SC Upholds Karnataka High Court’s Decision on Cancellation of Selection Conducted by The Karnataka Public Service Commission

The Supreme Court upheld the decision of Karnataka High Court where in it had cancelled the selection conducted by the Karnataka Public Service Commission (“KPSC”). This decision was given by the bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Rohinton Fali Nariman in the case of Avinash.C & Ors. V. State of Karnataka & Ors.[CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 3543-3555 OF 2018].
The matter arose out of Selection conducted by the Karnataka Public Service Commission (“KPSC”)pursuant to Notification dated 3.11.2011 for filling up 362 posts of the Group ‘A’ and Group ‘D’ in the State of Karnataka. Examinations were conducted on 22.04.2012. Written tests for mains were conducted between 15.12.2012 and 16.01.2013. Interviews were held between 01-04-2013 and 27.05.2013. There were complaints of mal-practices and irregularities in the conduct of examinations as well as the interviews. It was inter alia alleged that there were demands of bribes from candidates. The FIR was lodged against Chairman, Member and some officials of the KPSC. On receipt of the interim report of CID dated 10th September, 2013, the State Government on 15th December,2013 directed annulment of evaluation of written examination as well as the personality test. The KPSC however, published the select list. The State Government withdrew the requisition for appointments on 14.08.2014.
The above order was challenged by the successful candidates before the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal. The Tribunal vide order dated 19th October, 2016 quashed the decision of the State Government and directed appointment of the selected candidates. Some selected candidates have been given appointments.
The order of the Tribunal was challenged before the High Court. The High Court by the impugned order set aside the order of the Tribunal. The high court while setting aside the decision of the tribunal observed that appointment of ineligible, inefficient or persons of questionable integrity has serious adverse impact on the working of the Government and is anathema to the rule of law. Best selection to Government service was the mandate of the Constitution. No right accrued to candidates merely by being in the select list. Thus, the Tribunal was in error in directing appointment of persons validity of whose selection was seriously doubted by the Government.
The Supreme Court in its decision said “We find that the High Court has referred to material on record in the form of call details between candidates and members of the KPSC. All the members who interviewed the candidates awarded exactly the same marks to particular candidates. There was no objective assessment by individual members. There appeared to be extraneous reasons in awarding the marks. 566 candidates were awarded same marks which appeared to be pre-determined. Digital video recorder in the KPSC building was replaced to destroy evidence. In this view of the matter, we do not find any ground to interfere with the view of the High Court that the selection could not have been sustained. If the selection is found to be tainted in any manner, it is always open to the concerned authority to annul such selection to maintain purity of the selection process.It may not always be necessary to segregate tainted and untainted candidates when the process itself is tainted. Moreover, at pre-appointment stage, decision to cancel the selection process can be interfered only if it is patently arbitrary, malafide or illegal. In the present case, the High Court has rightly applied these parameters and found no case for interference with the decision to annul the selection.
A new contention was raised by some of the parties submitting that the written examination is not vitiated by any irregularity and the same can be sustained and so interviews can be held again.
In consideration to this contention the Apex court said ” Since this contention does not appear to have been raised before the High Court we permit this contention to be now raised by either of the parties by moving to the High Court within two weeks from today. If such an application is moved, the High Court may examine the same on merits. If the High Court finds that the written examination is free from any blemish, the High Court may consider restoration of the result of the written examination and further selection process to be conducted. It will also be open to the High Court to direct re-evaluation of scripts of all the candidates or to sustain the cancellation of result of the written examination so that fresh selection can be held.
Supreme Court did not express any opinion on merits of the rival contentions which will be open to be gone into by the High Court. Taking into consideration the urgency of the matter beacuse careers of many aspirants are at stake the Supreme Court directed the High Court to take a decision in the matter at the earliest preferably within a period of three months from the date the High Court is approached.