, Assistant Professor in Aquaculture and Assistant Professor in Fish Pathology.
12. The appellant in W.A. 2508 of 2015 is an aspirant to the post of Assistant Professor in Fish Breeding; while, the appellant in W.A.No.2448 of 2015 aspires the post of Assistant Professor in Fishery Biology and Fish Taxonomy. As regards W.A.No.2410 of 2018 is concerned, the first appellant therein aspires to the post of Assistant Professor in Fish Processing Technology; whereas, the other two appellants claim appointment to the post of Assistant Professor in Aquaculture. Similarly, as far as the appellant in W.A.No.2348 of 2015 is concerned, he claims appointment as Assistant Professor either in Aquaculture, or Fish Nutrition or Fish Pathology; and finally, the appellant in W.A.No.2509 of 2015 seeks appointment to the post of Assistant Professor in Fish Pathology.
13. As we have already indicated above, each of the appellants contend specifically that they are qualified in M.F.Sc in the concerned subject to which they are seeking appointment, i.e. to say, for instance, Smt. Nimmy Jousy, the appellant in W.A.No.2508 of 2015 claims that she has M.F.Sc in Fish Breeding and therefore, that only she and similarly qualified candidates should be considered for appointment to the post of Assistant Professor in Fish Breeding. Identical are the contentions of the other appellants, of course, with the only variation being the subjects to which they claim appointment.
14. Before we endeavour to consider the contentions of the appellants, it is necessary to have a closer look at the employment notification, a copy of which has been produced as Ext.P1. As is clear from the said notification, there are six departments under the University, to which 13 posts of Assistant Professors are notified for appointment. The Departments available for appointment are Aquaculture, Nutrition and Feed Technology, Aquatic Animal Health Management, Fishery Biology, Fishery Hydrography and Preservation and Packing Technology. To these Departments, 13 posts of Assistant Professors are notified in the subjects of Aquaculture, Fish Breeding, Fish Nutrition, Fish Pathology, Fishery Biology, Fisheries Oceanography, Fish Taxonomy, Fisheries, Chemical Oceanography, Biochemistry, Biological Oceanography, Microbiology, Fish Processing Technology and Food Science and Nutrition.
15. The qualifications of the candidates for being selected as Assistant Professor is available in Clause '3' of Exhibit P1 Notification, which has already been extracted afore in paragraph 3 of this judgment. The said notification goes on to make it clear, in Clause '8' thereof, that the selection will be made on the basis of the candidates' performance at the interview and that the candidates may apply for more than one post, with a condition that when they do so, they should submit separate applications for each post and pay the processing fee accordingly.
16. The way Ext.P1 notification has been phrased and published would make it very apparent that candidates are being called for appointment to only six departments but in 13 different disciplines. The qualification prescribed for a candidate under the notification is that he/she should have a Master's Degree in a relevant subject. It is conceded before us that the qualification shown in Ext.P1 is not in variance with that prescribed in the UGC Regulations, but that it conforms to it implicitly. Therefore, it is indubitable that what is necessary, as pre-requisite and imperative qualification, is that the candidate should have Master's Degree in a relevant subject, which according to the appellants should be interpreted to mean that only the degree of M.F.Sc in the particular subject to which the appointment is made can be accepted as being the necessary qualification.
17. We notice from the pleadings on record that the modus adopted by the University, in making the selection pursuant to Ext.P1 Notification, was that initially a Scrutiny Committee consisting of certain experts was constituted by the Vice Chancellor, which went into each of the applications made by the candidates and tabulated their credentials as per a score sheet , granting weightage in marks to each of such specified and relevant credential. Thereafter, the list was placed before a Screening Committee, which was called upon to consider and decide which are the subjects in the Master's degree level to be grouped for the purpose of each of the posts notified. After the Screening Committee completed the exercise assigned to them, the files were then placed before the University, to be sent to the Selection Committee constituted by the Vice Chancellor, for conducting the final interview.
18. As regards the qualifications are concerned, it is available on record that the Screening Committee, under the Chairmanship of the Vice Chancellor, along with two subject experts as its members and the Registrar as its Convener, recorded Exts.R2(l), R2(m), R2(n) and R2(o), minutes grouping various subjects that are relevant for each of the disciplines to which the candidates were invited under Exhibit P1 Notification. While, Ext.R2 (l) minutes relates to the posts of Assistant Professor in Fishery Biology, Fish Taxonomy and Fisheries, Ext.R2(m) relates to the posts of Assistant Professor in Aquaculture and Fish Breeding. Similarly Ext.R2(n) relates to the posts of Assistant Professor in Fisheries Oceanography, while exhibit R2(o) is with respect to the posts of Assistant Professor in Bio-Chemistry and Fish Processing Technology.
19. On an examination of these minutes, it becomes evident that the Screening Committee found that for the purpose of candidature in a particular subject, various allied and relevant subjects can also be taken into account and that if the candidates have necessary qualification in such subjects also, they can be called for the interview.
20. To illustrate this, when one looks at Ext.R2(l) minutes, the subjects found relevant for the posts of Assistant Professor in Fishery Biology, Fish Taxonomy and Fisheries are:
i) MFSc-Mari culture, Aquaculture, Fisheries Resource Management, Fisheries Biology, Aquatic Environment, Fisheries Environment and Ecology and Fish production,
ii) M.Sc Marine Biology,
(iii) M.Sc Fisheries Science,
(iv) Aquatic Biology and Fisheries,
v) M.Sc Zoology with Specilization in Fisheries
vi) M.Sc Applied Fisheries & Aquaculture
(vii) M.Sc Industrial Fisheries,
(viii) M.Sc Fisheries & Aquaculture,
(ix) M.Sc Fisheries Science & Coastal Aquaculture,
(x) M.Sc Aquaculture & Fisheries Microbiology,
(xi) M.Sc Coastal Aquaculture,
(xii) M.Sc Mariculture,
(xiii) M.Sc Aquaculture,
(xiv) M.Sc Fisheries Resource Management.
21. As regards Ext.R2(m) minutes recorded by the Screening Committee, for the post of Assistant Professor in Aquaculture and Fish Breeding is concerned, the following subjects were found adequate:
(i) M.F.Sc-Aquaculture, Mariculture, Fish Breeding, Fish Production & Mgt., Fisheries Biotechnology, Fisheries Extension, Fish Pathology and Microbiology, Fisheries Resource Management and Fishery Biology,
(ii) M.Sc Coastal Aquaculture,
(iii) M.Sc Sustainable Aquaculture,
(iv) M.Sc Aquaculture,
(v) M.Sc Marine Biology,
(vi) M.Sc Aquaculture & Fisheries Microbiology,
(vii) M.Sc Zoology specilization in Fisheries,
(viii) M.Sc Fisheries Science & Coastal Aquaculture,
(ix) M.Sc Industrial Fisheries,
(x) M.Sc Fisheries & Aquaculture,
(xi) M.Sc Fisheries Science,
(xii) M.Sc Applied Fisheries & Aquaculture,
(xiii) M.Sc Aquatic Biology and Fisheries,
(xiv) M.Sc Mariculture.
22. Similarly, in Ext.R2(n) Minutes, the subjects for the post of Assistant Professor in Fisheries Oceanography was decided and finally in Ext.R2(o), the subjects relevant to the post of Assistant Professor in Bio-Chemistry and Fish Processing Technology were fixed.
23. Based on this, the Selection Committee conducted the interview and finally published the rank list of persons found eligible , a copy of which has been placed on record as Ext.P21, from which the most suitable were offered appointment.
