Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, July 13, 2021: Citing the bravery of the Army’s Gurkha Battalion, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the minimum height of 5 feet 7 inches fixed by the Punjab government for the recruitment of over 7000 constables in 2016 was violative of the rights of those who are of lesser height than the minimum prescribed here.

“The selection process adopted by the state was discriminatory for a particular class of people i.e. for those who have average height, out of which some of them were deservingly meritorious, competent and way more brave than some of those who have been selected by an arbitrary process,” said a bench of Justice Arun Monga in a 62-page order.

Citing the example of the Gurkha Battalion of the Indian Army, whose members ordinarily have an average height (invariably minimum height prescribed for them is 5’ feet 2.5”- 3” inches), the court said even Former Indian Army Chief Field Marshal late Sam Manekshaw said that ‘If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha’. 

“Such is their bravery, that even today United Kingdom recruits Gurkhas from Nepal and still have a regiment of ‘Gurkhas’ in their military force,” the High Court remarked.

Providing partial relief to the over 200 petitioner candidates, the High Court gave credence to their allegation of wrong measurement of their height during the selection process. The Bench held that they shall approach the competent authority along with their application within 30 days of this order to seek re-measurement of their height.

The High Court, however, upheld the selection criteria as per the original advertisement and rejected the petitioners’ challenge to it.

It further stated that on re-measurement, in case there is any discrepancy in the same, the advantage of the correct measurement will be given to the candidate and the merit list shall be re-determined by giving/ changing marks as per their height, in accordance with the law.

As per the court order, in case a candidate has become over-aged during pendency of the matter, then one-time relaxation in age shall be given. In case of change of merit position owing to re-measurement of height, the same shall be corrected.

“Candidates who have allegedly been given inappropriate advantage of their height shall have to make way in case their merit gets lower as a result thereof. It is re-iterated that those, who have already been selected, their selection was made subject to the final outcome of the writ petition as per order dated 06.12.2016,” it added.

The court stated: “It is, however, made clear that this one time liberty/ indulgence of re-measurement of height across board is being granted in view of the concession/ stand taken by the state in its Review Application, that in order to mitigate the grievance a onetime exercise can be carried out qua those, who are aggrieved against measurement of their height”.

“The aforesaid indulgence is merely to balance the equities and to give a quietus to the height controversy without re-opening the selection process. It shall not, in any manner, be construed to mean that the selected candidates have been given any kind of advantage of wrong measurement of height, as has been alleged by the petitioners,” it added.

“In case any candidate upon re-measurement comes above the selected candidate in his respective category, viz. General or otherwise, in that event the candidate /petitioner from the bottom of the list in the said category shall have to make way for the former, in the event there is no vacancy available. Needless to say, that if vacancy still exists, then the newly selected candidate shall have to be accommodated in accordance with his merit,” the court held

The High Court also upheld dispensing with the interviews for the post of Constable, being Group-C which is in tune with the guidelines issued by the Government of India and the policy decision of the State Government.

“I also find no substance in the contention that there was unconstitutional politicization of recruitment in view of the then forthcoming Assembly elections in 2017. The argument, in fact, cuts at its own roots, goes against the petitioners, is misconceived, ill-advised, unpalatable and uncharitable to say the least,” stated the judge.

“I am also unable to accept the contention on behalf of the petitioners that if the interview-cum-personality test carrying marks had been held, they could have secured more marks than other candidates and come up higher in the merit than the other successful candidates. This contention is nothing more than the petitioners’ own self-serving, unfounded and far-fetched speculation and is totally devoid of any merit,” he stated.

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