While hearing the plea of Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission (MPPSC) seeking quashment of the FIR lodged against its officers for the offences punishable under Sections 3 (1)(r) and 3 (i)(u) of the SC & ST Act, 1989, the Madhya Pradesh High Court on Wednesday (21st October) observed,
"This Court, for the first time, is witnessing a First Information Report in respect of a question asked in the Civil Services Examination and is of the considered opinion that in the present case, a preliminary inquiry should have been done keeping in view the judgment delivered in the case of Lalita Kumari v/s The Government of Uttar Pradesh & Others (2014) 2 SCC 1." (emphasis supplied)
In this context, while quashing the FIR, the Bench observed,
"This Court really respects the sentiments of the Bhil community, however, would like to make it clear that the questions were not asked to hurt the sentiment of the Bhil Community, they were based upon the various text which is already on record." (emphasis supplied)
Facts of the Case
A complaint was lodged by one Surendra Bamnia, Divisional President and Anil Khedkar, District President of National Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Youth Sangh in respect of certain questions in the question paper relating to Madhya Pradesh Civil Services Examination which took place on 12.01.2020.
The complaint, which was on record, was also marked to his excellency the Governor, Chief Minister, Minister of the Department and to the Secretary, Public Secretary Public Service Commission.
The complaint was dated 15.01.2020 and was based upon the aforesaid complaint, a First Information Report was lodged on 15.01.2020 itself.
In this context, the Court said,
"This Court, for the first time, is witnessing the lightning speed of the police officers who have received the complaint on 15.01.2020 and have immediately lodged a First Information Report against the officers of the Public Service Commission. If the police force works in a similar manner in respect of the other offences/crime they deserve appreciation, however, the experience is otherwise."
On the same day, a letter was written to the Public Service Commission by the Deputy Superintendent of Police providing necessary information and necessary information, as desired from time to time, was supplied to the Deputy Superintendent of Police.
The Deputy Superintendent of Police was informed about the entire process in the matter and the same revealed that at no point of time any officer/employee of the Public Service Commission is involved in the business of setting of question paper or in the business of moderation of question paper.
Arguments put forth by MPPSC
It was submitted that the Public Service Commission does not come in the picture till the question paper, after the examination, is brought to the notice of Public Service Commission.
Not only this, the text filed by the Public Service Commission made it very clear that the questions were asked on the basis of books published on the subject.
It was also mentioned that the questions are framed by subject experts, who are eminent Professors and moderation is also done by experts who are also eminent Professors.
The Paper Setter and Moderator are not the employees of the Public Service Commission and mistake, if any, committed in the matter cannot be attributed to the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission nor to its employees.
Not only this, the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission Rules of Procedure, 2019 provides that no suit, prosecution or legal proceedings shall lie against the Commission, Chairman, Member, Secretary, Controller and other officers or any other deputed to assist the commission in the matter of examination.
Lastly, MPPSC argued that the 'Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission Rules of Procedure' grants immunity to Chairman, member and other officers in respect of any action done by them in good faith, and their contention is that in light of Rule 15, the question of taking any action against the petitioner or its employees or other office bearer does not arise.
The Court, on the basis of the material filed by the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission, was of the considered opinion that the neither Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission nor any of its employees or officers could be prosecuted as they were not at all responsible in the matter and even the Moderator and Paper Setter were also not liable for prosecution keeping in view Rule 15 of the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission Rules of Procedure, 2019.
The Court noted,
"The paper setting and moderation was done based upon the text which is on record and at no point of time, any action has been taken against the authors and publishers in respect of the textbooks which are old textbooks published in the year 2000. The entire exercise of registering a First Information Report appears to be initiated with an oblique and ulterior motive."
The Court also opined that the report of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission, Government of India (which was placed on record) refers to the miseries of the tribal and various observations have been made in the aforesaid reports.
"The State Government should make all possible endeavour to provide basic amenities to the tribal, to ensure that they are given proper education by establishing institutions (educational institutions, medical institutions, vocational institutions etc. etc.) in order to ensure that the tribals are brought to the mainstream. This Court hopes and trusts that the recommendation of Government of India made for the Scheduled Tribe Commission are implemented in its true sense."
With the aforesaid, the present Writ Petition stood allowed. The impugned F.I.R. was thereby quashed.
Click Here To Download Order