The Supreme Court today refused to stay a Madras High Court order quashing the appointment of 11 people as members of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC), but permitted the state government to make new selections with a condition that an ex-judge who was denied extension will not be eligible for re-selection.
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The apex court was hearing an appeal by the Tamil Nadu government against the December 22, 2016 order of the High Court which had said that the process of selection of members was “deeply flawed” and conducted without following any transparent process.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, though admitted the state government’s appeal, but declined to stay the high court order by which the then J Jayalalithaa government’s decision to appoint the members on January 30, 2016 was termed as “defeating the very constitutional scheme for such appointments”.
Former district judge V Ramamurthy, R Pratap Kumar, V Subburaj, S Muthuraj, M Sethuraaman, A V Balusamy, M Madasamy, P Krishna Kumar, A Subramanian, N B Punniamoorthi and M Raja Ram, IAS were appointed members of the TNPSC.
While permitting the state government to select members of the commission, the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, ordered to keep in abeyance the observations made by the high court on the members whose selection had been set aside.
During the hearing, when Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was assailing the high court’s decision, the bench said, “You have to satisfy the basics that the person holding the post of Chairman is qualified good enough.”
The CJI referred to a case when the Chairman of a staff selection board in a state, had an educational qualification of Class IV, which had gone against him.
Rohatgi said the only thing that has to be kept in mind is that the candidate should not be a crook and has to be according to the Constitution and it should be left to the government to consider who is qualified.
However, the bench said it has to be looked into as to who is qualified and suitable.
“You have to satisfy that the candidate is suitable and a person of integrity,” the bench said, adding “we are not saying that prescribe a qualification, but look at the suitability.”
The bench said public confidence is also important when members of the public service commission are selected.
The Attorney General submitted that with the high court order, out of 14 members, 11 are out and two members of TNPSC are retiring in two-three months.
The high court had passed the judgement on a batch of petitions including one by TKS Elangovan of DMK challenging the appointment of these 11 members in a hurried manner by the AIADMK government.
The vacancies for the posts had arisen from 2013 when members had completed their tenure and demitted office and the last one doing so was on January 31, 2016.
These posts were suddenly filled by a government order, dated the same day which was a Sunday and a non-working day, in anticipation of the election notification for the state Assembly polls, which were ultimately held on May 16.
The petitioners claimed that the Commission was sought to be packed with party loyalists “having no eminence and not possessing the requisite merit and abilities to function in the capacity as members of the Public Service Commission”.
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