Upholding a woman scheduled caste candidate's plea that answer sheets were deliberately destroyed by authorities to favour certain candidates, the Supreme Court has directed Haryana Public Service Commission to conduct fresh written test and interviews to recruit Hindi lecturers.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya agreed with the complaint of Poonam Rani that the commission had mala fide intentions in destroying the answer sheets of the examination held in October 2008 to avoid judicial scrutiny of the selection process.
Noting that the destruction of the answer sheets was contrary to the apex court's earlier judgment and a resolution passed by the commission, the bench rejected the authorities' plea that the scripts were destroyed due to certain confusion and inadvertence.
"The explanation given by the secretary for not preserving the answer sheets for three months is frivolous and wholly unacceptable because it is neither the pleaded case of the commission nor the counsel appearing on its behalf argued that the concerned officers were not aware of resolution dated October 1, 1994.
"Therefore, the action of the officers of the commission to destroy the record cannot but be termed as wholly arbitrary and unjustified.
"The sole object of this exercise appears to be to ensure that in the event of challenge to the result of the selection, the court may not be able to scrutinise the record for the purpose of finding out whether the selection was fair and objective or the candidates had been subjected to invidious discrimination," Justice Singhvi writing the judgment said.
The commission had earlier declined to select Poonam for the post of Hindi lecturer in the SC category on the ground that she had secured 117 out of 225 marks as against 119 marks secured by the last selected candidate of Scheduled Caste female category.
Her plea through the RTI for furnishing the answer sheets failed to get favourable response, upon which she moved the Punjab and Haryana high court which too declined to interfere with the commission's order following which she appealed in the apex court.
In Pritpal Singh vs State of Haryana (1994) case, the apex court had considered a similar issue and held that "the answer papers having been destroyed, it becomes impossible to ascertain what marks each candidate had secured".
At that time, it had directed the Haryana Subordinate Services Selection Board to preserve the answer papers of the candidates and the tabulation of marks made by the examiners for at least three months after the declaration of the result of the selection.
In the present case, the bench said the affidavit filed by the secretary of the commission clearly shows that within a few days of declaration of the result of the selection, answer sheets of the written examination held in June 2008 were destroyed.
This was done in blatant violation of resolution (Commission) dated October 1, 1994, in terms of which the answer sheets could be destroyed after three months from the date of declaration of the result of the selection.
The apex court also found fault in the manner in which the single judge and later a division bench of the high court refused to interfere with the plea of the candidate.