1. The urgency in these cases is that the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) has scheduled Tier-I re-examination in certain selected centres on 27.04.2014. However, in view of the interim orders dated 23.09.2013 of this Tribunal further proceedings of Combined Graduate Level Examination (CGLE), 2013 have been stayed. Learned counsel for the respondents has filed MA-20/2014 for vacation of this stay to enable SSC to conduct the re-examination on 27.04.2014. Since the pleadings in these cases were complete, both parties agreed that the same may be finally heard and decided before that date.
2. The issue involved in all these three cases is the same. Hence, they are being disposed of by this common order.
3. Brief facts of these cases are that the SSC conducted CGLE, 2013 Tier-I on 21.04.2013. During this examination
complaints of leakage of question paper and large scale irregularities came to the notice. The Delhi Police registered FIR No. 73/13 u/s 511/120-B/34/420 IPC under PS Crime Branch, Delhi. While, this case was still under investigation, the SSC conducted the Tier-2 examination on 29.09.2013. In that examination as well, irregularities were noticed and another FIR No. 167/2013 u/s 406/120B IPC & 66 IT Act was registered under the PS Crime Branch. The applicants of these cases are seeking quashing of the entire examination on the grounds that the irregularities that have surfaced are large scale vitiating the entire examination. They contended that under these circumstances, fair selection of meritorious candidates was not possible.
4. On the other hand, while not denying that irregularities have been noticed, the respondents have contended that these irregularities were confined to a few centres such as Lucknow, Patna, Allahabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Dehradun and Shimla. They argued that there is no need to quash the entire examination and that only examination conducted at these seven centres can be quashed. They argued that if the entire examination is quashed future of lakhs of candidates who have taken this examination will be jeopardized.
5. We have heard both sides and have perused the material on record.
6. The short point to be decided in these cases is whether the nature and extent of irregularities that have come to notice in the conduct of CGLE, 2013 were so wide-spread as to warrant cancellation of the entire examination or whether it would suffice to order re-examination only at the seven centres mentioned above. To decide this issue, we have seen the nature of irregularities committed as well as the investigation report of Delhi Police dated 16.01.2014 that has been made available to us alongwith other documents on record.
7. Learned counsel for the applicants Sh. Ajesh Luthra has drawn our attention to the charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police in the Court of ACMM, New Delhi. He argued that the persons found to be accused in the case were staying in different parts of the country and engaged in different profession giving an indication that the irregularity was wide spread. Thus, accused No.1 was Amit Kumar working as a teacher in Haryana Government in Rewari. Accused No.2 was Sh. Ravinder Singh staying in Sonepat, Haryana. Accused No. 3 Sh. Macchita Malik was working in Sales Tax Department as Inspector in Delhi. Accused No.4 Ajit Singh was working in Delhi Police as Head Constable. Accused No.5 Aashu Sharma was teacher in MCD, Delhi, so was accused No.6 Mukesh Kumar. He went on to state the place of residence and occupation of different accused. He drew our attention to the recoveries affected from the possession of the accused persons to establish the type of electronic equipments that were used in committing the irregularities. These are as follows:-
(i) From the possession of Amit Kumar S/o Sh. Fateh Singh R/o House NO.3123/75-E, Rewati Nagar, Rewari, Haryana, one Laptop-Sony Valo with charger, one pen drive, three mobile phones and two data cards (Idea, Reliance) were seized.
From the possession of Ravinder Singh S/o Sh. Ram Kumar R/o Vill. Bajana Khurd, Tehsil Gannaur, Distt. Sonepat, Haryana, two movile phones and one paper containing Roll Nos., name of candidates, Mobile numbers and other details were seized.
From the possession of Macchita Malik S/o Sh. Satbir Singh Malik R/o 232, Pocket-1 Sector 23, Rohini, Delhi, One Lucent s (SAMANYA GYAN) General Knowledge Book was seized.
