J&K Public Service Commission members cry foul

Well before a petition was sent to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Narinder Nath Vohra last week, three of the four members of the J&K Public Service Commission [PSC] had made it clear to panel chairman S.L. Bhat that they would not participate in any decision-making until the services of five temporarily-engaged persons were terminated.

Hired as ‘consultants’ and computer operators, these officials have, for long, been handling critical data of examinations and evaluation and allegedly faced charges of selective leakage.

According to a bundle of documents provided to the Governor and accessed by The Hindu, dissident member Masood Samoon was on leave when PSC secretary T.S. Ashok Kumar fixed November 15, 2012, as the date for the commission’s 10 meeting. Before his departure for Haj, Mr. Samoon had levelled an unprecedented accusation on the chairman’s only loyalist member, alleging that Mr. Khizar Mohammad Wani had accessed the merit list of the previous years’ Kashmir Combined Civil Services examination, a.k.a. Kashmir Administrative Service, far before it was revealed to other members and notified.

Two other dissident members, Javed Makhdoomi and Kulbhushan Jandial, were surprised to note that approval of the results of Kashmir Civil Service (Judicial) Examination and a government-sponsored proposal to amend the Commission’s rules of business and procedure were on the agenda of the November 15 meeting. Both the members wrote a joint letter to the chairman seeking postponement of the meeting until Mr. Samoon’s return.

They demanded that the contractually-engaged officials be discharged and removed from the process of selection of the junior judges (munsiffs).

Bureaucrats at the State government’s Law Department are said to have played a key role in drafting the amendment to the rules, aimed at stripping the PSC members of their powers and shifting the same to the chairman. It would indeed be easier for members of the bureaucracy and politicians to run their writ in the fully autonomous and constitutionally independent multi-member commission.

According to a letter, dated November 15, written by Mr. Makhdoomi and Mr. Jandia and addressed to the chairman, “A cursory glance of the proposed amendments only strengthens our view that it is yet another effort to demolish the multi-member character of the Commission by marginalising the role of the Hon’ble Members and concentrating powers into the hands of the Chairman. We have already conveyed our serious reservations on your perception against the usefulness of the multi-member character of the Commission, more recently in the note no PSC/HM/KBJ/2012/27 dated 21-09-2012. We cannot be a party to the dilution of the very spirit of the multi-member constitutional body as prescribed under the Statutory Regulations”.

It added: “As regards the agenda item no 10.4 concerning approval of the result of the written examinations of KCS (Judicial), three out of the four Hon’ble Members have already expressed serious concern on arbitrarily allowing daily-wagers or recently-engaged contractual computer operators to handle sensitive and secret data like result of competitive examination for KCS (Judicial). This is despite our serious misgivings about their integrity in the wake of the credible reports of selective leakage of such data before conduct of interview in the past. This revelation was unfolded in one of the meetings of the Commission.

“Another related issue is the unauthorised and illegal engagement of Consultants by the Secretary, for handling this data against Commission decision and in gross violation of the Statutory Regulations as already explained to you in our separate notes. Instead of correcting the system regrettably you are continuing with such violations. Since you chose not to address our concern on such a sensitive matter despite detailed communications… , we are constrained not to be a party to the approval of this result”.

While the chairman did not respond, the PSC secretary wrote, on his behalf, to the two members that the proposal to amend the rules had been “prepared on the basis of opinions solicited from various stakeholders… including some Members”.

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