24. The contentions of the appellants, when it comes to the question of qualification are two fold: For the first, they say that it was not permissible to group several subjects for the purpose of one post since, according to them, the qualifications prescribed by Exhibit P1 notification and by the UGC Regulations can only be construed to be a Master's degree in the particular subject, which as per them, is only M.F.Sc and none else. For the second, they say that even if several subjects could have been so grouped , it could not have been done by the Screening Committee, because the power to decide the qualifications for a particular post is confined with the Academic council of the University as per Section 18 (1)of the Act.
25. An evaluation of these contentions will require us to first consider the nature of the qualifications prescribed in Ext.P1 as well as UGC Regulations. As has been noticed by us earlier, the qualification in Ext.P1 is that a candidate shall possess Master's Degree in a relevant subject and this is exactly the same which the UGC Regulations also prescribe.
26. The first question, therefore, is whether Master's degree means only M.F.Sc or whether it takes in the degree M.Sc also. The next question will be whether the Master's degree, be that M.F.Sc or M.Sc, should be in 'the' relevant subject or in 'a' relevant subject.
27. As regards the first question afore is concerned, since the qualifications prescribed by both the notification and the UGC Regulation is only that the candidates must possess a 'Master's Level degree', we are unable to offer approval to the contention that this can only mean Master of Fisheries Science(M.F.Sc) and not Master of Science(M.Sc). As long as the prescribed qualification is only a Master's Level degree, we see no reason to restrict M.Sc degree holders from being considered under the notification.
28. Now coming to the next question whether the Master's Level degree should be in 'a' relevant subject or in 'the' relevant subject, at first blush the choice adopted between the use of words 'the' and 'a' may appear to be inconsequential. However, on a deeper look, it is not so and the distinction in the use of these two words is very significant. This is because if the qualification prescribed is that the Master's Level Degree shall be in the relevant subject, then only the candidates who possess Master's Degree in that particular subject can be appointed as an Assistant Professor in that discipline. However, when the qualifications prescribe that a person can be appointed as an Assistant Professor, if he has Master's Degree in 'a' relevant subject, then a candidate with Master's degree in any one of the relevant or constituent subjects of a discipline would obtain the locus to claim appointment.
29. This issue, we see from the impugned judgment, had engaged the attention of the learned single Judge at great length. We notice that the parties to these cases had cited several judgments before the learned Single Judge and that each of these judgments were looked into in detail before a decision was taken, as is recorded in the impugned judgment. We see from the impugned judgment that the learned single Judge has concluded that since the qualifications prescribe that the Master's Degree should be in 'a' relevant subject, in contradistinction to a prescription that the Master's Degree should be in 'the' relevant subject, the candidates who possess qualification in any of the subjects relevant to a particular discipline would obtain the entitlement to be considered for appointment as an Assistant Professor in applicable department.
30. We have examined this view of the learned Single Judge with great amount of interest, since the various learned counsel appearing for the appellants cited the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Ganapath Singh Gangaram Singh Rajput v. Gulbarga University [(2014) 3 SCC 767] and asserted that the declaration of law by the Hon'ble Court in that judgment would render the conclusions of the learned Single Judge untenable. When we read Ganapath Singh (supra), it is luculent that their Lordships were concerned about a particular Regulation, with respect to the post of Master of Computer Application, which provided that an Assistant Professor shall be appointed only if he has qualification in the concerned subject. Their Lordships found that even though the Master of Computer Application course had Maths and Computer Applications as its subjects, since the Regulations provided that only a candidate who possesses qualification in the relevant subject can be appointed as an Assistant Professor in MCA, such vacancies could be filled up only from among the candidates who possessed the degree in MCA but not in Maths.
