HC dismisses 81 petitions challenging termination, finds entire selection process ‘vitiated’
Dismissing a bunch of 81 petitions challenging the termination of service, the five-judge full bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court has found the entire selection process of the Punjab Civil Services (executive branch and allied services)-1998 examination to be “vitiated, filled with manipulations and fraud”.chandigarh Updated: Jun 05, 2013 00:04 IST
Dismissing a bunch of 81 petitions challenging the termination of service, the five-judge full bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court has found the entire selection process of the Punjab Civil Services (executive branch and allied services)-1998 examination to be “vitiated, filled with manipulations and fraud”.
The selections were undertaken during the chairmanship of Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu in the Punjab Public Service Commission(PPSC).
The court said, “The faith of the common man was destroyed completely by a pious institute of (Punjab) Public Service Commission, whose main object, as per the preamble, was to give equality of status and opportunity and promote all citizens equally.”
The full bench, comprising justices Ritu Bahri, Paramjeet Singh, Naresh Kumar Sanghi, Rameshwar Singh Malik and Inderjit Singh, accepted the high court-constituted three-judge committee’s report dated February 8, 2007, in its entirety in which the whole selection was found to be vitiated.
The court said it was the “first case in the history of the public service commission in India where such huge amount of money has been recovered from the fictitious bank account (of Sidhu) after recording the statement of one of the accused, Jagman Singh (who later turned approver).”
The full bench mainly deliberated on three issues. Whether the 23 selected candidates who are facing criminal trial can be described as tainted? Whether the selection of other candidates who are not facing criminal trial can be described to be vitiated in view of the detailed investigation carried out by the Punjab vigilance bureau? Whether the state government was fair in giving a chance of second examination in 2003 to all the candidates?
On the first question, the court said, “This court has no hesitation to conclude that all these (23) candidates are tainted as found by the committee.”
Answering the second question, the court said, “Keeping in view that all the candidates examined by the committee were part of a vitiated and tainted selection process, it can safely be concluded that majority of the candidates were part of the tainted selection process. The candidates against whom FIRs are not registered are thus not entitled to re-appointment. However, they shall be eligible for participating in any regular selection in future.”
Deciding the third question, the court was of the view that “while terminating the services (in 2002), the government had taken a conscious decision to have a re-examination immediately (in 2003) for all candidates who had participated in the earlier examination.”
In February 1998, the PPSC advertised 28 vacancies in PCS (Executive Branch) and 63 vacancies in Allied Services. As many as 1,097 candidates took the main examination in July, August 1998 the result of which was declared in January 1999. As many as 273 candidates were called for interviews between April and June 1999. The final result was declared in July 1999 and successful candidates were appointed in September 1999.
About Rs 22 crore was recovered from the possession of the then PPSC chairman Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu alleged to be illegal gratification taken to help candidates in the selection.
In May-September 2002, the state government terminated the services of the selected candidates. FIRs were registered against candidates in September 2002. The selected candidates then challenged their termination in the high court, which upheld the state government’s decision in July 2003. The matter went to the Supreme Court which set aside the termination orders of the selected candidates in May 2006 and sent back the case to the high court.
Accused on Bail
Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu was arrested on March 25, 2002, and the Supreme Court had in January 2004 granted him bail after remaining behind the bars for around two years.
The special CBI court Patiala had on November 26, 2012, sentenced former Ferozepur SSP Gurcharan Singh Pherurai to two years’ imprisonment after holding him guilty of paying Rs 70 lakh as bribe to Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu to secure a job in PCS for his daughter Kuljeet Kaur, who was later removed. Pherurai is at present on bail.