The Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court, in a major relief to the Union Territory administration, has stayed a single-bench order that cancelled a recruitment process on the grounds that the J&K Services Selection Board, already under a CBI inquiry, had altered terms and conditions to engage a blacklisted agency to conduct a computer-based test.
A bench of Justices Sindhu Sharma and Vinod Chatterjee Koul, however, asked the board on Friday to withhold the results until the disposal of the writ petition challenging the process to select hundreds of police sub-inspectors, junior engineers and other officials. The court also granted it three weeks’ time to file its response.
On Thursday, Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal set aside the selection process and ordered the administration to open an inquiry by a retired high court judge into the board’s conduct and float a new tender by changing the conditions that he observed were tailor-made to favour Aptech Limited so that it “is not ousted from the zone of competition or the award of the contract’’.
Expressing displeasure over awarding the contract to “an organisation which has previously facilitated malpractices in public examinations’’, Justice Nargal said that applicants had to initially submit an undertaking that they had “never been blacklisted in the past, by any government, private institution of the country and that there is no case pending with any investigating agency’’.
However, the board changed the wordings of the undertaking, provided in its initial notice that invited tenders, to the “firm/agency is not involved in any ongoing investigation by any investigating agency relating to the conduct to CBT exams. Further, the firm/agency is not blacklisted/debarred by any government body, institution, board, PSU of the country as on date”, Justice Nargal held.
Stating that Aptech Limited was already blacklisted and there was a case pending with an investigating agency, he observed that the entire action of the board “smacks of foul play” and added that the board was “already being investigated by the CBI for awarding a contract to a tainted agency in the past”.
Observing that commercial interests had outweighed the public interest, Justice Nargal said that Aptech Limited had already been involved in malpractices and blacklisted by UPPCL. It was involved in malpractices in the recruitment processes it undertook for the Rajasthan police and the Assam irrigation department, the judge noted. The Delhi High Court had imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on it, he added.
The judge was hearing the writ petition filed by one Vinkal Sharma and others.
Following allegations of malpractices, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on June 8 cancelled a selection list of 1,200 police sub-inspectors that was declared online by the board four days earlier, and ordered the additional chief secretary (home) to inquire into the matter.
Later, he ordered the cancellation of the process to recruit 922 finance accounts assistants and 163 junior engineers (civil), which was in advanced stages.
He also ordered a CBI inquiry into all the three recruitment processes, and the central agency has arrested nearly two dozen people including some serving and retired police and paramilitary officials hailing from the Union Territory and elsewhere in the country.
A BSF commandant posted as a medical officer at the force’s headquarters in Paloura is among the 33 accused in the CBI case.