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Allahabad High Court quashes plea seeking cancellation of UPSSSC recruitment examination

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The Allahabad High Court has dismissed the appeal filed in the cancellation of recruitment examinations of Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Services Selection Commission (UPSSSC).

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Piyush Agrawal passed this order, while hearing a Special Appeal Defective filed by Vikash Tiwari and others.

Before the Single Judge, the appellants had impugned the order dated March 24, 2021 passed by the UPSSSC, regarding recruitment for the posts of Gram Panchayat Adhikari, Gram Vikas Adhikari (Samaj Kalyan) and Samaj Kalyan Supervisor was cancelled.

The arguments raised by Ashok Khare, Senior Counsel, appearing for the appellants, is that from the facts of the case it is evident that the tainted candidates could easily be segregated from the candidates against whom there are no allegations, hence, in terms of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Sachin Kumar and others vs Delhi Subordinate Service Selection Board and others, (2021) 4 SCC 631, the entire result should not have been cancelled.

Further argument is that the decision of the Commission is based on enquiry report, the copy whereof was not even supplied to the writ petitioners. No final report has been submitted as yet. The findings in the preliminary enquiry report are merely, prima facie, hence, no decision should have been taken thereon.

It was further argued that there are three sets of OMR sheets, one is given to the evaluator namely, the Agency engaged i.e. Tata Consultancy Services and one set is kept in the Government Treasury. The same can be evaluated and made the basis for declaration of the result.

On the other hand, counsel for the respondents submitted that it is a case in which the Commission had engaged the services of the Tata Consultancy Services for conducting the exam. However, on enquiry it was found that its role was clearly doubtful. Certain OMR sheets were initially submitted blank, as is evident from the copy thereof lying in the Government Treasury.

However, when it was compared with the OMR sheets with the Agency, the questions were found to be answered. In the first result declared on August 28, 2019, 1952 candidates were shortlisted, out of which candidature of 136 candidates was cancelled on account of discrepancies found in the OMR sheets and against them FIR was lodged. Second result was declared on February 29, 2020 of 1553 candidates, out of which candidature of 393 candidates was withheld as tampering with the OMR sheets was found in their cases.

There were a total 11 lakhs candidates, out of which about 9 lakhs candidates appeared in the exam. Once in the same set of candidates, whose result was declared, tampering was found in the OMR sheets of a substantial percentage of those candidates, the entire process was vitiated as it is the question of credibility of the system.

The contention raised by counsel for the appellants that a copy of the interim report was not supplied to them for raising the argument, is totally misconceived. Record was produced before the Single Bench and the Court was satisfied after a perusal thereof about the decision taken by the Commission. Same was even given to the counsel for the appellants for perusal in the Court. Copy thereof could not be supplied to the appellants as the matter was under investigation.

After hearing counsel for the parties and going through the record, the Court opined that there is no scope for interference in the judgment of the Single Judge, which has considered all the arguments raised by the parties.

The Court observed, “It is a case in which a private Agency of repute, namely Tata Consultancy Services, was engaged for conducting the exam. About nine lakh candidates appeared. However in the interim report, it was found that in the case of a large number of candidates, whose result was declared as shortlisted, there were discrepancies in the OMR sheets.

“It could be noticed in comparison of one set of OMR sheets kept in the Government Treasury with the OMR sheets with the Agency. Some of the OMR sheets in the Government Treasury were found to be blank, whereas with the Agency the same were found to be evaluated. They were successful candidates. FIR was registered against 136 candidates. Those candidates were debarred from appearing in any exam for the next two years.

“The percentage of discrepancy is evident from the fact that in the first result dated August 28, 2019 out of 1952 candidates, OMR sheets of 136 candidates were found to be tampered with. Second result was declared on February 29, 2020, and out of 1553 candidates, tampering with the OMR sheets was found in the case of 393 candidates. The exercise of preparation of results cannot be undertaken, time and again.

“The conduct of the Agency was found suspicious from the very beginning. It is not a case where tainted and untainted candidates could easily be segregated, as the number of candidates who appeared in the written exam is about nine lakh,” he added.

The Court said that as far as contention raised by the Counsel for the appellants regarding the report being interim is concerned, suffice is to add that even till that stage it was found as a fact on comparison of OMR sheets that there were discrepancies therein. Copies of some OMR sheets kept with the Government Treasury were found to be blank, whereas the Agency had the same evaluation.

They were the successful candidates. Discrepancies found in the marks of a large number of candidates in the two sets of answer sheets was more than 10%. The investigation is not only related to the result, but also to fix responsibility of the Agency, as stated by counsel for the respondents, so that the same may be blacklisted for future.

The Court held that it cannot be ruled out that there were some unfair means used even at the stage of conducting the exam. That is the reason that some of the candidates had left their OMR sheets blank. The modus operandi is evident from the fact that a number of discrepancies were found in two sets of OMR sheets.

There was no question of supply of copies of the interim report to the appellants, as the matter was still being investigated. Further the fact remains and as has been noticed by the Single Judge, the interim report was produced in Court and was perused before the final judgment was delivered.

Not only this, even the Counsel for the writ petitioners/appellants were handed over the copies thereof in the Court for perusal and the arguments addressed by them with reference thereto were considered.

Besides this, the public must have confidence in the process of recruitment by the Public Service Commission or the Selection Boards. It is a case wherein the manner in which the examination has been conducted and the result has been prepared, does not inspire confidence at all. It is not the question of segregation of tainted candidates from untainted ones.

In two results declared, a large number of discrepancies were found. The candidates will lose their confidence, in case it is allowed to continue in the same manner.

The process may entail hardships to few candidates but to maintain sanctity of the selection process and public confidence, cancellation of the entire process, in the case in hand, was the right decision taken by the Commission.

In facts of the case, the principles of law laid down by the Supreme Court in Sachin Kumar’s case (supra) may not be applicable, the Court said.

“For the reasons mentioned above, while concurring with the view expressed by the Single Judge, we do not find that any case is made out for interference in the appeal as credibility of the entire selection process is to be maintained, so that all the applicants and the candidates have faith in the system”, the Court observed, while dismissing the Special Appeal.

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