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March 10, 2023 10:34 pm

J&K HC Clears Decks For JKSSB To Hold Exams

Srinagar- A division bench of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court on Friday set aside judgment of single bench order canceling allotment of contract to the Mumbai-based Aptech firm for conducting job tests.

The bench requested the single bench to hear and decide a fresh petition challenging engagement of the firm and maintained its interim directions shall remain in force.

Notably, the job aspirants in the J&K are up in arms against the Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB) for awarding the contract to a “blacklisted company” for conducting job exams.

Both the regions witnessed massive protests against the decision. It may be noted that the JKSSB has been in news for the last two years for over recruitment scams.

The petition was filed by Jammu based-activist Vinkal Sharma against the Union Territory of J&K.

In the writ petition, Sharma had noted that JKSSB be directed not to conduct the examination through M/S Aptech Limited being a blacklisted agency.

Sharma had informed the court that the earlier board had ignored the successful bidder, i.e., ND Info Systems Pvt. Ltd and gave the contract to Merit Tract Services Pvt. Ltd, a blacklisted firm.

Merit Tract Services Pvt. Ltd conducted the examinations of Junior Engineer (Civil), Jal Shakti Department, Sub Inspector (Home Department) and also Finance Account Assistants in the year 2022.

“However, due to various malpractices occurring during the examinations in its various centers and leakage of papers, the said examinations were scrapped by the JKSSB. The matter was investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation, filed a charge sheet in these matters but despite that the Board did not hold MeritTrac Services Pvt. Ltd. accountable or blacklisted the firm,” the writ petition reads.

The petitioners while fearing unfair recruitment process further noted that Board is overlooking this big scam issued fresh tender and after manipulating certain conditions in the tender gave the tender to M/S Aptech Ltd., which also has a “tainted history”, has already been accused of “malpractices” in various examinations and has also been blacklisted previously.

On 30 December 2022, the a single bench of J&K High Court  directed the government to constitute a high level Committee headed by not less than a retired High Court Judge to enquire into the conduct of Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board for the their brazen irregularities/illegalities in changing the terms/conditions of the tender, also as to what weighed with them to award a contract to conduct an examination by an organization which has previously facilitated malpractices in public examinations and accordingly appropriate action be initiated against those found guilty.

It had further noted that the functioning of Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board does not “inspire confidence” in holding public examinations.

“It has become incumbent on all stakeholders to review the functioning of the Board.” the court had said.

However the order was then stayed by a division bench after the government challenged the single bench order.

The division bench allowed the board to go ahead with exams but barred it from declaring results till further orders from the court.

On Friday, the division comprising Justice Tabi Rabistan and Justice M.A Choudhary remitted the writ petition back to the writ court for deciding the matter afresh.

“……Therefore, in view of what has been discussed above, we, without discussing the merits of the case, deem it proper to dispose of the appeals and remit the writ petition back to the Writ Court for deciding the matter afresh. Ordered accordingly,” the order reads.

It further said “Accordingly, the order and judgment impugned is hereby set aside, the writ petition is restored to its original number and the writ petition is remitted back to the learned Single Judge with a request to decide the matter afresh,”

The petition has been listed for next hearing on April 5, 2023 before the single bench.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed