The Meghalaya High Court has voiced its concern over 'favouritism' and 'nepotism' affecting government's recruitment drives. While referring to Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution that guarantee equality and non-discrimination, Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee observed,
"Just as religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence are to be kept out of the consideration, favouritism and nepotism would also have no role to play in the process of selection. At the end of the day it has to be a fair process and a reasonable procedure adopted for the selection; or it would fall foul of the constitutional ethos."
The bench also comprising Justice W. Diengdoh was hearing an appeal moved by a candidate who was declared unsuccessful in the selection process adopted by the Directorate of Soil and Water Conservation of the State for appointing drivers.
The Appellant had secured highest mark of 84 in the practical examination which tested the candidates' driving skills. However, some other candidates who barely met the qualifying marks to be called for the interview obtained exceptionally high marks in course of the interview to topple the appellant and bag the posts. This was possible because the selection process gave equal weightage to both objective assessment and the interview.
At the outset, the bench remarked that such methodology is "odd".
"High authorities now instruct that except in certain special cases, the weightage given to the objective examination should be about 70 or 75 per cent and the weightage given to the subjective assessment in course of an interview or viva-voce should not exceed 30 to 35 per cent...When it comes to the appointment of a driver, common sense instructs that it is the driving skill which should be the paramount consideration...At the end of the day that a driver may not be judged in how he dresses or how he looks but in how he manoeuvres the machine that is entrusted to him," it observed.
Next, the bench noted that six interviewers had to evaluate the candidates out of total 100 marks. Thus, each interviewer could have allotted a maximum of 16.66 marks to any candidate. However, two interviewers had exceeded this limit.
Thus, the bench remarked that the entire selection process reeks of a completely unfair procedure and a vile charade in the guise of an interview. "In this case all vestiges of objectivity were thrown to the wind and the marking procedure was completely arbitrary," it remarked.
However, it refrained from annulling the appointments, on the ground of delay and laches.
So far as the Appellant is concerned, the bench directed the State to consider his case favourably in any future selection process for which he is eligible. In case the age bar comes into operation, he shall extended a five-year latitude. Moreover, the State and the concerned prospective employer will be liable to pay damages to the Appellant to the tune of Rs. 3 lakh.
The Court also ordered State's Chief Secretary to take action against the errant members who conducted the said interview, through appropriate vigilance authorities.
Lastly, keeping in mind the "colossal mockery" undertaken in the name of the interview, the Court recommended the State to undertake an "awareness drive" and educate the persons who would be involved in the future selection processes.
Case Title : Pynskhemlang Nongrang Vs. The Directorate of Soil and Water Conservation & ors
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Meg) 39