Place residence

Unable to refuse public employment on the basis of residence/domicile: Kerala High Court reiterates

The Kerala High Court recently observed that an applicant cannot be denied public employment simply on the grounds that he is not a resident or domicile of a particular place.

Judging thus, Judge VG Arun rescinded a resolution and declared that the Panchayat cannot refuse a nomination to the most deserving candidate on the grounds that she is not a resident of the Panchayat.

“The legal position that there can be no discrimination in public employment based on a candidate’s place of residence or domicile is no longer res integra.”

The petitioner had applied for a position advertised by the Annamanada Grama Panchayat under the MNREGS. After the interview, the petitioner was ranked first and her nomination was considered for the relevant position during the Panchayat committee meeting held in September 2020. However, nine members of the said meeting objected to the nomination of the petitioner to the ground that his place of residence was not within the Panchayat.

Injured by the resolution adopted at this meeting, the petitioner asked the Court to strike down the resolution as arbitrary and unconstitutional and to declare the petitioner’s right to an appointment, based on her position in the ranking list.

Lawyer Thulasi K. Raj appearing for the petitioner argued that the Panchayat is required to appoint the petitioner according to her rank and that the decision not to appoint persons outside the Panchayat violates the constitutional guarantee under Article 16. It was also pointed out that in the notification of the call for nominations, there was no mention of a condition that only residents of the Panchayat would be considered for nomination or that preference would be given to such residents.

On the other hand, Lawyer ODSivadas appearing for the Panchayat argued that the applicant has no irrevocable right to be nominated by virtue of her inclusion on the ranking list.

Senior Government Advocate V. Venugopal contended that the applicant’s denial of appointment on the grounds that she does not reside in Annamanada Panchayat is unlawful while adding that there is no provision in the MNREGS law or any government decree giving preference to candidates from the Panchayat or excluding people from outside the Panchayat.

The Court concurred with the opinion of the government’s senior defender and noted that the legal position in this question was no more res integrated.

He referred to Kailash Chand Sharma v. State of Rajasthan, (2002) 6 SCC 562, where the Apex Court held,

Residence per se – whether in a state, region, district or lesser area within a district shall not constitute grounds for granting preferential treatment or reservation, except as provided in l 16(3).

Therefore, the decision of the Panchayat Committee denying the appointment of the Applicant on the sole ground that she does not reside in Annamanada was found to be subject to reversal and the Application was therefore dismissed.

Case title: Liji AS vs Kerala State and Ors

Quote: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 164

Click here to read/download the order