Rashid Paul

HC asks authorities to complete selection process of AIOs ‘preferably within month’

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Monday directed the authorities to take the selection process regarding assistant information officers (AIOs) to logical conclusion at an earliest “preferably within one month”.

The posts have a long and contentious history dating back to 2006 when the J&K Services Selection Board (SSB) through an advertisement sought applications for filling the posts of AIOs.

Eligibility was set up which required the applicants to be graduates with diploma in journalism. They were also supposed to have an aptitude of writing features and translating them into certain official languages.

Interestingly, the SSB notice preferred the candidates with history as a subject in graduation. It decided to assign 10 points on prorate basis to candidates as had history as one of the subjects in graduation.  It placed them at par with candidates having Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication.

The process of selection was not even initiated when in 2008, the agency came out with another advertisement notice in for filling up nine posts of AIOs.

Again the process of selection was yet to set off and the agency again came up with an advertisement for the post of an AIO Grade-I re-designated as AIO.

Thirty-eight such pots were created against corresponding reduction of equal number of posts of AIO Grade-II.

One more advertisement notice was issued in 2010 in terms whereof 13 posts of AIOs in the state cadre were notified to be filled up.

Exhibiting its appetite for history, the government notice said “the candidates with history as a subject in Graduation shall be given preference”.

In 2011, began the process for provisional interviews and aptitude tests of the candidates.

But two candidates, Ishfaq Ahmad Tantray and Ashiq Hussain Bhat, failed to make the grade and filed a writ petition. Both possessed degrees in mass communication from reputed institutes and had responded to all the three advertisement notices.

They sought provisional select-list be quashed.

The single judge by bench in 2012 made certain important observations in the case discussing its various aspects.  It observed the Board changed the selection criteria in the middle of the selection process and also changed the selection methodology on the date the aptitude test and interview in 2011.

It noted the change in selection process and selection methodology was to the prejudice of the writ petitioners. It also observed the SSB, the recruiting agency, has sidelined the merit in the qualifying examination and no credit has been given to higher qualification.

“In effect 50 percent marks have been earmarked for interview/viva-voce leaving scope for arbitrariness and favouritism, besides  the  Board has avoided to shortlist the candidates on the basis of merit in qualifying examination as provided under 2011 Rules,” it said.

Private respondents (therein) were selected as AIOs, the single bench judge said, and directed the Board to proceed with and complete the selection process afresh strictly in accordance with the Rules.

The judgment was challenged in the Supreme Court but it reverted the case to the High Court.

The division bench comprising Justices A M Magray and M Akram Chowdhary today held that the important issue which has been dealt with by the learned judge is that the process of selection with effect 21.10.2010 was to be governed and continued in accordance with the Recruitment Rules, notified in 2010.

The stand of the state, however, is that the process of selection was finalized strictly in accordance with J&K (Subordinate) Service Recruitment Rules of 1992. However, these Rules have been repealed by Rules of 2010.

The division bench upheld the judgment of the single bench that had directed the Board to proceed with the selection process afresh.

It directed the respondents to take the selection process to its logical conclusion at the most earliest, preferably within one month from today, of course, in tune with the mandate of the judgment of J&K High Court passed in 2013.

“In the event, the petitioner Tantray , after lapse of the aforesaid specified time period, still has any grievance qua the implementation of the judgment aforesaid, he shall be at liberty to approach the High Court again,” the court ordered.

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