SRINAGAR The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Wednesday deferred further consideration on a Public Interest Litigation against combined competitive (mains) examination 2016 till a clarification by the Supreme Court in the matter.
The examination was held from July 2 to August 8 last year. 6427 candidates had appeared in the examination and 963 of them qualified for personality test and viva-voice.
We defer further consideration of the matter till clarification is sought either by Public Service Commission or by any aggrieved party from the Supreme Court as to whether in view of the pendency of Special Leave Petition this court can proceed to deal with the preliminary objection regarding maintainability of PIL, said a division bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey and Justice Sanjeev Kumar, two days after reserving the order after hearing counsel for parties.
The PIL was commenced on 21 December last year on the representation of 83 applicants, alleging irregularities on account of alleged data corruption and huge human error in the digital marking adopted for evaluation of answer scripts in the Combined Competitive Examination held by the J&K Public Service Commission . On the same day (December 21), the Court also directed that till next date of hearing, there shall be stay of further selection process and the case was posted for further consideration on January 28.
The J&KPSC however approached the Supreme Court against the High Court order. On January 21, the Apex Court allowed the premier recruiting agency for gazetted posts to carry out further selection process in the KAS examination 2016 but barred it from making the appointment.
The SC however, made it clear that the high court would be free to decide the suo-motu Public Interest Litigation on merits on the date fixed.
In compliance to the high courts notice, the J&KPSC filed a detailed reply seeking to meet the points raised by the aggrieved persons who had filed the representation before it on 17 December last year but has also took preliminary objections to the maintainability of the PIL, citing certain judgments of the Apex Court and various High Courts to the effect that public interest ligitation cannot be entertained in service matters.
Amicus curie and senior advocate Z. A. Shah, submitted that in terms of the Supreme Court order on 2 January this year, the High Court was required to decide the PIL on merits.
Advocate R. A. Jan, senior counsel representing the aggrieved candidates submitted that the Court on considering the seriousness of the matter with reference to the change in the standard of examination by shifting to Digital Evaluation and On Screen Marking (DE/OSM) has entertained the suo-moto PIL for ascertaining as to how the Commission has made such a change in the procedure, which according to him was full of errors.
On being asked by the court as to how the PIL was maintainable on the subject of selection on behalf of the aggrieved candidates, as the same amounts to adversary litigation based on challenge to the enlisted qualifying candidates, advocate Jan submitted that when the selection is found to be based on fraud or full of errors and data corruption, Court has power to deal the matter in PIL.
Advocate Javed Iqbal, representing some applicants submitted that some of the aggrieved candidates have already challenged the action of the PSC in separate petition with reference to shifting of mode and method of the evaluation of the answer papers from manual to digital screen evaluation and the same was expected to be listed for consideration before the Single Bench of the Court within a day or so. He submitted that the petition may be considered along with this PIL for consideration.
Admittedly, the case at hand is a service matter, therefore, needs a decision first to be taken on preliminary objection, but the only impediment is pendency of the SLP as we are not clear as to whether the Supreme Court has left this Court free to proceed ahead with the case notwithstanding Special Leave Petition pending before that court and deal with the preliminary objection, the court said, adding, In our view, the order cannot be read in essence that the Supreme Court directed this Court to decide the PIL on its merits whether or not it is maintainable, therefore, we thought it proper to await further orders with reference to clarification from the Supreme Court which may be sought by the parties in appearance, the court said.
In light of the foregone discussion, the court deferred further consideration of the matter till clarification is sought either by Public Service Commission or by any aggrieved party from the top Court as to whether in view of the pendency of Special Leave Petition the high court can proceed to deal with the preliminary objection regarding maintainability of PIL.
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