From the possession of Ahit Singh S/o Sh. Devi Singh R/o 54-A, Jawahar Nagar, Sonepat, Haryana, two Mobile phones, one photocopy of admit card of Shikha Nashir of CGL-2013 and one slips containing code numbers and roll numbers were seized.
From the possession of Sahil Kadyan S/o Sh. Satbir Singh R/o VPO Jana Khurd, Tehsil Ganaur, Haryana, one slip containing roll numbers, phone numbers was seized.
From the possession of Ashu Sharma S/o Sh. Naresh Kumar Sharma R/o VPO Ladpur, Delhi, one laptop Sony, two mobile phones, two note pads, one Data Card were seized.
From the possession of Mukesh Kumar S/o Chatar Singh R/o House No. 2320, sector-15 Sonepat, Haryana, two mobile phones were seized.
From the possession of Lohit Vats S/o Jagbir Vats R/o 18-B Todarmal Colony, Najafgarh, Delhi, his SCC Admit Card for this examination and two Mobile Phones were seized.
From the possession of Kulvir Singh S/o Randhir Singh R/o H.No. 118/09 Surya Nagar, Gohana Road, Rohtak, Haryana, one reasoning text book was seized.
Further, learned counsel for the applicants in order to establish the nature of irregularity committed drew our attention to Para-15 of the charge sheet which shows that huge sums of money had exchanged hands in this crime. Para-15 of the charge sheet reads as follows:-
Subsequent to arrest, Ashu Sharma disclosed that he knew Bijender Chikara who is LDC in MCD office at Sector-5 Rohini. Bijender had told him that he can arrange question paper of SSC combined graduate level examination to be held on 21-04-2013 for both the shifts and that it will be sent through email to him. It will cost Rs.3.5 lacs. Bijender gave his three mobile numbers 9654107581, 9813644513 and 9310441200 and told that the payment would be given after the examination is over. His brother-in-law Pankaj Vats and Lohit Vats had to appear for the said examination. He further met Amit and intimated the same to him. Amit asked him to help him in arranging the question paper for his brother Ashish also. Thereafter, Ajit Kumar contacted him and told that Amit has conveyed him that he was going to arrange the question paper of Graduate level Combine SSC to be held on 21-04-2013. He acceded to Ajit that it was correct and that he is going to arrange the question paper of SSC combined graduate level exam 2013. Ajit asked him that Since, his niece and one constable Sahil are also appearing for the examination whether the same can be can be provided to them. He further, told Ajit that Bijender is demanding Rs.3.5 lacs for the question paper. He then told Ajit that they will jointly arrange Rs.3.5 lacs and after the examination is over they will hand over the amount to Bijender. He then asked Ajit to arrange a site to solve the same. Ajit told him that he can manage a place in village Pooth Kalan. He also asked Ajit to arrange the solvers of the question papers. On 20-4-2013, he contacted Bijender and asked him to arrange the question paper, Bijender told him that he will send question paper through email an hour before the exam starts. The email ID and password will be provided in the morning itself. On 21-04-13, Ajit called him that they are waiting at Prince Public School Sector-24 Rohini, Delhi. He reached there and found one Machita Malik was with Ajit. Then he along with Ajit and Machita Malik reached at H.No.848/349 Pooth Kalan, Delhi. Where Ravinder, Amit were also present in the room. All assembled there. Then Ashu contacted Bijender to send the question paper through SMS.
7.1 Learned counsel for the applicants argued that the charge sheet also says that the investigation is still in progress as some of the accused have yet to be fully interrogated. Further, some other accused persons are still on run and evading the arrest as is clear from Paras-54, 56, 57 and 58. Finally, at the end the charge sheet it is stated that further investigation is continued and after completion of investigation supplementary charge sheet will be filed as per law and procedure. On the basis of the above, learned counsel for the applicants Sh. Luthra argued that it is incorrect to say that irregularities have been confined only to the seven centres named above by the respondents. He stated that further investigation may reveal that other centres were also affected by these irregularities and large scale bunglings. Hence, there is no justification in canceling examination of only these seven centres. He argued that in these circumstances, it is not possible to separate the innocent candidates from the tainted ones. It is possible that many candidates of other centres as well may have been beneficiaries of these irregularities and they would steal a march over the applicants by use of these unfair means. This would cause irreparable loss to the applicants. Hence, the only way out is to quash the entire examination.
