Balagangadharan Nair, J.
1. Annexure I to the High Court Service Rules, 1970 prescribes the qualifications for the post of Assistant Grade II which is Category 11 as the same as Category 8, Assistant Grade I, Category 8 for Assistant Grade I lays down the following qualifications:
Division and Post General & Educational SpecialCategory qualifications qualificationsCategory 8 Assistant Grade I A degree of a Univ- 1. SecretariatUniversity in the Manual TestIndian Union in Arts 2. Account Test or Science or Com- (Lower)merce or a degree of 3. Judicial Test any other Univer- or Civil Judicialsity which is recog- Test and Criminalnised as an equivalent Judicial Test or adegree by the Kerala Law degreeUniversity.
The 1st respondent, who is the Registrar of the High Court, published a Notification Ext. PI dated 27th October, 1983 that it was proposed to prepare a select list of candidates for appointment as Assistants Grade II in the High Court as and when vacancies arise. It proceeded to say, so tar as relevant, that applications were invited from first and second class Graduates/post-Grad- uates/Law Graduates from any recognised University to reach him on or before 15th November, 1983 with copies of certain documents which were specified. The petitioner is a Graduate in Arts of the Kerala University but he is only a third class degree holder,. He nevertheless sent an application to the Registrar for the post of Assistant Grade II. In response the Registrar sent him a communication dated 11th November, 1983 of which Ext. P3 is a copy saying that while his difficulties were appreciated (obviously he had ventilated some of his personal problems also in the application) 'the High Court is not in a position to relax the qualifications for appointment in the High Court Service.' The petitioner seeks to quash Ext. PI in so far as it required that first or second class Graduates alone could apply for the post of Assistant Grade II, to quash Ext. P3 and to issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ or order to the Registrar to allow him to attend the test or examination that would be conducted for the selection of candidates for Assistant Grade II. The ground on which he seeks these reliefs is that while the rules require only a Degree of any University in India, Ext. PI has modified the requirement by prescribing that only first or second class Graduates or post-Graduates or Law Graduates alone need apply and that this modification is unauthorised and illegal.
2. The 1st respondent had filed a counteraffidavit. He has stated that although the minimum educational qualification for appointment as Assistant Grade II is prescribed by the rules, for the purpose of getting better qualified people it was notified in Ext. PI as a preliminary screening of the candidates by fixing the eligibility for application as First Class or Second Class Graduation. This was a bona fide step; else there would be a flood of applications for a limited number of posts giving difficulties for screening the applications. The petitioner who is a third class Graduate was ineligible to apply. There were enough applications from candidates who had the requisite qualifications in terms of Ext. PI. This method of recruitment was followed on previous occasions also. Even from the first class and second class applicants, selection would be made on the basis of a test conducted by the High Court. There was no discrimination or violation of Article 14 or 16. The object of limiting the applications to the first class and second class graduates was to get the best candidates to improve the High Court Service as a whole. As for Ext. P3 it w as said that the reply was given only as a gesture 5 even though the Registrar was not bound to send a reply.
3. The thrust of the arguments on behalf of the petitioner is that the qualifications of Assistants Grade II having been prescribed by statutory rules framed under Article 229 of the Constitution and as under the rules it is enough that the applicant is a graduate irresepctive of the class he has secured at the graduation, it was beyond the power of the Registrar to add to the statutory rules by modifying the qualifications and insisting that the applicants must be either first class or second class graduates. Counsel reinforced his contention by reference to a number of decisions of the Supreme Court and High Courts holding that matters covered by statutory rules could not be altered by administrative instructions. That proposition as such was not contested by the Advocate-General and the Government Pleader who appeared for the respondents. We 25 do not therefore think it worthwhile to discuss the cases cited by counsel for the petitioner. In our view, Ext. PI involves no modification of the statutory rules or the qualifications prescribed by the statutory rules; it only lays down a process for screening the candidates by narrowing the field of choice. The point, in our view, is covered by two decisions, one of the Gujarat High Court, The Gujarat State Sales Tax Non Gazetted Employees' Association v. The State of Gujarat, 1977(1) SLR 452, and the other of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Sant Lal v. State of Haryana, 1978(1) SLR 133. The former case concerned the selection of candidates for the post of Sales-Tax Inspector. Under the relevant rules candidates for direct recruitment to the post should, inter alia, possess a degree, with a proviso that preference would be given to a candidate who possesses the degree of B.Com. with Accountancy or Chartered Accountancy or possesses a qualification recognised to be equivalent to such examination by the Government of Gujarat. In pursuance of a notification issued by the Commissioner of Sales-Tax more than 15,000 candidates applied including respondents 2 to 4. Amongst the applicants more than 1,000 candidates held first class degrees in different Faculties and even amongst them about 580 were first class Commerce Graduates, about 101 were first class Arts Graduates and about 500 were first class Science Graduates. In view of the circumstances that more than 1000 candidates possessed first class Degrees in various Faculties, the Commissioner at the stage of screening, restricted the field of choice to first class Graduates only and decided not to call for interview second class or third class Graduates including Graduates having Commerce Degree with Accountancy as the subject. This selection was challenged in a writ petition. Upholding the selection a learned Judge observed:
