On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that courts should avoid getting involved in the internal operations of institutions unless an overqualified candidate was not considered for an advertised position. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, who wrote the judgment, stated that “Autonomy and free choice of an employing institution must be respected and should be allowed to recruit according to the criteria advertised.”
A three-judge bench, led by Justice Shah, was hearing an appeal filed by Waqas Aslam against a Lahore High Court order from November 21, 2019.
The court emphasized that recruitment should follow the guidelines outlined in the job advertisement and the company’s recruitment policy, as deviating from these criteria could lead to the hiring of unqualified individuals and the disqualification of eligible candidates.
The case involved Waqas Aslam and other applicants who had applied for the position of Line Superintendent (LS) Grade-I (BPS15) at the Lahore Electric Supply Company Limited (LESCO) in response to an advertisement from 2015.
The petitioners, boasting a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, were highly qualified for the advertised position, which required only a Diploma in Associate Engineering (Electrical) and three years of experience.
Despite their impressive credentials, they were denied the opportunity due to a perceived lack of eligibility. Determined to fight for their chance, the petitioners filed a constitutional petition and were ultimately granted a favorable ruling by a high court judge, directing the company, LESCO, to offer them the positions.
But LESCO, unwilling to relinquish their stance, appealed the decision through the ICA and successfully overturned the ruling, citing that the petitioners did not meet the requirements as per the advertisement and were overqualified for the positions.
The petitioners then took their case to the Supreme Court. Justice Shah acknowledged that LESCO had publicly advertised various positions, including 89 posts of LS, and had clearly established the qualifications required for the positions.
These qualifications, as advertised, were a deliberate policy decision by the company.
The employer is the best judge of its own needs when it comes to determining the qualifications and eligibility criteria for a specific job, according to the judgment.
The LESCO’s internal policy of only hiring DAE holders and not considering those who are overqualified is a decision that should be respected. The court should not try to expand upon the eligibility criteria set by the employer.
It’s important to remember that the court cannot infer that having a higher qualification automatically makes someone more suitable for a job than someone with the qualifications specifically listed in the job advertisement.
The court can only look into the legality of the recruitment process and cannot make decisions on the design and needs of the employer or question their selection criteria and job requirements.
Furthermore, it is not within the court’s purview to compare and evaluate the different degrees held by job applicants and take on the role of the employer. The task of determining equivalence or comparison of academic qualifications for a specific job is best left to the employer, who understands the requirements and suitability of the position.
The court’s power of judicial review should not extend to this area as it is the domain of the expert and the employer.