Hold fresh enquiry in selection process of Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) appointments: HC directs govt

Srinagar: The High Court (HC) of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh Tuesday directed the government to hold a fresh enquiry into the selection process of Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB) appointments which attracted much criticism after alleged irregularities.

A bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey directed that the enquiry may be initiated within three months from the date of the judgment and completed within a period of six months thereafter.

The KVIB appointments in 2016 during the People's Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government invited much criticism after a PDP leader's son was among the selected candidates for the post of Executive Officer.

A probe committee constituted by the government found that the selections made by KVIB in 2016 had been made by flouting set systems and procedures specified for such appointments.

The inquiry committee, which was led by then Home Secretary R K Goel, in its report submitted to the government stated that the committee was of the considered view that the entire selection process suffered from various deficiencies and flaws.

The committee recommended that the entire process be quashed and initiated afresh after following the due procedure.
The petitioners had challenged the government order issued on June 28, 2019 by the Principal Secretary Industries and Commerce Department, quashing/cancelling the selections made in the KVIB pursuant to advertisement notice issued on October 08, 2016, about twenty months after they had been appointed on the basis of such selection list.

The petitioners have also assailed the order issued by KVIB on October 14, 2019 terminating the services of petitioners, who were appointed on February, 20, 2018, on the basis of the list furnished by the Controller of Examination and duly approved by the competent authority.

Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey after perusing the records remarked that there is no denying the fact that the appointments in question made by the Board were founded on the selections made pursuant to advertisement notice issued on October 08, 2016.

The bench said that the first thing that strikes the mind is that once the selection list was cancelled by the government and the foundations of the appointments of the petitioners were removed, "the direction to the Board to provide opportunity to the appointees of being heard before cancelling their appointments, obviously, has been nothing more than an empty formality, farcical and lip service to the celebrated principle of affording opportunity of being heard before coming to a conclusion.”

"The fact of the matter is that insofar as, in terms of clause (i) of the operative part of the impugned order dated June 28, 2019, the government quashed and cancelled the selections.

“The conclusion to terminate the services of the petitioners had already been drawn and arrived at, therefore, the direction given in clause (ii) of the operative part of the order, that the Board will provide opportunity of being heard to all the appointees before cancelling their appointments, was inconsequential, immaterial and, as a matter of fact, a farce exercise," the bench held.

The bench held that this procedure adopted by the government is akin to hanging a person and then seeking to tell him to show cause why he should not be hanged.

"Such a course has clearly violated the right to hearing of the petitioners, the right recognised by the government itself in the very same order," it said.

It further held that the impugned order on this ground alone is rendered highly unfair, mechanical and arbitrary.

The bench further recorded that a bare perusal of the plain language used and contained in the operative part of the order makes it manifest that the government did not only quash and cancel the selections made in the Board pursuant to advertisement notice in question, but in clause (ii) thereof, by use of the words ‘before cancelling the appointments of these candidates’, in unambig

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