Providing relief to Haryana Civil Services (HCS) and allied services officers appointed in 2016, the Punjab and Haryana has set aside the November 2021 show-cause notices served by the state government conveying the decision to dispense with their services.
The notices were issued on the grounds that the entire process of selecting them in 2004 was vitiated. The November 27, 2021, notices to officers said the matter has been considered by the government and it has concluded that the selection process of 102 candidates by the Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) suffered from irregularities. “Therefore, it would be discriminatory to bifurcate the selection of some candidates as untainted,” it said.
Show-cause notices in conflict with judgment
Justice Harsimran Singh Sethi of the high court, in his August 16 order, said that once the decision taken by the government to appoint the petitioners after declaring them untainted candidates was accepted by the court and made part of the court order, the order along with the government decision to treat the petitioners as untainted candidates becomes binding upon the parties to the litigation. As the order passed by the letters patent appeal (LPA) bench is binding upon the state government, no contrary decision can be taken to violate the court judgment, the HC said.
The court said that show-cause notices issued after taking a decision to term the petitioners as tainted candidates is in direct conflict with the government’s February 26, 2016, decision to appoint them and the court judgment. It cannot be allowed to be sustained, it said.
“The judgment of the division bench is binding upon the parties as it has attained finality and has been implemented by the government. Taking a decision contrary to the court judgment will amount to overriding it and cannot be allowed to be done,” the HC said.
It said that according to the settled principle of law, the successor in office cannot overturn a valid decision taken and already implemented.
‘DSPs affidavit can’t override two VB reports’
Answering the government’s contention that it needs to take action in view of a fresh report of the vigilance bureau (VB) deputy superintendent of police (DSP), the high court said that no such fresh report by VB officers has been brought on record. “Only an affidavit given by a DSP is being relied upon to hold that as per a fresh view of the VB not only 64 candidates are tainted but even a majority of the untainted candidates who were appointed are also now tainted. The question which arises for consideration is whether an affidavit of an officer of a DSP rank officer will override two VB reports – one given by the director in 2011 and other given by a committee formed by the government in 2016,” the court said.
It said that it may be noticed that once a report on the basis of the same record has been given by an officer of the highest rank in the VB, the report cannot be overridden by an officer who is subordinate by taking a contradictory view, particularly when the record remains the same on the basis of which the reports have been given by the vigilance department and an affidavit has been filed by a DSP-rank officer in (CWP number 7888 of 2017).
Framing charges doesn’t mean accused is guilty: HC
The court rejected the government’s argument that since the selection process is a subject matter of criminal proceedings with charges having been framed against the petitioners, the fact is good enough to take a decision contrary to the initial decision of terming the petitioners as untainted.
On being told that charges in the criminal proceedings have been framed only against three persons and not all, the court said mere framing of the charges in a criminal proceeding, according to the settled principle of law, does not mean that the accused is guilty.
The court said its order will not preclude the government to seek review of the order passed by the division bench (in letters patent appeal 1168 of 2015 of February 27, 2016) in case they intend to reopen the issue as to whether petitioners are tainted or not.
*The HPSC recommended the appointment of the candidates in 2004 during the INLD rule.
*They were not offered appointment by the Congress government as these selections came under cloud and the matter was investigated by the vigilance bureau.
*Following two vigilance investigations that segregated untainted candidates, 38 HCS and allied services officers were appointed by the state government in 2016.
*Show-cause notice served by the government to officers in 2021 to dispense with their services in the wake of petitions filed by candidates who were not given appointments.