31. However, in contradistinction with this view of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, are the conclusions in Rajbir Singh Dalal v. Chaudhari Devi Lal University [(2008) 9 SCC 284] wherein their Lordships found that when the prescription was not that a candidate should have qualifications in the relevant subject but only in a relevant subject, the subjects being interchangeable and interrelated, it would be required of a candidate to have only the qualification in one of the allied subjects and not in the relevant subject. Therefore, it is clear that the Hon'ble Supreme Court has already considered the distinction between the words 'the' and 'a' while prescribing qualifications in relevant subjects. When the prescription is that the qualification shall be in the relevant subject, then only that subject can be reckoned, whereas when the qualifications are prescribed to be in a relevant subject, then every such relevant subject can also be reckoned, and taken into account while selection is made.
32. We see that this is exactly what was done by the Screening Committee in this case. It was necessary for the Screening Committee to group the relevant subjects because, as we have already said above, in Exhibit P1 notification as also in the UGC Regulations, what is prescribed is that a candidate should have Master's Level Degree in a relevant subject. It, therefore, became unavoibable for the University to have constituted a Committee or an expert body to find out the relevant subjects, in which each of the candidates could claim qualifications, for appointment to the concerned department and we, therefore, cannot find that the action of the University in constituting a Screening Committee to be, in any manner, irregular or illegal.
33. When we say this, we are aware that it is also the case of the appellants that constitution of a Scrutiny Committee or of a Screening Committee is not visualised or sanctioned by the First Statutes of the University. They assert that under Chapter 9, which relates to the teachers of University, the procedure for appointment of Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor are provided in clear terms. They refer to clause 2 of Chapter 9 of the First Statutes to say that the Vice Chancellor is enjoined therein (in sub-clauses e, f and g), to constitute a Selection Committee as per the UGC/ICAR/AICTE Regulations and Norms and that there is absolutely no enabling provision therein, which permit him to constitute a Scrutiny Committee or a Screening Committee, as has been done in this case. According to them, these Committees have been created for confutative reasons and to ensure that persons of their choice are selected and appointed. Even though we hear the above submissions from the learned counsel appearing for the appellants, it immediately becomes discernible that not a word has been said by any of the appellants in any of their pleadings alleging mala fides against any of the Authorities of the University, including the Vice Chancellor. All that they have said, in a rather whispering tone, is that the Committees were not constituted as per law and that the members of the Committees were not competent to be included therein. It is pertinent that even these averments are not available in the primary pleadings, namely in the writ petitions, but that it has been made in the reply affidavits and rejoinders filed much thereafter. In any event of the matter, when such a contention is taken before us, it becomes incumbent upon us to consider its validity also.
34. As we have already noticed, the procedure for appointment is postulated under clause 2 of Chapter 9 of the First Statutes. All that it provides says therein is that the Vice Chancellor shall constitute a Selection Committee, which will interview the candidates and prepare a list of persons. Subclause (f) of Clause 2 provides that in the selection process, 80% weightage shall be given to academic qualifications, research experience and achievements and that the balance 20% to the interview. Sub-clause (g) of clause 2 thereafter stipulates that after interviewing the candidates, the Selection Committee shall prepare the list of persons in the order of merit. The learned counsel for the appellants read these two sub clauses conjointly to contend that the screening process of the candidates, which means, the award of marks to the candidates, based on their credentials, will also have to be done by the Selection Committee, because by doing so, they will then be able to assess them better at the time of interview. We fail to understand the import of this submission made by the learned counsel for the appellants because the First Statutes do not mandate that all the steps of the selection shall be done only by one Committee. It only provides that the Selection Committee will interview the candidates but does not specify the manner in which the marks of the candidates, based on their Academic Performance Indicators, be prepared or tabulated.
35. In the case at hand, the Vice Chancellor has thought it fit to appoint a Scrutiny Committee to first go through the applications of each of the candidates and find out if such applications adhere to the minimum requirements. A Scrutiny Committee was additionally constituted to verify whether the qualifications claimed by each of the candidates would be acceptable, going by the qualifications prescribed in Exhibit P1 notification and the UGC Regulations. Thereafter, the Selection Committee interviewed each of the candidates and it is, obviously, after adding the marks of the interview along with the scores prepared by the Screening Committee, that the list of the eligible candidates were finalised. We fail to understand why the appellants should feel aggrieved by this, especially because they have not even pleaded, much less established or demonstrated, that prejudice has been caused to them by this modus being adopted by the Vice Chancellor.
