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Allahabad High Court directs CBI for conducting preliminary enquiry in the recruitment of staff in Secretariat of Vidhan Parishad

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The Allahabad High Court has directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for conducting a preliminary enquiry to submit the report in the recruitment of staff in the Secretariat of Vidhan Parishad.

The Division Bench of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi and Justice Om Prakash Shukla passed this order while hearing an appeal filed by Sushil Kumar and 2 Others.

The Special Appeal has been filed assailing the order dated 12.04.2023, whereby the petition filed by the petitioners has been dismissed. The challenge is to the process of recruitment of staff in the Secretariat of Vidhan Parishad.

Fair competition in public employment is the foundational rule. For achieving this objective, the credibility of the recruitment agency is indispensable. The State or any recruitment agency for making employment in public service, therefore, is not only required to have utmost credibility in the functioning of recruitment body but the procedure therefor must also stand the test of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India failing which it shall be amenable to the judicial scrutiny within the ambit of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The hallmark of any fair selection stands guaranteed provided the recruitment agency is publicly acceptable and the implementation of procedure prescribed remains unquestionable.

The Court noted that,

Firstly, it was surprising to notice as to why the Rules, 1976 were amended by ousting the examination agency i.e, U.P Public Service Commission in the year 2019 and secondly, as to why the scope for an external agency as per Rule 22 (2) of the above Rules was opened when no such agency was known on the basis of any credible foundation. The fairness in the matter of identifying recruitment agencies was, however, guaranteed by prescribing a two-fold mechanism under Rule 22. A selection committee under Clause (i-D) of Rule – 6 was recognized to be the one mode, whereas, the alternative method via Chairman, if required, was also authorized to conduct the whole selection process or part thereof through external agency. It appears that the Chairman/Secretary/Nodal Officer of the Vidhan Parishad opted for an external agency of recruitment without there being any agency either empanelled or ever identified for the purpose.

The Court observed that the external recruitment agencies were attempted in the spirit of the Government Order dated 22.06.2018 which had identified seven online and two offline agencies which were empanelled by the State Government for holding recruitment examinations. As per Rules, the recruitment examination in the case was offline, therefore, the choice as per above mentioned Government Order was restricted between the two agencies only. It is informed that out of two external agencies empanelled for offline examination, one of the two agencies was blacklisted and it was for this reason that the matter regarding engagement of external agencies came to be placed before the Chairman, Vidhan Parishad.

“The letter dated 08.07.2020 directing the Nodal Officer for identifying the external recruitment agency to the best of our understanding restricts the agencies either empanelled by the State/Public Service Commissions or other institutions dealing with public examinations for recruitment. We have not been taken through any correspondence of refusal with the U.P Public Service Commission or any other Subordinate Services Selection Commission or any institution dealing with employment recruitment examinations before identification of the five private external agencies whose consideration in an unnatural way leads us to doubt. On scrutiny of the company master data with respect to the agency chosen for recruitment, we came across some inexplicable details which, prima facie, satisfy the Court for a preliminary enquiry by an impartial agency as regards the identification of external agency in the case entrusted the function of recruitment in public service which in our firm view cannot be compromised on the hallmark of fairness”, the Court further observed.

Since the Court is vested with the jurisdiction of P.I.L, therefore the Court further proceeds to take suo motu notice in public interest on the aforesaid questions for necessary directions and the case be listed as suo motu P.I.L in the matter of recruitment of Staff in Vidhan Parishad and Vidhan Sabha, Secretariat, U.P in the light of grievance raised in the Special Appeal and Writ Vipin Kumar v State of U.P through Additional Chief Secretary (Legislative Assembly) and others connected thereto, the Court said.

“Having regard to the facts evident from the record and keeping in view the aforesaid questions of public importance, we are of the opinion that the matter be referred to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for conducting a preliminary enquiry to submit the report to the Court within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of the order along with photocopies of the relevant record.

Office is directed to register the case separately as suo motu P.I.L whose title is as under:- “Suo Motu in the matter of Recruitment of Staff in Vidhan Parishad Sabha and Vidhan Sabha, Secretariat, U.P.”

Let the Special Appeal and P.I.L be listed before the appropriate Bench in the first week of November, 2023″, the order reads.

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