What is the meaning of “experience as company secretary”?

Facts:

Appellant 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.

It was held that: 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. According to the respondent, the purpose was that the person should have held the position of a Company Secretary in a PSU/Company of repute and discharged the statutory functions as such i.e. should have held the position of responsibility. Therefore, 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. If the period during which the appellant had worked as a ‘Management Trainee’ is excluded, in that case, admittedly, the appellant would not be fulfilling the requisite eligibility criteria of having been appointed ‘as’ a Company Secretary in a PSU/Company of repute. It cannot be said that the appellant had, while working as a ‘Management Trainee’, functioned ‘as’ a ‘Company Secretary.

If submission on behalf of the appellant is accepted that by performing duties as ‘Management Trainee’ she was also performing some duties as ‘Company Secretary’ and therefore she can be said to have fulfilled the eligibility criteria of having been appointed ‘as’ a Company Secretary, in that case, it would be against the intent. If the intention was such, in that case, the wording in the advertisement should have been that the candidate should have the experience of the similar nature of work as “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. As observed hereinabove, 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 view of the above and for the reasons stated above, as appellant did not fulfil the eligibility criteria of having five years post qualification experience ‘as’ Company Secretary as on 30.11.2013, the services of the appellant have rightly been terminated.

[Source: Ritu Bhatia vs. Ministry of Civil Supplies, decided on Feb. 5, 2019 ]

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