Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh on Tuesday directed government authorities to hold a fresh enquiry into the selection process of Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) appointments.
“It is left open to the respondents to conduct a de-novo enquiry into the selection process, having recourse to due process of law they have time and again talked of throughout, associating the petitioners therein, and proceed in the matter as the outcome of any such enquiry may result in withdrawal/continuation of orders of cancellation of selection and appointment of petitioners,” Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey directed while pronouncing the judgment.
The judge directed that such enquiry may be initiated within three months from the date of this judgment and completed within a period of six months thereafter
The KVIB appointments in 2016 during the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government attracted much criticism after a PDP leader’s son was among the selected candidates for the post of Executive Officer.
A probe committee constituted by the government found that the selections made by KVIB in 2016 had been made by flouting procedures specified for such appointments.
The inquiry committee, which was led by then Home Secretary R K Goel, in its report submitted to the government stated that the committee was of the considered view that the entire selection process suffered from various deficiencies/ flaws.
The committee recommended that the entire process be quashed and initiated afresh after following the due procedure.
The petitioners had challenged the government order issued on June, 28, 2019, by the Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce Department, quashing/cancelling the selections made in the J&K KVIB pursuant to advertisement notice issued on October 8, 2016, about twenty months after they had been appointed on the basis of such select list.
The petitioners also assailed the order issued by KVIB on October 14, 2019, terminating the services of the petitioners who were appointed on February, 20, 2018, on the basis of the select list furnished by the Controller of Examination and duly approved by the competent authority.
Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey after perusing the records remarked that there is no denying the fact that the appointments in question made by the Board were founded on the selections made pursuant to advertisement notice issued on October 8, 2016.
The judge said, “The direction to the Board to provide opportunity to the appointees of being heard before cancelling their appointments has been nothing more than an empty formality, farcical and lip service to the celebrated principle of affording opportunity of being heard before coming to a conclusion.”
The bench held that this procedure adopted by the government is akin to hanging a person and then seeking to tell him to show cause why he be not hanged.
“Such a course has clearly violated the right to hearing of the petitioners, the right recognised by the government itself in the very same order,” the judge said.
The court also cited various Supreme Court judgments and recorded that the Supreme Court has emphasised the importance of segregating the tainted candidates from the untainted ones and not en masse cancel the entire selection.
It further recorded that the apex court had held that “even if there were some illegal beneficiaries from their selection process, they should have been weeded out instead of striking down the entire selection process”.
“I may hasten to add that the court does not in any manner or by any standards hold that the selection process has been fair or that the select list was fairly drawn; instead, the court is only holding the manner adopted by the respondents in dealing with the matter as unfair,” the judge recorded.