Kerala Public Service Commission – One Time Registration – Format provided by the PSC was defective – Held, When the PSC found the necessity to relax the norms/rigor of the conditions, it should have been extended to all the candidates, who participated in the selection.
Kerala Public Service Commission (PSC)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM
P.R. RAMACHANDRA MENON & ANIL K. NARENDRAN, JJ.
O.P.(KAT) Nos. 374, 375, 378, 379 and 382 of 2015 and I.A. No. 161 of 2016 in O.P.(KAT) No. 379 of 2015
Dated, this the 19th day of July, 2016
AGAINST THE ORDER IN OA 1592/2015 of KERALA ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM DATED 30-10-2015
THE KERALA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION REPRESENTED BY ITS SECRETARY, THULASI HILLS, PATTOM PALACE P.O, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA-695 004.
BY ADV. SRI.P.C.SASIDHARAN, SC, KPSC
R BY ADV. SRI.N.NANDAKUMARA MENON (SR.) BY ADV. SRI.P.K.MANOJKUMAR BY ADV. SMT.SMITHA S.PILLAI
Ramachandra Menon, J.
The Kerala Public Service Commission is the petitioner in all these cases. The main grievance is against the verdict passed by the Kerala Administrative Tribunal on 30.10.2015 in the Review Application No. 22 of 2015 in O.A. (EKM) No. 801 of 2015 and connected cases, whereby it was held that all the applications submitted by the applicants (except in O. A. No. 1592 of 15) would be treated as valid for the purpose of verification of the ‘technical qualifications’, whereas in O.A. No. 1592 of 2015, it would be a question of verification of ‘educational qualification’, simultaneously giving consequential directions to the extent it was necessary to give effect to the verdict.
2. The challenge is mainly on two grounds; firstly, that there was ‘no error apparent on the face of the record’, to have invoked the power of review and secondly, that the verdict was passed based on the new facts and grounds raised in the review application and further, merely with reference to the decision of the Commission taken on 28.09.2015, giving opportunity to the candidates concerned to produce proof of qualifications, which stand already entered in the applications. As requested by the learned standing counsel for the petitioner/PSC, O.P (KAT) No. 382 of 2015 is taken as the lead case. Reference is made to the parties, pleadings and documents, as arrayed in the said original petition, except where it is separately mentioned, to meet the context.
3. The crux of the issue relates to the alleged defect in the online applications submitted by the applicants for the post of Assistant Motor Vehicles Inspector, published by the PSC as per Annexure A1 notification dated 26.12.2014, in so far as, the ‘experience’ required and the possession of ‘valid and effective driving licence’ were not incorporated anywhere in the applications; in turn leading to rejection of those applications stating as defective. The case of the applicants is that, the format provided by the PSC was defective, where there was no column to show the ‘experience’ and also as to the ‘possession and particulars of the driving licence’ as on 28.01.2015 – the last date fixed for submitting the applications. It is also pointed out that the applicants have subsequently uploaded the relevant particulars separately, and in some cases, it is contended that necessary particulars were given in the profile at the time of obtaining the ‘One Time Registration’ itself. It is further contended that the mistake/defect was virtually conceded by the PSC and the rigor of the ‘general conditions’ for submission of the applications was watered down, however. But the benefit has been limited to some candidates alone, whose names have been included in the short list, by way of addendum notification, which ought to have been extended to all the applicants; but for which, there is an instance of discrimination. This alone has been ordered to be effected as per the verdict passed by the Tribunal, which is under challenge at the instance of the PSC.
4. Coming to the factual matrix, as stated already, Annexure A1 notification was issued by the PSC on 26.12.2014 inviting the applications to the post of AMVI. The qualifications prescribed (other than the physical condition) were:
1. Pass in SSLC or its equivalent.
2. Diploma in Automobile Engineering or Mechanical Engineering awarded by the State Board of Technical Education (3 year course).
3. Working experience at least 1 (one) year in a reputed (Govt. approved) automobile workshop which undertake repairs of both Light Motor Vehicles, Heavy Goods Vehicles and Heavy Passenger Motor Vehicle fitted with Petrol and Diesel Engines. (Please see Para 21 of the General Conditions)
4. Must hold a current valid driving licence authorizing him to drive Motor Cycle Heavy Goods Vehicles and Heavy Passenger Motor Vehicles. Note : Candidates shall possess a current Driving Licence throughout all the stages of selection process as on the last date of application, OMR Test, Practical Test, Interview etc.
