In a jolt to the Hooda Government, a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday upheld its single-judge order of setting aside the Haryana Staff Selection Commission’s decision to appoint 1,983 physical training instructors (PTIs) in 2010.
The division bench, comprising justices Surya Kant and Surinder Gupta, also slapped an exemplary fine of R6.7 lakh on the Haryana government, R 1 lakh on the commission and R2.3 lakh on selected PTIs who had challenged the single-judge bench’s order before the division bench.
The court said that a conscious decision once taken by the commission had been “systematically deviated” by chairman Brigadier Nand Lal Poonia (retd) to give “safe passage” to hundreds of candidates with poor academic profile due to the “benevolence of highly inflated marks” awarded in viva voce. Poonia is now the chairman of the Haryana School Teachers’ Selection Board and his appointment has been challenged in the high court. The court said, "Why the education department was in such a hurry or overly anxious to appoint selected candidates with doubtful academic credentials, is beyond anyone’s comprehension." At present, all 1,983 PTIs are serving in various schools across Haryana.
Earlier, the single-judge bench had in its judgment passed on September 11, 2012, quashed the entire selection on the ground that all decisions were solely taken by the chairman of the commission without involving other members and had directed the commission to hold a fresh selection within five months. However, the commission, state government and the selected candidates choose to file appeal before the division bench of the high court.
Chairman usurped commission’s powers
The court found that Brigadier Poonia had hijacked all decisions of the commission. It said since the decisions regarding method of recruitment, mode of selection and criteria for selection were required to be taken by the commission, the chairman could not usurp the powers and assume the role of the 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 observed.
On a random scanning of the final result sheets, the court found that there were 1,496 candidates who got the highest marks for academic qualifications ranging between 40 and 48 marks out of a total of 60 marks. 90% of these candidates had been awarded just seven to nine marks in viva voce out of a total of 30 marks. There were hundreds of selected candidates who were awarded 20 to 27 marks in viva voce to ensure they outclass academically bright candidates.
Selection criteria altered
“Here is a case where the alterations in criteria had been designed with the sole objective of downgrading and not upgrading the standards of selection to public employment,” the court observed. It added that the criteria which was notified before the commencement of the selection process was not followed and what has been followed was never notified till the declaration of the final result.
Written exam could not be cancelled
Deciding on the issue whether there existed a valid reason to scrap the written test on February 1, 2007, the court found that the reports sent by the sub divisional magistrate and centre superintendent clearly identified four or five candidates who indulged in unlawful means and these reports did not even distantly suggest any leakage of the question paper. “How could it (exam) be cancelled for the misdemeanour of 4 to 5 identified wrongdoers?” the court observed.
July 20, 2006 : HSSC advertised 1,983 posts of PTIs
January 21, 2007 : Written exam held
February 1, 2007 : Written exam cancelled after numerous complaints of malpractice
June 11, 2008 : Decision taken to conduct written exam on July 20
June 20, 2008 : Written exam to be held on July 20 cancelled
July 12, 2008 : Decision to invite candidates 8 times of vacancies on basis of academic qualifications
July 31, 2008 : Decision to call all eligible candidates for interview
Sept 2-October 17, 2008 : Interviews of 15,882 candidates conducted
April 11, 2010 : HSSC declares result
Sept 11, 2012 : Single-judge bench quashed the entire selection
Sept 30, 2013 : Division bench upholds single-judge bench order