Awaiting SC ‘clarification’, HC defers PIL on KAS Mains

Awaiting SC ‘clarification’, HC defers PIL on KAS Mains
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Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday deferred further consideration on maintainability of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pertaining to KAS-Mains 2016 exam, till the JKPSC, or any aggrieved party, seeks clarification from the Supreme Court in this matter.
The court also directed that after getting clarification, the matter should be listed immediately on further orders from Supreme Court.
A Division Bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Sanjeev Kumar today in a detailed order said, “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.”
The Jammu & Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC) had moved a Special Leave Petition (SWP) before the Supreme Court against the Registrar, J&K High Court, challenging the high court’s order on 21 December, 2018, whereof High Court at Srinagar had stayed the selection process of KAS-Mains 2016.
The Apex Court of India on January 21 overturned the stay on the selection process of KAS-Mains 2016 and directed the J&K Government to complete the selection process but make no appointments.
The apex court also made it clear that the J&K High Court would be free to decide on its suo-motu public interest litigation (PIL) on the matter on the date fixed.
The JKPSC in compliance with High Court directions filed through their advocate Azhar-ul-Amin a detailed reply, in which they 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 Litigation cannot be entertained in service matters.
On the other hand, Advocate RA Jan, senior counsel representing the aggrieved candidates, submitted that the High Court on considering the seriousness of the matter, with reference to shifting to Digital Evaluation and On Screen Marking (DE/OSM), had entertained the suo-motu PIL to ascertain how the Commission made such a change in procedure. Advocate Jan said that in his view the new procedure was full of errors.
On being asked by the court as to how the PIL was maintainable on behalf of the aggrieved candidates, as it amounts to challenge to the enlisted qualifying candidates, Advocate Jan said that when the selection is found to be based on fraud or full of errors and data corruption, court has the power to deal with it in PIL.
Advocate Javed Iqbal, representing some applicants, submitted that some of the aggrieved candidates had already challenged the action of the PSC in a separate petition with reference to shifting of mode and method of evaluation, from manual to digital, and the same was expected to be listed for consideration before a Single Bench of the Court within a day or so. He submitted that the petition may be considered along with this PIL for consideration.
The Division Bench after hearing the counsels held, “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 Bench also recorded that, “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.”
Earlier, the J&K High court on 21 December, 2018, had stayed the selection process. The court had taken the decision in view of a representation made on December 17 that carried signatures of 83 candidates who alleged irregularities in the results of the mains examination held in July-August last year.
The KAS-2016 Mains exam was conducted from July 2 to August 8, 2018, after a delay of one year.