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Ritu Bhatia Vs. Ministry of Civil Supplies Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (05 Feb 2019)

Words used in advertisement should be given a literal meaning and same is to be considered strictly



Present appeal was filed against the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court by which the Division Bench has dismissed the said appeal and has confirmed the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge passed in Writ Petition dismissing the said writ petition by not interfering with the order terminating the services of the Appellant, the original writ Petitioner has preferred the present appeal.

The question which is posed for consideration before present Court is, whether in the facts and circumstances of the case can it be said that the Appellant fulfilled the eligibility criteria mentioned in the advertisement of having experience of five years 'as' a Company Secretary and/or, can it be said that the period during which the Appellant worked as 'Management Trainee' and/or 'Assistant Company Secretary' be considered for treating the Appellant having been appointed 'as' a Company Secretary so as to become eligible for the post of Company Secretary which was advertised.

It can be seen from the relevant appointment orders, and even as per the case of the Appellant that, she was working as Assistant Company Secretary for the period between June 2008 to May 2010 in Utkal Investments Limited and that she was working as Management Trainee in the Delhi Stock Exchange Association Limited for the period between April 2005 to June 2006, and as the Management Trainee in ONGC for the period between May 2003 to June 2004. Her appointment as Management Trainee cannot be equated and/or considered as appointment 'as' a Company Secretary.

The word 'as' used in the advertisement should be given a literal meaning. The Respondent is the author of the advertisement and they are the best person to consider what they meant by using the word 'as'. It is the specific case on behalf of the Respondents that the intention behind the advertisement was that the applicant must have been appointed 'as' a Company Secretary in PSU/Company of repute and functioned as such for five years to be eligible for appointment. When the word 'as' is specifically used, the same is to be considered strictly and therefore the experience of the Appellant, while working as a 'Management Trainee' cannot be considered as an experience of working 'as' a Company Secretary and/or it cannot be said that she was appointed 'as' a Company Secretary.

In the advertisement, it has been specifically and categorically stated that, a candidate shall have post qualification experience of five years 'as' Company Secretary. The word used "experience as Company Secretary" has to be given meaning that a candidate must have been appointed 'as' a Company Secretary and shall have actually worked 'as' a Company Secretary for five years. Giving other meaning would be changing the eligibility criteria as mentioned in the advertisement. The Appellant has no experience of five years 'as' Company Secretary, as she was appointed and/or worked as 'Management Trainee' or 'Assistant Company Secretary'.

In the present case, the word 'as' and the words 'experience as Company Secretary' used in the advertisement are very clear and as observed, it means the candidate ought to be appointed and worked as such 'as' a Company Secretary. As Appellant did not fulfil the eligibility criteria of having five years post qualification experience 'as' Company Secretary as on 30th November, 2013, the services of the Appellant have rightly been terminated. Present appeal is accordingly dismissed.


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