36. In fact, if one looks at this differently, it may even lead to an inference that since the Academic Performance Indicator scores were tabulated by one Committee and the interview conducted by another, the candidates were benefited, because none of the inputs or prejudices that may have been gathered by the Screening Committee, at the time when the API Scores were tabulated, was carried forward to the next stage of selection, namely the interview by the Selection Committee. In such perspective, even if one concedes to a procedural irregularity in the Vice Chancellor having constituted a Screening Committee over and above the Selection Committee, we are not in a position to accede to the accusation or to the contention that it has caused any prejudice or detriment to the various writ petitioners/appellants.
37. Even though we arrived at such a view, we thought it fit, so as to allay all possible apprehensions of the appellants, to direct the learned standing counsel appearing for the University Sri.T.K.Vipindas to place before us all the relevant files relating to the selection of the various candidates and the learned standing counsel has done so, which also contains the tabulation of the API scores by the Screening Committee.
38. We have examined the tabulations in the best manner that we are competent to do and we find that, even assuming that all the contentions of the appellants are acceded to, it would not really give them any benefit. We say this because it is an additional contention of Sri.S.Ramesh, the learned counsel appearing for the appellants in W.A. No.2410/2015, that while assessing the qualifications of the various candidates, research abstracts have also been taken into account and that if such abstracts are removed from the field of view, then there would be a difference in the marks finally obtained by the candidates. However, when we see the tabulation sheet prepared by the Screening Committee, it is interesting that it is not merely the persons who are now selected who have been given the benefit of the research abstracts, but that many of the writ petitioners, who are the appellants herein, have also been awarded marks for research abstracts. That being said, we are certain that it would be of no consequence even if these marks are removed from the picture because the score sheet shows that only 0.5 marks have been given for an abstract of a single author, while 0.25 marks each have been awarded for abstracts involving more than one author. We are, therefore, certain in our mind, as is also clear from the tabulation sheet, that non-reckoning of the marks awarded for abstracts would be of no relevance in this case.
39. At this time, Sri.S.Ramesh, the learned counsel for the appellants in W.A.No.2410/2015, makes a further contention, citing the judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Deputy Director of Public Instructions & District Recruitment Authority & Ors. v. Shaik Maula [(2006) 12 SCC 370], and of a Full Bench of this Court in Suma v. Kerala Public Service Commission [2011(1) KLT 1 (FB)], that when a particular qualification is prescribed in the notification the Selection or Screening Committee would, thereafter, obtain no jurisdiction to hold another qualification to be equivalent to it because if a particular qualification is considered equivalent to another, it has to be specifically indicated in the notification itself. We are in respectful affirmation of the views of the Hon'ble Supreme Court and that of the Full Bench of this Court in the afore judgments and we are certain that if the facts herein were similar to the ones noticed by their Lordships in the said judgments, the position here could have been no different.
40. However, in this case, as we have already seen above, the Screening Committee was not considering equivalency of qualifications but was only grouping the several qualifications, which they assessed to be relevant to the discipline in question. Thus this is not a case where the committee has declared equivalency of any qualification with another but they have only included various qualifications under one group by considering the relevance of each of such qualifications for the purpose of appointment to the particular discipline. Therefore, the submissions of the learned counsel for the appellants hypostased on Shaik Maula (supra) and Suma (supra),which dealt with questions relating to the power of the selecting authority to declare equivalency, would not, in the factual differences shown herein, come to their aid or to their support.
