Courtesy the five marks controversy, the fortunes of nearly three dozen people — a majority of whom are serving in the Punjab government’s publicity department — have fluctuated sharply in the past three days. And, the mandarins responsible for implementing the Punjab and Haryana high court orders are now in a tizzy.
Six assistant public relations officers (APROs), who were appointed three years ago and sacked on May 5 by the government, as per the January 30 ruling of the high court, received a major reprieve on Thursday when a two-judge bench stayed this termination order.
The interim order also gave a sigh of relief to those whom the gover nment had to demote while recasting the merit list as per the high court verdict of a single judge.
But Thursday’s court order came as a crushing blow to six other candidates whom the government had appointed in place of the sacked employees.
Having resigned from their jobs in the private sector, these new appointees on Wednesday had given joining reports and were undergoing medical tests on Thursday while fulfilling other formalities when the news emanated from the high court of staying the sacking as well as induction of the APROs as per the new merit list duly prepared on the directions of the high court.
At the root of this case has been the Punjab government’s move to give five additional marks to candidates who had passed middle and matriculation examination from schools in rural areas.
On January 30, a single judge had set aside selections of information and public relations officers (IPROs) while directing the authorities to recast the merit list after ignoring five additional marks in question and offer appointment to the candidates who would figure in the fresh select list as per the vacancies advertised.
This exercise, the court had ruled, should be done in three months — by April 29. Thus, in the absence of any relief from the court, the appointments of all nine IPROs and 19 APROs who were recruited in 2011 were cancelled on May 5, while fresh appointment letters were issued.
In this exercise, apart from sacking six APROs, the positions of some IPROs and APROs were reversed.
According to official records, the merit list was recast after the APROs affected by the January 30 ruling did not get relief from the high court.
On April 23, the division bench of justice Jasbir Singh and justice HS Sidhu had “dismissed” the application of Kuljit Singh and others, seeking a stay on the single-judge order. However, the same bench on Thursday stayed the state government’s May 5 order.
Government sources say in April 2010 a division bench in the ‘Sudesh Rani versus state of Punjab’ case had allowed awarding five extra marks to candidates who passed their middle and matriculation exams from rural areas.
The ruling in the Sudesh Rani case was later overruled by a full bench of the high court in the 'Abhishek Rishi versus Punjab' case on the grounds that the award of additional marks for passing middle and matriculation exams from rural schools was ultra vires (beyond the powers) of the Constitution.
The Punjab government had moved the Supreme Court against the full-bench ruling. However, the government withdrew the petition in November last year.