Govt departments in quandary over 10% women’s quota in CSS

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The implementation of 10 percent reserved seats for women in the Civil Services of Pakistan (CSS) Exams has generated a controversy amongst the departments under the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) and the Ministry of Law on one side and the Establishment Division (ED) on the other, Pakistan Today reliably learned on Sunday. The controversy started in a petition when the Lahore High Court (LHC) directed the FPSC to implement the quota reserved for women in letter and spirit, while the latter submitted that an anomalous situation had arisen after clubbing the open merit and introducing reserved quota for women.
According to ED sources and documents available with Pakistan Today, Nergis Shazia Chaudhary passed the CSS exam of 2008 with an overall merit position of 344. However, she could not be allocated to any group due to her low merit position. She sent petitions to the FPSC chairman to review her selection on the basis of the women’s quota, but they were also rejected. She approached the LHC to plead selection on quota basis. The LHC allowed the appeal, but the FPSC filed a review petition in the Supreme Court which was dismissed and the commission was ordered to implement the LHC’s judgement. Consequently, Shazia was allocated the Information Group on quota basis. She submitted an application to the ED stating that the allocation of female candidates made against reserved quota was not being observed in the true spirit as given in ED Office Memorandum dated May 5, 2007 and the LHC judgement in her case. The ED consulted the FPSC on the issue and was told that Shazia had been rightly allocated the Information Group against a vacancy which became available after adjusting high scoring candidates according to their order of merit and group preferences. The FPSC added that Shazia was not eligible to choose a position, which was the right of female candidates with higher scores. The commission stated further that the LHC judgement had created an anomalous situation after orders to replace the open merit vacancies with the women quota vacancies. It added that the confusion would continue to haunt the government, the FPSC, and the prospective candidates unless it was corrected by the government by amending the Rules for Competitive Examinations (CSS) and Instruction regarding reservation of 10 percent vacancies for women.
However, ED officials said that since the court judgement in Shazia’s case had been finalised, therefore all future amendments should consider the SC orders, and any change in the application of the women’s quota would be tantamount to contempt of court.
The ED objected to an FPSC proposal that in the case of a female candidate, she would be first considered for open merit vacancies, but if no vacancy was found in the overall open merit according to her choice, then she would be considered against open merit vacancies reserved for her province. If no vacancy was found there, then she would be considered against the 10 percent vacancies reserved under women’s quota of her province, and the open merit vacancy released by her would go to the next female candidate in order of merit.
Similarly, the ED said that if a vacancy of minority quota was utilised then the open merit vacancy released by candidate shall go to the next candidate in order of merit and shall be reserved for minorities, contrary to the FPSC proposal that it shall not be reserved for minorities.
However, the ED endorsed the FPSC point of view that in case of a female candidate belonging to minorities, she will be considered first against the open merit vacancies, if no vacancy is available in open merit then against open merit vacancies of her province, if no vacancy is available there then against women’s quota vacancies and if no vacancy is available in the women’s quota, she will be considered against minorities’ quota vacancies.
However, the Law Ministry rejected the ED’s proposal that the vacancy released by a female candidate shall go to the next female candidate, saying that if a female candidate is considered against the women’s quota of her province, and once she avails that option, the open merit vacancy released by her cannot be reserved for the next female, as the seat released by the female candidate was of open merit, which does not include gender. Moreover, the ministry called the proposed amendment “impractical”, saying the women’s quota was in addition to the open merit and there was no other priority in the said seats except merit.
It also objected to another suggestion by the ED that if a vacancy of minority quota was utilised then the open merit vacancy released by him/her shall be reserved for minorities. It said the open merit vacancy could not be reserved for minorities. The final decision in this regard is still pending with the departments concerned.