Two men in their late 50s, who were found ineligible for a government job 26 years ago due to upper age limit criteria, once again missed the opportunity after the Gujarat High Court disposed of their petition citing that though they had cleared the recruitment test, they can’t be given jobs now because of their age today.
During the court hearing on Thursday, petitioners Jagdish Dhanani and K V Vadodaria learnt that they had cleared a recruitment test of the Gujarat Public Service Commission (GPSC) for the post of deputy director of agriculture 26 years ago.
The division bench of acting Chief Justice A J Desai and Justice Biren Vaishnav, however, said that this exercise is now “academic” because the petitioners are nearing the age of retirement and they had already taken up employment elsewhere during the pendency of the appeal.
“What will you (petitioner) gain if we quash and set aside (past the GPSC order)? Nothing. You can’t be appointed now. We are disposing of this. This is for academic purposes. You (petitioners) can’t be appointed now. You (Jagdish Dhanani) are 58 and another (Vadodaria) is working somewhere),” Chief Justice Desai said when the petitioner’s lawyer sought a favourable order after the sealed cover was opened during the proceedings.
As per the case details, four petitioners Jagdish Dhanani, K V Vadodaria, P D Vekaria and V A Nandania had filed an appeal in the High Court after the GPSC had denied them permission to sit in a recruitment test taken in 1997 for the post of deputy director agriculture.
At that time, the GPSC had set the upper age limit to 30 years. Since the petitioners had already crossed the age limit, the commission had rejected their applications.
When they approached the high court against the GPSC’s rejection, the court had passed an interim order in 1997 and directed the commission to let them appear for the test and interview and submit the results in a sealed cover.
As directed by the high court, the petitioners appeared for the recruitment process and their results were submitted to the court.
When the matter came up for final hearing on Thursday, the bench ordered the GPSC’s lawyer Chaitanya Joshi to open a sealed cover, which revealed that Dhanani and Vadodaria had cracked the test.
When inquired, the petitioners’ lawyer Ratilal Sakaria informed the bench that Vadodaria is now working as an associate professor at a state government-run Navsari Agricultural University and Dhanani was self employed.
Sakaria also informed the court that Vekaria is employed with Junagadh Agricultural University, while the other petitioner V A Nandania retired at an age of 58 as a principal of a college one year back.
When Chief Justice Desai expressed surprise, saying “what remains to be decided now?”, Sakaria insisted that the matter should be decided on the merits.
On this, the GPSC lawyer said the petitioners have been “gainfully employed at another equivalent post with equivalent pay and now today they must be 57 or 58 years old. So this becomes very academic. Nonetheless, results were kept in sealed cover”.
While agreeing to the petitioner’s view that the upper age limit of 30 years was not “reasonable”, the bench simultaneously said jobs can be given now because of the passage of time.
“So how can they be accommodated now? They are now almost 56 or 57. They can’t be appointed,” Chief Justice Desai said after the sealed cover was opened.
The GPSC also apprised the bench that the rules regarding the upper age limit had been amended by the state government some time ago and now the upper age limit is 35 years.
“The rules are amended and the age limit has been raised to 35. Considering the fact that the issue is only academic now, in light of the age of the petitioners, one and three, and when all the petitioners were gainfully engaged and employed, the question of challenge to the rules is academic now and need not go into. Petition is disposed of,” the bench said in its order.