High Court cancels JE, SI exams

Orders high level panel probe into engaging ‘blacklisted’ agency by SSB, calls for action against guilty
 J&K High Court, Srinagar
J&K High Court, SrinagarMubashir Khan/GK File

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has ordered probe by a high level panel to be headed by a retired High Court judge into the conduct of Jammu and Kashmir Service Selection Board (JKSSB) for brazen irregularities in appointing a blacklisted agency(M/s Aptech Limited) for conducting various examinations.

A bench of a bench of Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal directed the government to constitute a high level Committee headed by not less than a retired High Court Judge to enquire into the conduct of JKSSB for the their brazen irregularities/illegalities in changing the terms and conditions of the tender also as to what weighed with them to award a contract to conduct an examination by an organization which has previously facilitated malpractices in public examinations.

 “Accordingly appropriate action be initiated against those found guilty,” the court said, adding that by its own act of omission and commission, the functioning of JKSSB does not inspire confidence in holding public examinations.

“It has become incumbent on all stakeholders to review the functioning of the Board,” the court said and held that the process adopted and decision made by awarding contract to M/s Aptech Limited was malafide and change of condition in tender was intended to favour (the agency).

Underscoring that “these decisions will have an effect on public interest as the M/s Aptech Limited has been assigned to conduct examinations wherein the selectees will be appointed to hold public posts, the court quashed the contract awarded by government in favour of the agency pursuant to e-NIT (No.19 of 2022) dated 30 September this year for conduct of its various examinations through computer based tests mode.

 Consequently, the court said, all the exams- Junior Engineer-civil (Jal Shakti Department) and Sub Inspector (Home Department) held by JKSSB) through M/s Aptech Limited in furtherance of the “award of contract to conduct examinations” are also set aside/cancelled at whatever stage they are as on date.

In their plea, a number of aggrieved aspirants who responded to the advertisement notifications for various examinations to be conducted by the JKSSB including Junior Engineer (civil), Jal Shakti Department and Sub Inspector (Home Department) had sought court’s intervention for directing the JKSSB not to conduct the examination through M/s Aptech Limited being “blacklisted” in the past.

 The court pointed out that the authorities took a decision on 10 August this year for authorizing the Board to undertake an end to end process including setting of question papers in computer bases test through an authorized agency.

Pursuant thereto, it said, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary in which a decision was taken that the JKSSB shall conduct all the examinations through CBT mode only.“The CBT mode of examinations reduced human involvement in the process thereby decreasing the chances of paper leakage as cumbersome process of printing and transportation of examination material involved in OMR bases examinations is eliminated.”

The Court observed that from the record, it is apparent that in the note-sheet, the SSB has admitted that the recent developments, which has led to the cancellation of the examination for the post of Sub Inspector (Home Department and enquiry in the examination for Accounts Assistant (Finance) and Junior Engineer (Jal Shakti Department) has seriously dented the image and raised eyebrow about the efficacy of the recruitment method adopted by the SSB.

“Accordingly, the SSB has taken a decision to have an audit of the entire recruitment process as well as agencies involved in conduct of examinations for respondent No.1 (government)”.

The record further, the court said, reveals that the SSB deliberated upon the issue and decided to discontinue the conduct of CBT examination through NSEIT Ltd in view of the subsequent developments leading to the cancellation of examination for the post of Sub Inspector (Home Department) and enquiry into the examination of Account Assistants (Finance) and Junior Engineer (Jal Shakti Department).

While the court noted that the decision of the Board was conveyed to the agency NSEIT on 24 August 2022, it pointed out that “the record further reveals that respondent No.1 constituted a tendering committee for finalizing a comprehensive Tender Document and for floating an e-Tender for conducting the computer based tests by the J&K Services Selection Board”.

“The record further reveals that pursuant to the issuance of e-NIT No.18 of 2022 dated 05.09.2022, the tendering Committee constituted on 25.08.2022 held a pre-bid meeting with prospective bidders on 12.09.2022”, court said. “From the record note of the pre-bid meeting it is apparent that the prospective bidders highlighted various issues including pre-bid queries on various clauses and items included in the Tender Document”. The record note, the court said, further reveals that the queries were deliberated upon by the members of the tendering committee and the copies of the Pre-Bid queries were retained by the Tendering Committee for its decision, to be recorded against each pre-bid query on 13.09.2022.

The Court observed that “the original record with regard to the pre-bid queries of M/s Aptech and other agencies and subsequent decision thereof, nowhere reveals that what weighed with the authorities to change the terminology of the affidavit and what weighed with the authorities to re-cast the condition No 3 of the Affidavit by virtue of a corrigendum and subsequently issuance of a fresh tender dated 30.09.2022 vide e-Tender Notice No.19 of 2022.”

The Court said as to how and under what circumstances, the conditions were “tailor-made” for M/s Aptech was not forthcoming from the record. “What weighed with concerned authorities to carry out changes is also not borne from the record,” it added.

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