The Sindh High Court on Tuesday declared that the recommendations of the search committee that was formed for the appointment of unsuccessful candidates for the posts of secretaries and controllers...
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday declared that the recommendations of the search committee that was formed for the appointment of unsuccessful candidates for the posts of secretaries and controllers of examinations at matriculation and intermediate boards in five provincial districts were without any lawful authority, and ordered the competent authority to hold fresh interviews of only successful candidates for the posts.
The order came on the petitions of Mushtaq Ahmed Sangrasi, Muzaffar Jamil Mirza and Syed Umair Ahmed, who impugned the recruitment and exams process started by the Sindh Universities & Boards Department for the posts of secretaries and exams controllers of the province’s secondary and higher secondary education boards on the grounds that the exams process was compromised to accommodate beneficiaries and private respondents with influence or those selected for extraneous consideration.
The petitioners’ counsel said vacancies for the posts of secretaries and exams controllers for the matric, inter and technical education boards in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Larkana were advertised in various newspapers.
He said MCQ tests for the posts were taken by the Institute of Business Administration on July 28, 2019, adding that none of the candidates, including the petitioners, scored the 50 per cent pass percentage to be eligible for an interview.
The counsel said that to extend favours, the competent authority constituted a search committee with the sole object to ensure the selection of candidates of their own choice. He said the committee was not mandated to shortlist unsuccessful candidates, but it shortlisted such candidates by reducing the pass percentage from 50 per cent to 40 per cent.
The counsel said private respondents were helped to pass the written tests for the positions in disregard of the provisions of the Sindh Boards of Intermediate & Secondary Education Ordinance 1972 and the rules framed thereunder as well as by bypassing the Sindh Public Service Commission. He impugned the entire process of appointment, and requested the court to declare the appointments of the respondents as unlawful.
The respondents’ counsel said the petitions were liable to be dismissed because there was transparency in the appointment process, the respondents were posted purely on merit and without any favouritism, and they have qualification commensurate with the positions advertised in newspapers.
The Sindh additional advocate general also adopted the arguments of the respondents, saying that the respondent universities and boards issued advertisements to fill the vacancies, and that the appointment process was conducted in a fair and transparent manner.
The SHC’s division bench comprising Justice Nadeem Akhtar and Justice Adnan-ul-Karim Memon said that the minimum pass percentage was set at 50 per cent, so prima facie, all the private candidates, except three, had failed.
The court said that the competent authority constituted a search committee that reduced the minimum pass percentage from 50 per cent to 40 per cent, and after shortlisting 24 candidates, conducted interviews and recommended them for appointment.
The bench said that after the perusal of the records and the documents, prima facie, it was not the mandate of the search committee to ease the criterion to accommodate those candidates who had failed and did not even qualify for the interview.
The court said that it is unfortunate that instead of following the principle of selection on merit, the Sindh government allowed the search committee to indulge in the unauthorised and illegal act, adding that such conduct of the government and the search committee appears, ex facie, to be tainted with bias.
The bench took exception to the conduct of the government officials who in spite of the restraining order passed by the court on August 26, 2019, continued the politically-motivated process of appointment of candidates, all of whom, with the exception of three, had failed their tests.
The court said that the unauthorised act of easing the criterion not only defeated the entire purpose of selection on merit through a transparent competitive process but also gave opportunities of employment to unqualified candidates, to which they were not entitled.
The bench directed the government and all its officials, functionaries and departments who might have been involved in the process of recruitment at any stage to ensure that the criteria laid down for qualifying tests is not modified under any circumstances, and to also ensure that interviews of the candidates must relate to the subject of the advertised posts.
Declaring the search committee’s recommendations without any lawful authority, the court ordered fresh interviews of only successful candidates, saying that if the posts remain vacant, they were to be filled only through fresh advertisements and on merit.