Rashid Paul

HC stays CAT order on ‘contentious’ height criteria for selection of Range officers in Forest dept

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Srinagar: J&K High Court on Thursday stayed the operation of a Central Administrative Tribunal order that “failed” to appreciate a contention by some female candidates on the “gender discriminatory” nature of a 1970 Rule that seeks equal height among men and women in the appointments for the posts of range officers.

The court directed the government not to finalize the selection list till the matter is heard again on 28th of this September.

It also stayed the operation of the Tribunal order that directed the J&K Public Service Commission to (PSC) to conduct the “contentious” height measurement exercise for selection for the Grade I Range Officer posts in the Forest department.

The petition filed by Afshan Anjum Baba and others questioned the mandate of SRO 359 of 1970 to the extent of prescribing the criterion of height of 5 feet 6 inch as being violative of their rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Through their lawyer, Salman Khursheed, the agitating female aspirants said the J&K Forest (Gazetted) Service Recruitment Rules, 1970 are gender-discriminatory in nature.

“Whether these Rules of 1970 could be applied selectively to the selection made in terms of the advertisement for the posts of Range Officers Grade-I by the PSC in March 2018,” they asked in their petition.

They also asked the court to settle whether non-qualification of criteria of height as prescribed in terms of the J&K Forest (Gazetted) Service Recruitment Rules, 1970, would render the dispensation of service as ineffective against the post of Range Officer, Grade-I.

A division bench of the High Court comprising Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and Vinod Chatterji Koul, after hearing the plea directed a notice for filing of objections by the respondent agencies of the government.

The bench also directed “the operation of the impugned order dated 12th of July, 2021 passed by the Tribunal in TA No. 62/5610/2020 shall remain stayed with further direction to the respondents not to finalize the selection in question”.

By medium of the petition, the aggrieved candidates had assailed the validity of a 12th of July 2021 order by the Tribunal that directed the PSC to conduct Walk Test and Medical Examination of the candidates and prepare the final select list of candidates who fulfill the eligibility criteria.

The distressed female petitioners contended that the Tribunal has not appreciated the contentions raised by them qua the 1970 Rule in its true and correct perspective.

It has violated the rights guaranteed to us under the Constitution, they said.

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