Shimla: Taking strong exception of calling ineligible candidates also for interview for the posts of Junior Programmer S-1 Level (on a contract basis), Himachal Pradesh High Court on Friday has directed the H.P. Staff Selection Commission (HPSSC), to carry out necessary amendments in the Rule of business and/or selection process adopted, providing an evaluation of eligibility of candidates atleast before shortlisting them for final evaluation in the ratio of 1:3 on the basis of merit in the written test.

The aforesaid order was passed by Justice Vivek Singh Thakur on a petition filed by Bharat Bhushan Shah.  

According to the petitioner, HPSSC had advertised four posts of Junior Programmer S-1 Level (on a contract basis) for which as many as 245 candidates had applied. The candidature of 70 candidates was cancelled due to non-deposit of the requisite fee and the remaining 175 candidates including the petitioner were admitted provisionally to sit in the screening test. However, only 23 candidates appeared in the written test and on a declaration of the result, the first 12 candidates in merit were called for evaluation/interview in the ratio of 1:3. 

The petitioner being at Sr. No. 13, was not called for an interview. Only eight candidates appeared in the interview and out of them, seven candidates were not possessing requisite experience and only one candidate who was found eligible was selected, recommended and appointed as Junior Programmer S-1 Level. 

After this, the Petitioner approached the Court for quashing and setting aside the selection process, praying to direct the Commission to interview the petitioner for the post. An alternative prayer was also made for directions to respondents to fill up the remaining vacant posts from amongst left-out eligible candidates in the merit list.

During the course of the hearing, the counsel for the respondent Commission contended that the Commission has conducted the selection process in accordance with the Rules of Business adopted by and as applicable to the Commission. 

He also contended that applications were invited through online mode and therefore, there was no occasion for the Commission to check and verify the eligibility of candidates before evaluation.  

The Court observed that the purpose of conducting a written test in a selection process is for selecting meritorious candidates by shortlisting a large number of applicants so as to facilitate the selection of the best candidates out of persons in merit in the ratio of 1:3 by calling them for interview. 

The court said that in case, ineligible candidates are permitted to be included in the ratio of 1:3, then it is a farce exercise rather than an eye-wash claiming selection of one by considering three meritorious candidates as a selection of one person by considering him amongst ineligible candidates is a selection by default but not on the basis of merit amongst eligible candidates in the ratio of 1:3. 

“If scrutiny of eligibility would have been done before the evaluation process, the petitioner would have been definitely shortlisted amongst the candidates called for evaluation on shortlisting the candidates in the ratio of 1:3,” said the court. 

The Court further observed that instead of accepting shortcomings in the Rule of Business and undertaking necessary steps to improve the same, the Commission has resisted the petition by justifying its illogical, unreasonable, irrational and arbitrary process and Rule of Business. 

The Court also observed that it appears that the respondent Commission is ill-equipped and there is no will to improve the system or to make efforts for providing a prudent and plausible Rule of Business by making necessary arrangements. 

The Court directed that the respondent Commission is restrained from adopting and continuing such practice with direction to carry out necessary amendments in the Rule of Business and/or selection process adopted.

The Court further directed the Commission to determine the eligibility of candidates in waiting and undertake the evaluation process for the remaining three posts by shortlisting candidates in the ratio of 1:3 amongst eligible meritorious candidates on the basis of their eligibility and merit in the written test. 

The Court directed that the needful be done on or before January 31 2023, by completing the process and making recommendations of eligible meritorious candidates for appointment by Power Corporation.

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Navneet Rathore is a Shimla based journalist having two-years of experience in the field of journalism. Navneet is a post-graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and is specialised in crime, education, health, environment, agriculture and Horticulture beats.