41. The various learned counsel for the appellants then commenced submissions with respect to the First Statutes and vehemently contended that when the Statutes of the University prescribe a particular thing to be done in a particular manner, it shall be done only in that manner and that the action of the Vice Chancellor in deviating from clause 2 of Chapter 9 of the First Statute should be seen to be illegal and unlawful. They are, of course, referring to the action of the Vice Chancellor in having constituted a Screening Committee apart from the Selection Committee and their allegation is that even if there is no prejudice caused to them and even though they are not in a position to establish detriment to them, the very fact that there is a deviation from the manner in which it is prescribed should, lead to the entire process being set aside. They, for this proposition, rely on the judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Babu Varghese v. Bar Council of Kerala [(1999) 3 SCC 422] and J&K Housing Board & Anr. v. Kunwar Sanjay Krishan Kaul & Ors. [(2011) 10 SCC 714], which were delivered in the context of the principles evolved in Taylor v. Taylor, expostulating that when a thing is prescribed to be done in a particular manner, it shall be done only in that manner and in no other.
42. The assertions of the learned counsel for the appellants as above would appear to be attractive at the first glance but we are sure that on a deeper understanding of the real issues, it would appear completely untenable. This is because clause 2 of Chapter 9 neither enables or prohibits the Vice Chancellor to prescribe the mode in which the selection process has to be concluded by the University, except by providing that the interview shall be done only by the Selection Committee. A reading of sub-clauses (e), (f) and (g) of clause 2 of Chapter 9 of the First Statute cannot guide anyone to the impression that the tabulation of the credentials including, academic qualifications, research experience and achievements have to be done only by the Selection Committee and by no other. Since the clause is specific that the interview of the candidate be done only by the Selection Committee, such can be done only by that Committee but when it comes to the tabulation relating to other credentials, no where it is statutorily restricted that the Selection Committee itself should do so. That being so, the judgments relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellants above would be of no application because the Statute does not say that the Vice Chancellor is proscribed in acting in the manner that he has done in this case.
43. In any event of the matter, as we have already said above, this has caused no detriment or prejudice to the appellants and on the contrary, as we have explained in the earlier paragraphs of this judgment, we are of the view that it may have only contributed to the integrity of the process since two different Committees evaluated the credentials and the performance in interview of the candidates independent of each other. This can, therefore, only be seen to the benefit of the candidates and not to the contrary.
44. Added to the above, the fact that there is no malafides alleged against the members of the Screening Committee or of any other functionary of the University, including the Vice Chancellor, persuades us from exercising jurisdiction in favour of the appellants on the allegation that marks have not been properly assessed for the various candidates.
45. In such view, the judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in B.C.Mylarappa v. R.Venkatasubbaiah [(2008) 14 SCC 306] or Bahadursinh Lakhubhai Gohil v. Jagdishbhai M [(2004) 2 SCC 65], though cited by the learned counsel for the appellants, would be of no avail to them because in both these cases, what was pleaded is allegation of malafides against duly constituted Committees/Authorities and that such authorities were acting under the dictation from superior or other vested interests. There are no such allegations in this case and the appellants do not even have a contention that the Screening Committee or the Selection Committee has acted in any manner that can be seen to be confutative.
46. It is further pertinent that the appellants have at no time challenged Ext.P1 notification, either with respect to the qualifications prescribed therein or with respect to its other stipulations. They were certainly aware that clause 9 of the said notification enables the candidates to apply for more than one post notified therein, which clearly would indicate that the candidates are to possess Master's Level qualification in one of the relevant subjects. Further, Exhibit P1 notification would show that even though there are only six departments under the University, there are 13 disciplines to cater to them and that some of them have been grouped in the same department. For example, Assistant Professors in Biochemistry, Micro Biology, Fish Processing Technology and Food Science and Nutrition are to work in the Preservation and Packing Technology Department, indicating clearly that they are not closed disciplines, but interchangeable and interrelated ones and that the expertise in any of these would render the candidates eligible for being considered to any of these posts. This is why clause 9 of Ext.P1 permitted the candidates to apply for various posts on condition that separate application shall be given for such purpose.
