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Allahabad High Court dismisses challenge to 53 Assistant Review Officers in UP Assembly Secretariat

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The Allahabad High Court on Friday dismissed the petition challenging the appointments made to 53 posts of Assistant Review Officer in the UP Assembly Secretariat.

A Lucknow Bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Ankur Saroha & Another.

The writ petition, filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, sought quashing of Advertisement No 1/2020 dated December 7, 2020, issued by the Secretariat of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly for recruitment, inter alia, to the post of Assistant Review Officer, and to quash any appointment /recruitment made in pursuant to the Advertisement on the post of ARO.

In this case, 53 vacancies of ARO, besides vacancies of other posts, were advertised. Out of 53, 22 vacancies were meant for General Category and others were reserved for Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and Economically Weaker Section. The petitioners, who belong to OBC category, had applied for vacancies of ARO, pursuant to the advertisement.

They claimed that in the preliminary written examination, which was conducted on January 24, 2021, they were declared qualified and they were issued admit cards to appear in the main written examination.

The writ petition said that both the petitioners had qualified the main written examination, which was held on February 27, 2021. The petitioners said they were issued admit cards for appearing in the typing test, for which they appeared on March 14. The minimum qualification for typing test was 25 words per minute in Hindi/English typing. It was only a qualifying test, as neither marks were awarded nor included while preparing the final merit/select list, added the plea.

They said petitioner no 1/Ankur Saroha secured 190, while petitioner no 2 secured 189 out of 200 marks in the main written examination, but they were not declared selected in the final result, which was announced on March 26. It was also alleged that the respondents got published the final merit/select list of the candidates, who qualified for the post of ARO.

The plea alleged that the aforementioned three candidates did not even answer the requisite questions of the preliminary examination to pass the minimum cut-off-marks, but they were declared successful for the main written examination.

It further alleged that selection has not been held on the basis of merits, but the candidates were selected/appointed on the basis of their approach to important functionaries of the Secretariat and large-scale favouritism being practiced in making final selection. Many eligible and deserving candidates such as the petitioners were left out in an arbitrary, illegal and mala fide manner, added the plea.

The petition stated that the Secretariat appointed its own selection agencies and the final selection result for the post of ARO was neither published by notice, nor online. The candidates were informed that if they wanted to know whether they passed or failed, they would have to enter their role number or mobile number on online examination portal.

It was also said that the petitioners sent several representations to the respondents, requesting them to disclose the reasons for disqualification in the typing test and providing them with final cut-of-marks of selected candidates, but such information was not disclosed to them.

On behalf of the petitioners, Senior Counsel I.B. Singh submitted that the whole selection process, pursuant to the Advertisement, had been conducted in a mysterious and clandestine manner and, the selection had never been fair, impartial and transparent.

The Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited, the nodal agency under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, provides consultancy service to the government, including conducting examinations for making selection in government departments, noted the Senior Counsel.

He said BECIL was given the contract for conducting the examination pursuant to the Advertisement. However, BECIL outsourced the said work to two companies -TSR Data Processing Private Limited and Rabhav Limited, which are on the consortium of BECIL for conducting the examinations for recruitment on different posts in the Secretariat, which were advertised through the Advertisement.

Two Directors of TSR Data Processing Private Limited, S.P. Singh and Rambeer Singh, along with Director of Rabhav Limited, R.P. Singh Yadhav, are in jail in connection with a case registered on March 2, 2021 at Police Station SIT, District Lucknow (Rural) for committing fraud and manipulation, while conducting examination for the vacancies of Gram Panchayat Adhikari in 2018.

It was further submitted that most of the candidates were either relatives or friends of the officials, working in the Secretariat, or relatives or friends of Directors of TSR Data Processing Private Limited and Rabhav Limited, who were responsible for conducting the examination.

The Senior Counsel submitted that OMR Answer Sheets of the petitioners, annexed with the counter affidavit, were manipulated and the petitioners had secured 190 and 189 out of 200 marks in the final written examination.

It was further submitted that Teena and Kamal Kumar Kalkhande had secured less than 40 percent marks and their OMR Answer Sheets have been annexed with the writ petition, but the respondents had not disclosed the OMR Answer Sheets of the two candidates before this Court.

