Selection of 29 Information Officers Invalid: SC Upholds HC Order

Srinagar—The Supreme Court of India has dismissed pleas seeking review of its judgment, upholding J&K High Court’s ruling in which provisional selection of 29 Assistant Information Officers by State Service Selection Board in 2013 was held to be invalid.

“The review petitions are dismissed in terms of the signed order,” a division bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit ordered by circulation upon perusing papers. On February 20 this year, the Division Bench has dismissed special leave petitions filed by state’s Service Selection Board and aggrieved candidates against the High Court’s May 2013 verdict in which the provisional selection of 29 AIOs was declared invalid and the recruiting agency was asked to a proceed with the selection process afresh in conformity with the rules.

“When the provisional selection list offends the rules, then to continue with the process shall not be permissible because process initiated is a base for follow up, when base is shaken, follow up shall be in-consequential,” the division bench of justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Janak Raj Kotwal had ruled while disposing of appeals against the single bench order quashing the selection list issued by the SSB.

The court had directed the SSB to finalise the process of selection with promptitude of the eligible candidates who have applied in response to three the advertisement notices.

The high court had asked the board to first to constitute the committees as required in terms of law (Rule 6(4) of the Rules of 2010) and fix the criteria in tune with Rule 14 of the Rules of 2010.

The SSB had issued three different notifications in 2006, 2008 and 2010, inviting application for the posts of Assistant Information Officer Grade-II. Subsequently, the SSB issued a provisional selection list on 21 January 2012.

Aggrieved by the selection process, a number of non-selected candidates petitioned high court.

After discussing various aspects of the case, a single bench of the court headed by Justice Hasnain Massodi concluded prejudice to petitioners due to the change in criteria in the middle of the selection process and methodology on the date of the Aptitude test and interview (19 October 2011). The Board has sidelined the merit in the qualifying examination, the single bench had observed, underlying that no credit has been given to higher qualification.

The Board, the court had said, avoided to shortlist the candidates on the basis of merit in qualifying examination as provided under Rule 14 of the Jammu & Kashmir Decentralization Rules/Rule 3 of Jammu and Kashmir(Subordinate) Services Recruitment Rules, 1992. In view of the conclusions, the court had quashed notification (No.SSB/Secy/ Sel/2764-69/11 (dated 13 October 2011) and corrigendum (19 October 2011 to Part ‘e’ to the notification and also the selection list dated 21 January 2012.

Upholding the conclusion drawn by single judge, the division bench had rejected the contentions that no prejudice was caused to the petitioners (selected candidates) as they too have been awarded highest marks in viva-voce. “Question is that when law provides for doing a particular thing in a particular manner, same cannot be permitted to be violated. The Committee constituted for the selection is not in conformity with the Rules of 2010. When constitution of the Committee and the criteria fixed violates the rules, any selection based on such criteria has to collapse.”

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