New Delhi, Apr 23 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today issued notice to Gujarat Public Service Commission and others on a plea challenging the judgment of Gujarat High Court in which it had granted relaxation of marks for women who appeared for examination which was held for the appointment of forest officers.
Supreme Court bench of Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Ajay Rastogi stayed the operation of Gujarat High Court order in which it had held that 21 posts of Range Forest Officer (“RFO”) in the State of Gujarat, including posts presently occupied by the Male-Petitioners, shall be vacated and women candidates shall be appointed to the said posts within a period of 4 weeks.
The Gujarat High Court had relied on the Supreme Court Judgment of February 17, 2020 in Secretary, Ministry of Defence v Babita Puniya & Others in which the Supreme Court directed grant of Permanent Commissions to Women, who were engaged in Army in Short Service Commissions (SSC). In its judgement Justice DY Chandrachud quoted on the Constitutional spirit of equality without any gender discrimination in the following terms.
“Seventy years after the birth of a postcolonial independent State, there is still a need for change in attitudes and mindsets to recognise the commitment to the values of the Constitution. The Apex court observed that the submissions made in the case were based on sex stereotypes premises on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women. Underlying the statement that it is a “greater challenge” for women officers to meet the hazards of service “owing to their prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families” is a strong stereotype which assumes that domestic obligations rest solely on women. Reliance on the “inherent physiological differences between men and women” rests in a deeply entrenched stereotypical and constitutionally flawed notion that women are the “weaker” sex and may not undertake tasks that are “too arduous” for them. Arguments founded on the physical strengths and weaknesses of men and women and on assumptions about women in the social context of marriage and family do not constitute a constitutionally valid basis for denying equal opportunity to women officer.”
Appearing for the Male-Petitioners Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan who was assisted by Advocate on Record Nupur Kumar pointed out that according to Article 335 of the constitution the relaxation in qualifying marks in any examination or lowering the standard of evaluation can only be done for the members of Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes and not for the reservation to the women.
The petitioners also contended that the selection process began in the year 2010 and they joined service in 2016. The petitioners have been working continuously as Range Forest Officers since the said dates with a clean record after obtaining the required training. To which Justice Navin Sinha said that this matter requires consideration and needs to be heard at length. The Apex Court stayed the operation of Gujarat High Court and issued notices to State of Gujarat, Gujarat Public Service Commission and two others.
The matter will be next taken up after 8 weeks. ILNS/KR/SNG