8. Learned counsel for the respondents Sh. Arif argued that the charge sheet relied upon by the learned counsel for the applicants in his arguments was an old one as it was filed in the Court on 18.06.2013. He said that a fresh report had been obtained from Delhi Police on 16.01.2014. On the basis of this report, the matter was considered at the level of Hon ble Minister, Incharge for Department of Personnel in a meeting held on 28.01.2014 in which several senior officers were also present. In that meeting, it was decided that re-examination may be held only at identified centres from where reports of use of unfair means have been received. This was done keeping in view the sanctity of the examination and the interest of the candidates. Sh. Arif has made available to us copy of the Minutes of the Meeting held on 28.01.2014 and the orders dated 29.01.2014 issued on the basis of discussion held in the Meeting. He has also made available to us a copy of the Delhi Police Investigation Report received on 16.01.2014. These documents have been taken on record.
8.1 We have first seen the investigation report of Delhi Police dated 16.01.2014. Para-2 of this letter deals with the Tier-I Examination held on 21.04.2013. According to his answer keys of the question of morning session held on 21.04.2013 between 10.00 AM to 12 Noon were found to be in possession of an accused named Ashu. Subsequently, it was also discovered that question papers of evening session were received on the email of the apprehended persons at 1.41 PM. In all in this case 14 persons were arrested. Para-3 of this report says that as regards Tier-II Examination, based on source information simultaneous raids were conducted at Delhi, Allahabad and Lucknow and many candidates on search were found to be in possession of mobile phones which had SMS containing details of answers to the questions. Similar raids were also conducted by CBI and State Police on different locations. Investigation further revealed that answer keys were forwarded from the suspected phone numbers to various other mobiles which were having locations at Lucknow, Patna, Sonepat, Allahabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Dehradun, Rohtak, Shimla, Hisar, Jind and Muzaffarnagar. In Para-4 of the report the Delhi Police goes on to say that atleast ten centres were definitely involved and involvement of more centres and candidates is not ruled out. Further, they have stated that investigations point towards a thriving business in which coaching institutes and layers of intermediaries are involved. They have also stated that the accused persons procured the question paper in advance and forwarded it to their accomplices from coaching institutes who solve it and provide the answer keys. The cell phones are used to forward the answer keys to the candidates. Sim Cards are generally procured on fake identities. The entire operations were planned and so organized that the candidates receive the answer keys well before entering the examination center.
8.2 In para-6 of their letter Delhi Police have stated that the investigation conducted so far has not been able to point out exact place and persons from where leakage actually initiated. They have stated that it is certain that a large group of persons are involved who obtain the question papers from the examination and provide answer keys to candidates at various centres in the country.
8.3 From the above, it is clear that the irregularities that have surfaced were committed on a very large scale. Further, while Delhi Police has so far unearthed the stations mentioned above to which answer keys were forwarded through mobile phones, this list by no means appears to be exhaustive. Only further investigation would reveal whether other centres were also involved. In any case, Delhi Police have admitted that answer keys were forwarded to candidates at various centres in the country.
8.4 The nature of irregularities committed as brought out in the charge sheet filed by Delhi Police reveals wide-spread use of electronics devices such as mobile phones, data cards, pen drives etc. Investigations have also brought out that answer keys were transmitted through emails as well as SMS. Under these circumstances, in our opinion, it is impossible to say that the irregularities were confined only to the stations mentioned above as SMSs and emails could have been transmitted to candidates residing in different parts of the country.
8.5 The Delhi Police report also reveals that not only Delhi Police but also CBI and Police of other Stations have conducted raids. Investigation reports of these agencies are still not available. It is possible that these reports may reveal involvement of candidates of other centres as well.
