In a blow to the SAD-BJP government in Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana high court has set aside the selection of 31 laboratory attendants made by the state government last year during the run-up to the state assembly elections.
The bench headed by justice Rajesh Bindal also found that in the general category nine of the 15 selected candidates belonged to Lambi village in Muktsar district, the constituency represented by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Finding the selection criteria made by the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) as "tailor made" to suit the favourites, the high court while setting aside the selection directed the board to re-advertise the posts within two months for fresh selection after finalising the proper criteria.
Justice Rajesh Bindal said, "In my opinion, the process of selection does not inspire confidence and deserves to be set aside." In the judgment, justice Bindal mentioned that in a reply to one of the petitions challenging the selection, the board has itself mentioned, "As per the directions of the government, 31 laboratory attendants were selected."
An advertisement was issued for filling up of 31 posts of laboratory attendants on April 27, 2011 and the last date of submission was May 9, 2011. A total of 4,752 candidates had applied and after the written test conducted on September 28, 2011, a total of 1,952 candidates were shortlisted who were interviewed on different dates.
The unsuccessful candidates challenged the selection through a bunch of petitions on the ground that "merit has been given a complete go-by" as the candidates scoring low marks in the written test were selected "by giving higher marks in interview".
It was submitted that even the criteria for selection was prescribed just before the interviews were to take place, which is not permitted by rules.
The criteria for any selection had to be prescribed in advance before even the advertisement is issued, the petitioners had contended.
However, the bench after going through the official records observed, "There are a lot of cuttings on the documents prescribing the criteria."
The bench said there were no deliberations in the form of minutes of meeting by the selection committee available in the file showing fixing the criteria of selection. "Rather, the number of documents and cuttings made therein regarding fixing the criteria shows that apparently the same may have been tailor-made," the bench said.