The applicants, who satisfied the requirements, as claimed by them, submitted their applications on or before the last date (28.01.2015), showing the relevant particulars. According to the PSC, they had never shown the ‘experience’ or the ‘particulars of the driving licence’ in the online applications, but, still, they were provisionally permitted to participate in the written test. It was thereafter, that the PSC prepared a short list, wherein names of the applicants were not included, as their applications came to be rejected for the defect as aforesaid.
5. The applicants projected their grievance by way of several representations, pointing out that all the qualifications were entered at the time of ‘one time registration’; that the experience and such other particulars were subsequently uploaded; and that there was no separate column in the application for entering the experience or particulars of the driving licence. As the grievance was not redressed by the PSC, the matter was taken up before the Kerala Administrative Tribunal by the applicants, by way of O.A. (EKM) No. 801 of 2015. The prayer of the applicants to direct the PSC to consider the representation was rejected by the Tribunal, as per Ext. P2 order dated 17.08.2015, holding that, if a candidate had not claimed the notified qualifications in his application, the Public Service Commission had no other option, but to reject it, and hence that the Tribunal would not ask the PSC to entertain the representations. The O.A was dismissed accordingly. 6. According to the petitioner/PSC, Review Application No. 22 of 2015 was filed shortly thereafter, raising new grounds and also producing some new documents, particularly as Annexure RA3 notification issued by the PSC, giving an opportunity to the aspirants concerned to cure the defects in respect of all notifications issued from January 2012, where the selection proceedings were yet to start. Such opportunity was given, referring to the technical lapse/lack of requisite infrastructure, thus preventing the aspirants in showing their qualifications in the applications. During the pendency of the above proceedings, the applicants in the Review Application filed M.A. No. 2703 of 2015, producing Annexure MA1 addendum notification issued by the PSC, causing to include 90 candidates more in the short list (wrongly typed as ’91’ in Ext.P4). The Review Application was considered along with the other pending O.As., and after extracting the version of the PSC [as contained in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the reply statement filed in O.A. No. 1731 of 2015 as to the subsequent developments], particularly, the decision No.11 dated 28.09.2015 deciding to admit some more candidates in the shortlist, the Tribunal, as per Ext. P4 order, held that similar opportunity has to be given to all the applicants as well, which otherwise will be discriminatory. This in turn is under challenge at the instance of the PSC; mainly on the two grounds as aforesaid, and also that the applicants herein were not similarly situated like the persons coming within the purview of the decision No.11 taken by the PSC on 28.09.2015 and therefore, they are not entitled to have any relief. 7. A counter affidavit has been filed by the respondents 1 to 6 and 8 to 10, producing various documents as Ext. R1(a) to R1(n). This is followed by an additional counter affidavit dated 26.03.2016 filed by the very same respondents, producing further documents as Ext. R1(o) to Ext. R1(v). The PSC has filed an affidavit dated 21.03.2016 [stated as an additional affidavit, as per the direction dated 24.02.2016 of this Court] producing some additional documents as Exts. P5 to P7. The 7 th respondent has also produced some additional documents as Ext.R7(a) to R7(c) along with I.A. No. 1162 of 2016.
8. Mr. P.C. Sasidharan, the learned Standing counsel for the petitioner/PSC addressed the Court in terms of the grounds raised in the original petition, mainly contending that invocation of power of review by the Tribunal itself is wrong; that the contention of the applicants that the application format issued by the PSC/software was defective is not correct and further that the applicants were not similarly situated to the persons coming within the purview of decision No.11 dated 28.09.2015 referred to in paragraph 5 of Ext.P4 order passed by the Tribunal. The learned counsel also submitted that, more than 3000 candidates submitted their applications, most of whom had given all the relevant particulars in the applications; whereas the total number of defective applications was only; 430, among whom, 90 persons were cleared pursuant to the decision No. 11 dated 28.09.2015 and they were included in the shortlist as per the addendum notification. This by itself is an indicator, according to the learned counsel, that there was no defect/lapse at all on the part of the PSC and that the lapse was solely on the part of the applicants. As per the ‘general conditions’, which is common for all selections conducted by the PSC, verification of the documents will be effected only at the time of interview (Clause 14), no opportunity will be given to rectify the mistake, if any (Clause 15) and belated claim preferred after submitting the application will not be considered (Clause 16). The applicants having not shown the particulars of experience and as to the possession of valid and effective driving licence in the applications, they are hit by the above provisions and have to be non-suited. Verification can be done only with reference to the data given in the applications, as held in