A division bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court has on Wednesday upheld its single-judge order of setting aside the July 2011 selection of public relations officers (PROs) in Punjab, which was on the basis of five extra marks for the Class-8 and Class-10 certificates of rural-area schools.
The bench comprising justices Satish Kumar Mittal and Arun Palli dismissed two letters patent appeals (LPAs). The detailed judgment, however, is yet to be released. The assistant public relation officers (APROs) whose selection is set aside are Kuljit Mianpuri, Balwinder Kaur and Baljinder Singh, all stationed at Chandigarh; Hardeep Singh at Barnala; and Avtar Singh and Gurpartap Kairon at Jalandhar.
Complying with the single-judge order of January 30, the Punjab government had prepared a fresh merit list on May 5 after firing the six APROs and replacing them with Megha Mann, Puneet Pal Singh Gill, Gagneet Singh Aujala, Harmeet Singh, Balwinder Kumar, and Bhupesh Chatha. Based on the new list, it also demoted Subeg Singh (Chandigarh) and Jagdeep Singh Gill (Bathinda) from information and public relations officer (IPRO) to APRO. However, Narender Pal Singh and Amandeep Singh were promoted as IPROs.
Since the high court division bench had on May 8 stayed the Punjab government order of May 5, the new APROs could not join the service even after the medical examination and so had approached the court through advocate Harpreet Sandhu. Wednesday's high court decision has vacated the stay on their joining.
On January 30, the single-judge bench headed by justice Rajesh Bindal had set aside the selection of the PROs on the ground that when the advertisement was out in September 2009, there was no criterion of five extra marks for holding the middle and matriculation certificates of rural-area schools. The chief minister approved the condition in October 2010, subsequent to the written examination.
"The issue as to whether rules of the game, namely the criteria for selection, can be altered after the selection process has commenced has been gone into by the Supreme Court on a number of occasions and it has been held that the change of rules of the game during the process or after the game had been played, is clearly impermissible," justice Bindal had said.
September 2009: Posts advertised
July 2010: Written test conducted
September 2010: Criterion changed
December 2010: Interviews conducted
July 2011: Selections finalised
January 30, 2014: High court single-judge bench sets aside selection, gives state government three months to prepare fresh merit list
February 28: Single-judge order challenged before division bench
May 5: The Punjab government fires 6 APROs, appoints replacements
May 8: State government decision challenged, high courts puts stay
August 13: High court upholds single-judge order setting aside initial selection