‘Record interviews held for staff appointment’

HC issues direction to universities

Piqued at numerous instances of illegal staff appointments in State-run universities, the Madras High Court has ordered that the entire interview process should henceforth be recorded on video.

It has also ordered that salaries paid to illegal appointees be recovered from members of the selection committee, after revoking the appointments made in violation of the constitutional mandate of equal opportunity, fairness and transparency.

Justice R. Mahadevan made it clear that copies of the video recordings should be made available to the candidates on payment of a reasonable cost and a detailed inquiry must be conducted whenever the eligibility of an appointee is questioned.

Salaries paid to illegal appointees could be recovered from them only if they gained employment by submitting fake certificates; otherwise, it should be recovered from selection committee members, he said.

“In cases where appointments are made following the rule of reservation, and if later, it is found that the appointee by conversion to another religion either before the appointment or thereafter, has secured the job or continues, as if he/she belongs to the religion under which such appointment by reservation is obtained, the appointee will forgo the right to such appointment under the respective quota or to continue in the post,” the judge ruled.

Petitioners’ charge

The directions were issued while disposing of a writ petition filed in 2017 by three technical officers (library) R. Ramesh, S. Ramkumar and S. Kanagaraj of Bharathiar University in Coimbatore.

The petitioners challenged the appointment of M. Gowthaman as assistant technical officer (library) in 2007 and the consequential promotion given to him as technical officer in 2017, on the ground that he did not possess the requisite educational qualifications.

According to the petitioners, a candidate should possess a degree in any subject along with a degree in library science and should have passed typewriting lower grade in both English and Tamil. Though Mr. Gowthaman did not possess all those qualifications, he was appointed to the post in 2007. The report of an inquiry conducted in 2017 confirmed that he was ineligible, yet he was promoted as technical officer, they said.

Finding force in the submissions made by petitioners’ counsel N. Kavitha Rameshwar, the judge wrote: “This sort of practice on the part of the respondent authorities is highly condemnable. It not only paves way for illegal appointments, but also denies opportunities to qualified and meritorious candidates.” He lamented that the university did not act against the illegal appointment and let Mr. Gowthaman retire from service when the present writ petition was pending.

Not accepting the argument that the writ petition had become infructuous in view of the retirement, the judge ordered that the retiree would be eligible to draw pension only for the post of assistant technical officer and not technical officer. He also ordered recovery of the excess amount paid so far from him and directed the university to proceed against the members of the selection committee responsible for the illegal appointment.

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