47. In any event, even the appellants have no case that the qualifications in Ext.P1 notification are in variance with the judicial regulations and as long as the UGC Regulations prescribe that the Master's Degree be in a relevant subject, there can be no cause for concern. This is in contradistinction to clause 188.8.131.52 of the UGC Regulations relating to Music and Performing Arts wherein the clear stipulation is that the masters level degree has to be in the relevant subject. We cannot disregard this variation in the Regulations and therefore, cannot find favour with the writ petitioners/appellants that candidates qualified in the particular subject should be allowed in the selection process.
48. The above being said, questions as to whether a particular subject is relevant to a particular discipline or otherwise are not matters that this Court, while acting under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, can delve into or state affirmatively on, being guided by the well recognised constraints in jurisdiction when it comes to academic issues.
49. The Hon'ble Supreme Court has in several judgments, including in University Grants Commission v. Neha Anil Bobde [(2013) 10 SCC 519] and State of Rajasthan and Ors. v. Lata Arun [AIR 2002 SC 2642] cautioned courts from entering into arenas which are reserved exclusively for academic experts and bodies and have always deprecated attempts by Courts to substitute its wisdom for that of the wisdom of the experts. Guided by such restraints, we cannot move any further to evaluate either the contentions of the appellants relating to the nature of qualifications or on the marks awarded by the Selection Committee, since they are the experts entrusted with such functions.
50. To add to this, it also a conceded fact that the appellants are all persons who had participated in the process voluntarily, thus being fully aware of the stipulations contained therein but turned out unsuccessful. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in such circumstances has also declared that Courts should be loath in delving into issues raised by such persons, specially when they had participated with full volition but has been found unsuccessful. We are guided in this thought by the judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Trivedi Himanshu Ghanshyambhai v. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation & Ors. [(2007) 8 SCC 644] and Chandra Prakash Tiwari v. Shakuntala Shukla [(2002) 6 SCC 127]. The same view has been restated by their Lordships in Mylarappa (supra) also.
51. In the summation of the analysis above and being guided by the binding proceedings that we have referred afore, we confirm the judgment of the learned single Judge impugned in these appeals, because we are in complete affirmation with the holdings and conclusions in it. These appeals, therefore, fail and are dismissed.
52. After we completed dictation of this case, Sri.K.Jaju Babu, the learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant in W.A. No.2348/2015, submits that his client is now going through a very turbulent phase in life, both domestically and professionally and that she, therefore, seeks indulgence to obtain appointment based on her established credentials. According to the learned Senior Counsel, his client has been included in the rank list of Assistant Professors in Fish Nutrition, Fish Pathology as well as Aquaculture, since her credentials make her deserving to be placed in any of these Departments. The learned senior counsel further submits that the appellant is ranked third in the list relating to Fish Pathology and he says that the first two rank holders, who joined service initially, have left thereafter to serve other departments. The appellant has produced Annexures A and B along with the writ appeal in substantiation of this assertion. The learned senior counsel prays, therefore, that the University be directed to consider his client's case in these circumstances, since the vacancy is still available and that there is no one else with a better claim to be appointed against it.
53. Even though we have dismissed this writ appeal along with the others finding that the contentions in law raised in these cases cannot be approved by us, we are certainly of the view that if rank Nos.1 and 2 have already left the service and if the vacancy is still available, then obviously the appellant in W.A.No.2348/2015 would now become the first rank holder. Therefore, if it is permissible in law and if the applicable Rules and Regulations do not impede it, certainly the appellant in W.A.No.2348/2015 can approach the respondents with a suitable request that she be accommodated to the available post. For this purpose, we grant her liberty to make an application before the second respondent in the said appeal within a period of fifteen days from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment and if such an application is received by the second respondent within the time granted herein, he will be enjoined to consider it in terms of the law and in terms of the applicable Act, Rules and Regulations and take a decision thereon within a further period of two months thereafter.