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JKSSB Recruitment: High Court Stays Selection Process Till Govt Takes Decision On Recruiting Agency’s Allegedly Unfair Conduct

JKSSB Recruitment: High Court Stays Selection Process Till Govt Takes Decision On Recruiting Agency’s Allegedly Unfair Conduct

   

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has dismissed “mere apprehensions” of unfair conduct of the Jammu and Kashmir Service Board (JKSSB) in recruitment but has halted the selection process, till a final decision is taken by the government on the report/recommendations made by the High-Level Committee which was appointed to review the board’s functioning.

The Committee was constituted to examine whether the process of tendering followed by JKSSB, in selecting M/S Aptech Ltd. to conduct the examinations, was consistent with the extant Financial Rules/Acts, and, if all the relevant norms were fully complied with.
Justice Moksha Khajuria Kazmi was hearing a petition filed by a group of 40 aspirants, who sought indulgence of the court to ensure a fair recruitment process. Through their plea, they had expressed concerns about the potential misuse of modern technology by the agencies involved in the selection process. Specifically, the petitioners had cast doubt on the contracts awarded to M/s Aptech Ltd. for conducting online Computer Based Tests (CBT), citing the company’s tarnished history and previous blacklisting.
At the very outset, the bench observed that the petitioners lacked locus standi (legal standing) to challenge the recruitment process since they participated in the process themselves.
Justice Kazmi added,
“In the instant case, the petitioners have not been able to establish their locus standi to challenge the process being conducted by the respondents for allotment of tender for conduct of various examinations through CBT mode in favour of respondent No. 2. If at all, anyone had any reason to challenge the process of allotment of tender to respondent No. 2, then only the company who has not been selected and allowed tender had a right to challenge the allotment but not the petitioners herein”.

At the very outset, the bench observed that the petitioners lacked locus standi (legal standing) to challenge the recruitment process since they participated in the process themselves.

Justice Kazmi added,

“In the instant case, the petitioners have not been able to establish their locus standi to challenge the process being conducted by the respondents for allotment of tender for conduct of various examinations through CBT mode in favour of respondent No. 2. If at all, anyone had any reason to challenge the process of allotment of tender to respondent No. 2, then only the company who has not been selected and allowed tender had a right to challenge the allotment but not the petitioners herein”.

Further highlighting that a company’s blacklisting is not permanent, the bench explained that once the stipulated period of debarment is over, the company can participate in the tendering process again.

“One cannot be blacklisted for life. The order of blacklisting has to be specified for a particular period of time. The debarment is never permanent and the period of debarment would invariably depend upon the nature of offence committed by erring contractor”, the bench maintained.

Addressing the issue of maintainability of the writ petition, the court clarified that the terms and conditions of tender documents fall within the domain of the tender-making authority and should not be subject to judicial scrutiny unless they are arbitrary, discriminatory, or mala fide.

Taking note of the fact that the government had set up a High-Level Review Committee tasked with assessing the conduct of both the JKSSB and the selected agency, M/s Aptech Ltd the court directed the Committee to furnish its report within ten days, followed by a decision from the Chief Secretary based on the report’s recommendations within the subsequent ten days.

“However, till the final decision is taken by the Government, the JKSSB shall not proceed with the selection process”, the bench concluded.

Case Title: Vinkal Sharma and others V/s UT of J&K and others

Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (JKL) 237

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment

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