Selection of Haryana physical training instructors: Probes, controversies and politics
Over 9,200 candidates on Sunday will get a fresh chance to be employed as physical training instructors (PTIs) in Haryana, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling.
The controversial selections of 1,983 PTIs by the Haryana Staff Selection Commission (HSSC) in 2010 during the Congress rule were set aside by the apex court on April 8, paving the way for a fresh recruitment process. The first step is the written exam on Sunday.
According to the apex court, selections will now be made from among the candidates applying for posts of PTI in 2006, including those who were hired.
Stringent measures are in place for conduct of exams with chief secretary Keshni Anand Arora recently speaking to the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police of Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Kaithal and Hisar to ensure everything goes smoothly.
The 2010 selections, the process for which began in 2006, remained embroiled in protracted litigation for a decade. Politics came into play once the apex court upheld the decision of the Punjab and Haryana high court to set aside the selections of 1,983 PTIs because of discrepancies in the hiring process.
Politicians of various hues came out in support of the ousted PTIs, holding khap panchayat meetings flouting social distancing norms and demanding enactment of a law to protect their jobs.
Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda recently said that the Congress legislature party will bring a private member’s bill during the coming assembly session to facilitate the reinstatement of PTIs. Hooda said courts had set aside the selections only on technical grounds.
Independent MLAs like Balraj Kundu and Sombir Sangwan, both from the BJP stable, too have espoused the cause of the dismissed instructors.
The apex court had quoted a ruling of a Constitution bench to answer the plea that it is not equitable to throw out the PTIs after they had been employed for over nine years. “It is very unfortunate that these persons should be uprooted after they had been appointed, but if equality and equal protection before the law have any meaning and if our public institutions are to inspire that confidence which is expected of them, we would be failing in our duty if we did not, even at the cost of considerable inconvenience to government and the selected candidates, do the right thing,’’ the SC said.
Criminal case against former HSSC members
The state government on the other hand has got a criminal case registered against former HSSC chairperson and members by the vigilance bureau in July for allegedly misusing their positions and tinkering with the selection criteria to help certain candidates get selected as PTIs.
The sections invoked in the FIR pertained to punishment for false evidence in a judicial proceeding, public servant disobeying law, forgery of court record or public register, forgery for the purpose of cheating and criminal misconduct by a public servant.
“The power to devise mode of selection and fix the criteria for selection was entrusted on the Commission to further the object of selection on merit to fill up posts in consonance with Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. When the alteration of criteria has been made, which has obviously affected the merit selection as we have found above, the allegations which have been made in the writ petition against the Commission in conducting the selection are allegations of malice-in-law and not malice-in-fact,’’ the apex court said.
Directives of the courts
A single bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court had on September 11, 2012 set aside the 2010 selections on account of changes made in the selection process. An HC division bench had upheld the decision of the single bench. The Supreme Court on April 8 upheld the HC decision. It termed as “arbitrary” the Commission’s decision of June 30, 2008, to cancel the written examination, the July 11, 2008 decision to call candidates eight times the number of vacancies on minimum percentage of marks for interviews and the decision of July 31, 2008 to call all the eligible candidates for interviews. These decisions were taken without any reason to change the selection criterion published in 2006, which “downgraded” the merit in the selection.
The SC also said that since the Commission was a multi-member body, all decisions pertaining to mode of selection and criteria were to be taken by the Commission itself, there being no rules or resolution delegating the said power to Chairman or any other member. “ The decision of not holding written examination, to screen on the basis of eight times of vacancies and percentage of marks and to call all eligible candidates, were taken by the Chairman himself, and cannot be said to be decisions of the Commission,’’ the SC said.
Quoting the HC findings on pattern of marks allocated to some selected and non-selected candidates, the apex court said the HC had observed that it cannot be a mere co-incidence that 90% of the meritorious candidates in academics performed so poorly in viva-voce that they could not secure even 10 marks out 30 or that the brilliance got configurated only in the average candidates possessing bare eligibility.
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