Faith in the recruitment process is paramount. Fairness remains its soul. An administrative authority must, therefore, never act contrary to the requirements of the statute, or the circumstances contemplated by law, or improperly exercise discretion which may be seen to be for any ulterior purpose.
Law expects fair play and reasonableness in decision making. Anything done without a rational reason is arbitrary. Arbitrariness is anathema to Article 14 and hence has no place to survive under law. Any decision taken which is discriminative is injurious to Article 14 of the Constitution and is void in the eyes of law. There is a definite obligation on part of the authorities to act fairly and they cannot reduce the exercise of selection to a mere farce.
There is also the need to preserve public confidence in and the sanctity of selection to public posts and the requirement of observing fairness to candidates who invest time and resources in attempting to clear through a selection. Both these considerations have a constitutional foundation going beyond service and administrative law principles.
In this backdrop, Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission cancelled one paper instead both in selection process for prosecuting officers. On the other hand, many aggrieved aspirants have demanded “a level playing field”, urging upon the JKPSC to cancel both the papers and conduct examination afresh.
Their demand appears to be genuine as cancelling “paper-II” which is of qualifying nature certainly gives an edge to those candidates who have done better in paper-I but would not have found themselves eligible for the post if the examination for paper-II was not cancelled.
As has been rightly underlined by some aspirants, the examination scheme is such that an aspirant has to first qualify the paper-II by getting a particular score as provided under the notification. By allowing somebody who has fared better in paper-I two chances is plainly injustice, the aspirants have said which appears to be cogent in the circumstances.
According to the JKPSC, its decision to cancel paper-II followed representations from the candidates through the J&K High Court Bar Association Jammu and others, claiming that the standard of the qualifying paper was higher than the level prescribed in the notification. Now that the examination for paper-II has been already cancelled, the recruiting agency should consider taking the examination entirely afresh for both the papers as the same would be in the interest of justices and fair play. Undoubtedly, fairness to candidates who participate in the process is an important consideration.