STATE TIMES NEWS Jammu: In a sensational case exposing backdoor appointments of officers, officials in the KVIB by the then government headed by Mehbooba Mufti, Justice Tashi Rabstan of State High Court on Thursday issued notice to the State Government and other respondents including KVIB. The HC also declined to issue any interim relief to the petitioners. The petitioners Shubam Thappa and others had filed a writ petition in the High Court of J&K, Jammu through Abhinav Sharma, Advocate who vehemently argued the matter before the Court seeking an interim relief for protection of the petitioners as their appointments in the KVIB have been cancelled by the government. The State Govt was represented by Aseem Sawhney Additional Advocate General with Bhanu Jasrotia Government Advocate, who vociferously argued the matter and exposed the appointments made dehors the law and procedure. He said that the government at the highest level had ordered an inquiry into these bungling where the names of many high-ups were involved including the name of one Aroot Madni who was allegedly appointed by backdoor and who happens to be close relative of ex Chief Minister Mehbooa Mufti. He also referred to the inquiry report of R K Goyal IAS who had found these bungling in KVIB recruitment and also read the report of DG CID which exposed the complete nexus. It was submitted by Aseem Sawhney that the report revealed that Aroot Madni is son of Sartaj Madni (relative of ex CM Mehbooba Mufti) who was appointed in total disregard of laws. It was also submitted before the Court by AAG Aseem Sawhney that the DG CID’s report revealed that Rs 5 lakh were taken by then PRO of Dy CM (who is enjoying district-level post at present) for such appointments. In such a case of high magnitude scam, the AAG requested the Court not to grant any interim relief, as there was no prima facie case in favour of the petitioners, who though claim to have been appointed in a correct manner but are under clouds as the entire recruitment process was a scam, as per the report. Justice Tashi Rabstan observed that the petitioners amongst other reliefs are seeking to quash Government Order No.127-IND of 2019 dated June 28, 2019 issued by the Principal Secretary to Government, Industries and Commerce Department, one of the respondents herein, whereby it has been ordered all the selections made in the Khadi & Village Industries Board (KVIB) pursuant to Advertisement Notice No.KVIB/01 of 2016 dated October 8, 2016 are quashed/cancelled. It has been further ordered that KVIB will provide opportunity of being heard to all the candidates appointed to different category of posts pursuant to the advertisement notice dated October 8, 2016 and fulfill all other formalities required under law before cancelling the appointments of these candidates.
High Court further observed that the petitioners came to be selected and appointed in terms of aforesaid Advertisement Notice against different category of posts. “The appointment orders were issued to the selected candidates on February 20, 2018. However, on the basis of some complaints regarding these selection/appointments, a high level committee headed by the then Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department was constituted vide order dated March 19, 2018 to enquire into the alleged unfair selection made by J&K Khadi & Village Industries Board. After inquiry, a report was submitted by the aforesaid Committee to the government recommending that since the entire process of selection was suffering from various deficiencies/flaws, therefore, the same be quashed and initiated de-novo after following the due procedure”, the court observed.
The Court in its order observed that the Government while accepting the report of inquiry committee, issued order dated June 28, 2019 (supra) thereby quashing/cancelling all the selections made in the KVIB. Pursuant to this order, Secretary/CEO of J&K Khadi and Village Industries Board issued different show cause notices to the selected candidates asking them to explain their position within 15 days as to why their services be not terminated, as the selection process was found to be suffering from various deficiencies/flaws. One such notice was also issued to the petitioner herein vide No.KVIB/Adm/M-659-III/3043-48 dated July 24, 2019, which lead to filing of this writ petition.
Court observed that the counsel appearing for petitioners argued that the selection and appointment of petitioners have been cancelled on the basis of an inquiry which was conducted at their back and no opportunity of hearing was ever afforded to them before cancelling their appointments. “He further argued that the selection process at the worst could be irregular but the same is not illegal. He, therefore, pleaded that the impugned orders are bad in law”, the court observed.
“Although no caveat has been filed on behalf of respondents, however, at this stage Aseem Sawhney, AAG, vice F.A. Natnoo, AAG, appeared for two respondents and Bhanu Jasrotia, GA, appeared for the other two. Both the counsels stated that sufficient time was granted to the petitioners to explain their position, even further time was extended in terms of communication dated August 20, 2019 (Annexure IV to the petition), as such the petitioners have wrongly alleged that there were violation of principles of natural justice while issuing the impugned orders” the Court recorded.
High Court observed that the perusal of the report of Additional D.G., CID, annexed with the writ petition, reveals that there were large scale bungling having been committed during the written tests, mainly facilitated by the Controller of Examination. As per reports, one selected candidate, namely, Aroot Madni was not possessing even the basic qualification for the post and in place of him, one of his close relative had wrote one of his papers. Further, the number of shortlisted candidates called for interview was in excess of 1:15 ratio, which was quite high as compared to the standard of 1:4 or 1:5, usually being followed in these selections. It is further revealed from the report that the selection committee with malafide intention to favour the influential applicants did not give sufficient time to the candidates to prepare for viva voce, rather immediately after two days of issuance of notification, they called the candidates for interviews. The paragraphs 1(ix) and 2 (page 121 of the writ petition) of the aforesaid report stated, “It was reliably learnt that one Mushtaq Ahmad Malik alias Mushtaq Noorabadi, resident of Khur Batapora, DH Pora, Kulgam, at present putting up in hotel accommodation at Rajbagh, Srinagar, who was PRO to ex-Dy CM, contacted the candidates and asked for Rs. 5 lakh each for appointment in said department. Similar instances were reported from other places as well”.
“CID has concluded that the entire conduct of Examinations appears to have been handled callously. The issuance of notification, engaging a Private Company, appointment of Law Secretary as Controller, ensuring minimal publicity of Exam procedures, declaring the results in a hurry and tailoring the exam scheme as per the needs, all point towards malafide intentions of the Board to propagate Nepotism,” Justice Tashi Rabstan observed.
“Keeping in view the serious allegations borne out from the summary report of CID, I am of the view that the petitioners have not succeeded in making out a case for grant of interim relief. Otherwise too, all the selections made in the KVIB pursuant to aforesaid Advertisement Notice came to be cancelled vide order dated June 28, 2019 and the petitioners have approached this Court on October 3, 2019, i.e., 96 days after the issuance of impugned order. Even show cause notices came to be issued on July 24, .2019 asking the selected candidates to explain their position within 15 days. Last such notice, giving one days time to explain the position, was issued on August 20, 2019, yet the petitioners did not bother to approach the Court and waited till October 3, 2019 in filing the present petition knowing very well that the respondents were going to quash the selection appointments-in-question”, the court observed and added, “I am not inclined to grant the interim relief at this stage. The case law cited by the counsel for writ petitioners, therefore, need no consideration at this stage for grant of interim relief and the same shall be considered at the time of final arguments”.
Justice Tashi Rabstan issued notice to the respondents in the writ petition as well as in CM.
Aseem Sawhney, AAG, vice F.A. Natnoo, AAG, and Bhanu Jasrotia, GA, accepted notices on behalf of their respective respondents. Objections were directed to be filed within a period of four weeks from today. “However, the impugned orders shall be subject to the outcome of present writ petition,” the court directed. The matter has been directed to be listed on November 6, 2019.
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