M A I N   N E W S

SC nod to removal of HPSC chief, members
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 12
The Supreme Court today gave the green signal for the removal of suspended Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) chairman Mehar Singh Saini and its suspended members for their failure to “maintain the required standards of integrity and rectitude in performance of their constitutional duties.”

“There exist justifiable grounds” for their removal and “resultantly, the reference, made by the President of India to this court, is answered in the affirmative,” a three-member Bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia ruled in a 116-page judgment. The other members of the Bench were Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, who wrote the verdict.

The Om Parkash Chautala government had appointed Saini and the eight members shortly before the February 2005 Assembly elections. Chautala’s INLD lost the elections after which the Congress formed the government.

The suspended HPSC members are Dungar Ram, Chatter Singh, Yudhvir Singh, Satbir Singh, Om Prakash, Ranbir Singh Hooda, Santosh Singh and Ram Kumar Kashyap. Of the nine, only three are to retire. The term of Saini and Santosh Singh ends on November 30 and that of Kashyap December 14. The apex court , however, held that the state government had failed to prove that Saini was a beneficiary of favouritism and nepotism in the matter of his appointment as chairman and that his qualification as an Ayurved, experience, status and accomplishments were “not of the stature for the office.” The Bench ruled that the following charges were proved:

nThat as member of the selection committee, Saini recommended the name of Pradeep Sangwan for the post of Drug Inspector as part of a criminal conspiracy

n Saini deliberately withheld the material record required for investigating complaints relating to irregularities committed in civil services examination (executive and allied)

n Saini and HPSC members attempted to justify illegalities, manipulations, interpolations and forgeries

n Saini and members refused to cooperate with the investigators, claiming immunity to the constitutional office they held and citing the special privileges they enjoyed.

“The claim of privilege was sought to be invoked as a ploy to prevent production of records which would have exposed the irregularities, illegalities and manipulations in the process of selection.

“In the name of the constitutional authority, the chairman and members of the commission certainly violated the expected standards of behaviour. They not only adopted a non-cooperative attitude but also unduly delayed completion of the inquiry/investigations,” the Bench held.

Following vigilance inquiries, the Haryana Chief Secretary had written to the government for referring the issue to the President of India for the removal of the Chairman and the members “at the earliest.” In turn, the President had made reference to the apex court on July 31, 2008, raising the query whether they could be removed from office on these charges.

Pointing out that great powers were vested in the commission, the apex court said: “Therefore, it must ensure that there is no abuse of such powers. The principles of public accountability and transparency in the functioning of an institution are essential for its proper governance.

“The necessity of sustenance of public confidence in the functioning of the commission may be compared to functions of judiciary in the administration of justice.”

Further, the court held that the conduct of the chairman and members of the commission in the discharge of their duties had to be above board and beyond censure.

“The credibility of the institution of the Public Service Commission is founded on the faith of the common man in its proper functioning. Constant allegations of corruption and promotion of family interests at the cost of national interest resulting in invocation of the constitutional mechanism for the removal of chairman/members of the commission erode public confidence in the commission.” The court further noted: “The image of the commission has been lowered in the eyes of the public and the rule of fairness and merit substantially ignored in the processes of selection for different posts.





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