In the next place, it is well-settled that though the Recruitment Rules may prescribe the minimum eligibility qualification, it is competent to an appointing authority to demarcate the field of choice, that is to say, to prescribe some rational screening test by the adoption of which the necessity of calling for interview or for examination, as the case may be, every eligible candidate is eliminated and the zone of selection is restricted to candidates with merit bearing a reasonable proportion to the number of vacancies to be filled up. In other words, though an obligation to consider every qualified candidate may be implicit in the recruitment rules as also in the equal opportunity right enshrined in Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution, screening a candidate out of consideration at an initial stage of the process of selection is not illegal or unconstitutional, if a legitimate field demarcating the choice by reference to some rational formula is carved out. The power to prescribe a zone of selection or field of choice cannot be denied even in a case where there is a preference clause in as much as the rule of preference will still continue to operate in the restricted zone of consideration. In the present times of large-scale unemployment, unless such power is recognised, the appointing authority will have to allow every eligible candidate to compete in the process of selection at all stages upto the final appointment, involving such waste of public time, money and energy and arousing false hopes in the minds of the competing candidates. There is, therefore, nothing inherently wrong in restricting the field of choice in the present case to First Class graduates of various faculties.
This passage, in our view, supports the course adopted by the 1st respondent.
4. In the next case, 1978(1) SLR 133 (supra), the question related to the appointment of Food question related to the appointment of Food Inspectors under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954. The advertisement inviting applications for the post stated, that apart from other qualifications, the candidate must be a Graduate Sanitary Inspector having an experience as such for a minimum period of one year and having received three months' training in food inspection and sampling work in any of the specified laboratories. The appellants were working as Sanitary Inspectors but were not Graduates and were therefore ineligible to apply for the post. At the interview following the advertisement respondents 4 to 7 were selected for appointment. The petitioners-appellants, thereupon challeged the selection primarily on the ground that they could not be excluded from consideration as they satisfied the minimum qualifications prescribed in the rule and that the State had no authority to specify a qualification higher than that prescribed under the rules. This contention was rejected by a learned single Judge. On appeal a Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed the decision. In the course of the judgment the learned Chief Justice observed:
To our mind, the touchstone for determining an issue of the present kind is again inevitably to examine the real intent of the legislature in prescribing qualifications for a class of posts. Where this is obviously a prescription of minimum qualifications or the barest requirement for eligibility, then plainly there can be no bar for the respondent-State to seek persons with higher qualifications than the lowest level laid down by the rule makers. Ordinarily, the rationale underlying the prescription of qualifications in most statutes or rules is to prevent poor or unqualified persons to be appointed to a post in the public service which requires the performance of responsible duties. It could hardly be the intent of the legislature to either debar persons of higher qualifications or to deny them the preference which they by their industry or merit signified by superior qualifications may entail. Nor can one react into the prescription of minimum qualification requirement that every person having such qualification must be considered against that post despite the fact that others superior in merit to him are available and for the same. Of course, we are not saying that the maximum qualifications cannot be fixed by statute because the legislature may well have plenary powers to do so. All that is being indicated is that unless expressly otherwise provided the prescription of qualifications is ordinarily the minimum for eligibility to the particular post and not the maxima therefor.
Counsel for the petitioner sought to distinguish the latter decision contending that it proceeded on the concession of the Advocate for the appellants. This is not so even though in one paragraph their Lordships observed that the Advocate had not disputed one point. It is far from saying that the judgment is based on a concession.
5. We are in respectful agreement with the view taken in the above two decisions. What the 1st respondent did was not to modify or re-write the statutory rules but only to adopt a course o narrowing the field of choice by eliminating third class graduates from scrutiny to minimise the difficulties by screening and to secure the better level of talent for the High Court Service. We do not find it possible to strike down Ext.Pl as illegal or unauthorised.
6. Even though we have sustained Exts. PI and P3 we suggest that, in order to avoid controversies and to put above dispute the steps that might be taken by the High Court for recruitment of staff and to narrow the field of choice, it is worth consideration whether the qualifications under the rules could not be suitably amended. The authorities concerned, we hope, will bestow their thought on this aspect
We dismiss the Original Petition but without costs.