The Supreme Court Friday upheld the Haryana government’s decision to sack former Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) chairman Mehar Singh Saini as well as members Santosh Singh and Ram Kumar Kashyap and declared them ‘guilty of misbehaviour’ on various counts.
They ‘failed to maintain the required standards of integrity and rectitude in performance of their institutional duties expected to be maintained by the holder of such a coveted office’, said an apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar while answering the presidential reference on the issue.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Kumar said that of the nine charges against Mehar Singh Saini, Santosh Singh and Ram Kumar Kashyap, six stood established, two were beyond the scope of the presidential reference and one could be not be proved by the state.
In December 2004, then chief minister Om Prakash Chautala’s government appointed Mehar Singh Saini as HPSC chairman and Santosh Singh, wife of a former chairman, as well as Ram Kumar Kashyap as members of the commission. This was just before the model code of conduct came into play ahead of the 2005 assembly elections.
They were accused of committing various irregularities and illegalities, including the acts of favouritism, discrimination and violation of rules/regulations. The state government conducted vigilance inquiries; first information reports (FIRs) were also registered against them.
On Dec 18, 2006. Haryana chief secretary requested the governor to refer the matter to the president of India at the earliest for removal of the chairman and members of the commission under Article 317(1) of the constitution.
Article 317(1) provides the procedure for the removal of the State Public Service Commission chairman or its members by the president, who would take steps after obtaining the opinion of the apex court.
According to Friday’s judgment, there were justifiable grounds for their removal from their respective offices in terms of the article.
The judgment said this while positively answering six of the nine references made by the president to the apex court. ‘Resultantly, the Reference, made by the President of India to this Court, is answered in the affirmative to the above extent.’
The establishment of Public Service Commissions both at the centre and in the states is an important facet of the constitutional scheme, the judgment read.
‘Public Service Commissions are expected to adopt a fair and judicious process of selection to ensure that deserving and meritorious candidates are inducted to the services of the State. This should not only be done but also appear to have been done’, the judgment said while answering the Presidential reference.
‘Great powers are vested in the Commission and therefore, it must ensure that there is no abuse of such powers. The principles of public accountability and transparency in the functioning of an institution are essential for its proper governance,’ it stated.
It further said, ‘The necessity of sustenance of public confidence in the functioning of the Commission may be compared to the functions of judiciary in administration of justice…’