With the Punjab and Haryana high court coming down heavily on him, the chairman of Haryana School Teachers Selection Board (HSTSB), Brigadier (retd.) Nand Lal Poonia was asked to tender his resignation by the state government. A Board member Gian Chand Sahota has been ordered to perform the duties of the chairman till further orders.
A division bench of justice Surya Kant and justice Surinder Gupta had in September 2013 slammed Poonia for his role as Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC), chairman while upholding the 2012 order of single judge setting aside the appointment of 1983 physical training instructors in 2010 by commission.
The HC said that a conscious decision once taken by the commission had been “systematically deviated” by chairman, Poonia, to give “safe passage” to hundreds of candidates with poor academic profile due to “benevolence of highly inflated marks” awarded in viva voce.
Subsequently, on December 13, 2013, a division bench headed by chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had asked Haryana government to take appropriate action against Poonia in light of the adverse remarks by the HC. The court said that since role and manner of working of Poonia had been severely criticised and adversely commented upon by the court, earlier, while setting aside selection of 1,983 physical training instructors (PTIs) under his chairmanship of Haryana Staff Selection Commission, the state needed to take “appropriate decision”. The court also said that it was for the competent authority to take a decision at its own end with regard to continuance of Poonia as chairman of the Teachers Selection Board.
The bench headed by the chief justice said: “We stop short here as we are quite sanguine of an appropriate decision to be taken in this regard within a reasonable time.”
The HC bench of justice Surya Kant and justice Surinder Gupta had earlier found that Poonia as HSSC chairman had hijacked all decisions of the commission. The court said that since the decisions regarding method of recruitment, mode of selection and criteria for selection are required to be taken by the commission alone, the chairman could not have “usurped those powers” and assumed the role of commission.
“It is unfortunate that instead of reversing his unlawful decisions, taken by side-tracking eight other members, the chairman involved those other members in a mock-drill and flashed a surprise on the learned single judge by producing the magical single loose sheet of their purported decision dated August 3, 2008, laying down the ‘criteria for selection’,” the court said.
A favourite of chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Poonia was appointed as chairman of Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC) in 2005 after the Congress government led by Hooda came to power. In 2007, the Council of Ministers increased the retirement age for HSSC chairman from 65 to 68 to ensure that Poonia continues as chairman.