8.6 Even if the contention of the respondents is accepted, that only some of the centres mentioned above were affected, we find that a large percentage of candidates that had taken the examination will in any case have to be re-examined. This is clear from the minutes of the meeting held at the level of Hon ble Minister, Incharge of Personnel in which it is recorded that a total of 19.9 lacs candidates had applied for Tier-I examination out of which a total of 15 lacs persons actually appeared. Of these 5.84 lacs appeared from the nine centres from where the police investigation report have indicated large scale use of unfair means (during arguments Sh. Arif on instructions from the departmental representative had stated that the figure of candidates appearing from these nine centres was 3.9 lacs and not 5.84 lacs). Thus, there is no doubt in our minds that bunglings noticed were indeed large scale affecting a huge number of candidates.
8.7 Learned counsel for the applicants relied on the judgment of Hon ble Supreme Court in the case of Yashpal & Ors. Vs. Chandigarh Administration & Ors., (SLP(C) No. 15559/2011 decided on 30.05.2011 to say that the leakage of question paper had the effect vitiating the entire selection and it was impossible to segregate those who were involved in mal practices from those who were not. Hence, the entire examination needs to be scrapped.
9. We have considered the above submissions of the learned counsel for the parties. We have also seen the observations of Hon ble Supreme Court in some other cases. In the case of UOI Vs. O. Chakradhar, 2002(3) SCC 146 the following has been held:-
In our view the nature and extent of illegalities and irregularities committed in conducting a selection will have to be scrutinized in each case so as to come to a conclusion about future course of action to be adopted in the matter.
9.1 While dealing with the issue of terminating services of those who had been appointed on the basis of a tainted examination, in the case of Inderpreet Singh Kahlon & Ors. Vs. State of Punjab & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 2571 the following has been held:-
41. If the services of the appointees who had put in few years of service were terminated; compliance of three principles at the hands of the State was imperative, viz., to establish (1) Satisfaction in regard to the sufficiency of the materials collected so as to enable the State to arrive at its satisfaction that the selection process was tainted; (2) determine the question that the illegalities committed go to the root of the matter which vitiate the entire selection process. Such satisfaction as also the sufficiency of materials were required to be gathered by reason of a thorough investigation in a fair and transparent manner; (3) Whether the sufficient material present enabled the State to arrive at satisfaction that the officers in majority have been found to be part of the fraudulent purpose or the system itself was corrupt.
9.2 Further, in the case of M.P. State Cooperative Bank Limited Vs. Nanuram Yadav (CA No.4481/2007) decided on 25.09.2007 it has been held that when the entire selection process is stinking, conceived in fraud and delivered in deceit, individual innocence has no place and the entire selection process has to be set aside.
10. In the instant case, we are left in doubt that the investigations conducted by Delhi Police have revealed large scale bunglings. Electronic gazettes such as Laptop, Mobile Phone, Data Cards and Pen Drives have been extensively used. Answer keys have been transmitted via SMSs and emails well before the start of the examination. A large number of persons including those running coaching institutes and candidates participating in the examination are involved. Investigations conducted by Delhi Police have so far revealed involvement of some centres and transmission of answer keys to candidates located at the stations enumerated above. Possibility of further investigations revealing involvement of other candidates located at other stations cannot be ruled out as this list given by Delhi Police is by no means exhaustive. Further, investigations are also being carried out by CBI and Police on other Stations which may also reveal involvement of many other centres. Under these circumstances, it is not possible to separate the innocent candidates from the tainted ones. We, therefore, are of the opinion that the conditions laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Inderpreet Singh Kahlon (supra) are fully satisfied. Accordingly we allow these OAs and TA and scrap the CGLE, 2013 conducted by the respondents (SSC). We further direct that re-examination be conducted by them at the earliest as per Rules. No costs.
( Raj Vir Sharma) (Shekhar Agarwal)
Member (J) Member (A)