It was further submitted that forensic examination of OMR Answer Sheets would reveal forgery committed by the respondents, while making final selection and ousting the qualified candidates such as the petitioners.

It has also been stated that some candidates deliberately left their OMR Answer Sheets blank to be filled up later on, to ensure their selection for the next round of examination.

The Senior Counsel said that the Directors of TSR Data Processing Private Limited as well as Rabhav Limited, in their statements in respect of the FIR relating to recruitment for the post of Gram Panchayat Adhikari, admitted that they had fabricated the result of the examination conducted pursuant to the advertisement.

The Senior Counsel further said that the examination in pursuant to the Advertisement was conducted by tainted agencies, whose Directors are in jail, though in relation to some other recruitment and a large number of relatives of these Directors and officials working in the Secretariat have been selected. The whole selection process is nothing, but a farce. A largescale of fraud and forgery has been committed to oust the most suitable candidates in order to accommodate relatives and friends of the Directors of TSR Data Processing Private Limited and Rabhav Limited and officials working in the Secretariat, he alleged.

The entire selection process is required to be quashed, he added, submitting that the Court may direct an inquiry to be conducted by CBI to unearth the forgery and manipulation done by TSR Data Processing Private Limited and Rabhav Limited and their Directors, as well as some officials working in the Secretariat.

L. P. Misra, Counsel representing the respondents, opposed the writ petition and submitted that the petitioners, having participated in the selection process pursuant to the Advertisement, cannot maintain the writ petition to challenge the Advertisement.

It is not in dispute that the petitioners qualified the preliminary examination and therefore, they were permitted to appear in the main written examination. The main written examination was 200 marks and the candidates, belonging to general category and OBC category, were required to secure 40 percent marks in the main written examination. Five times candidates of the advertised vacancies were called for typing test and the cut-off marks was fixed as 135.50 percent for candidates belonging to the OBC for the post of ARO.

Misra also submitted that OMR Answer Sheets, annexed with the writ petition, are manipulated. The petitioners had attempted 150 and 153 questions in the main written examination. The answers also carried negative marking for wrong/incorrect answers. Scanned copies of the original OMR Answer Sheets of the petitioners have been placed on record, along with the short counter affidavit.

A chart, indicating discrepancies in the original OMR Answer Sheets and Carbon copy of OMR Sheets annexed with the writ petition, has been submitted with the supplementary counter affidavit to say that the OMR Answer Sheets, annexed with the writ petition, are manipulated ones. The OMR Answer Sheets, annexed with the supplementary counter affidavit, contained signatures of the Examination Hall Supervisor and the petitioners, which cannot be disputed by the petitioners.

It has been further submitted that the final list of selected candidates for the post of ARO was placed on notice board of the office of Secretariat and any candidate could know the result of the selection by accessing the portal by feeding his roll/mobile number.

The claim of the petitioners that they had obtained 190 marks and 189 marks in the written examination has been specifically denied by the respondents by annexing the scanned copy of answer-sheets signed by the In-Charge of the Examination Hall as well as the petitioners.

The allegations that relatives of Directors of two companies have been selected, has also been specifically denied from the record. It has also been specifically stated that none of the relations of any of the Directors of TSR Data Processing Private Limited and Rabhav Limited have got selected.

Further, allegations made in the writ petition, in respect of selection of three candidates, have been sufficiently explained and dealt with in the counter affidavits. It may be true that the two companies had been given the work of conducting the examination for selection for the post of ARO and other posts pursuant to the Advertisement, but that itself would not make the selection process bad until and unless there is cogent and credible evidence to support the allegations regarding manipulation, unfairness and arbitrariness in the selection process.

“In view of the aforesaid discussions, I find that the petitioners have not been able to substantiate the allegations of corrupt practices, manipulations and illegal and arbitrary exercise of powers, while conducting the selection process for the post of ARO pursuant to the Advertisement and therefore, this Court cannot permit the petitioners to open a fishing and roving inquiry of the selection held pursuant to the Advertisement when the petitioners could not secure marks above the cut-off in their written examination,” the Court observed, while dismissing the petition.

“However, considering the fact that credibility of two companies is in doubt, the state government should ensure that no work of any examination for selection to any post in the state, including the Secretariat or Legislative Council/Assembly or any state-owned Corporation and agency be entrusted to these companies in future,” the order read.

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