In another landmark judgement by the Supreme Court, it upheld the High Court order to terminate 10,000 teachers in Tripura who were appointed without proper recruitment policy by recruiting unqualified teachers without conducting any written tests. The Tripura High Court in 2014 had ruled that service of 10,323 teachers be terminated and directed the government to start a fresh and fair process of appointment under an independent commission. The deprived aspirants from the state had filed about 79 petitions with thousands of signatories who alleged nepotism and corruption in the recruitment process.
Although not related to the case of Nagaland, it’s nonetheless very similar to the process of recruitment that is employed in the state and it was also a hotly debated topic in the present assembly session. It also comes close on the heels of the Chief Minister of the state reiterating in the state assembly that the regularisation of government employees appointed on contract before June 6, 2016 after completion of three years, with proper suitability test is not a backdoor appointment. The chief minister’s contention is that there was a clear government order stating the same before the order of June 6, 2016 came into effect.
However, as carried earlier in this same column, the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Uma Devi and Others vs Secretary, State of Karnataka will be the precedent in all other cases that pertains to appointments in government offices. The court ruled that it is against Article 14 and Article 16 of the constitution of India to make appointments in government offices without proper recruitment policy and open notice or advertisement. The right to life protected by Article 21 of those casual and contractual employees were also observed by the court giving precedence to those who were deprived of the jobs. It stated, “Their right to employment, if it is a part of right to life, would stand denuded by the preferring of those who have got in casually or those who have come through the back door.” Any appointments done without open advertisement and proper tests will fail in any court of law in India if challenged, till such time the Supreme Court’s observation in any future order is contrary to this particular judgement. The existence of a government order therefore will have no bearing as appointments without open advertisement and proper tests violates the rights of those deserving persons.
The court also observed that regularisation cannot be said to be a mode of recruitment. Therefore in the case of irregular appointments where due recruitment process was not followed though there were valid vacant posts, 10 years in service was the timeline allowed by the court for one time regularisation process to be initiated. There was no such relief for illegal appointments wherein the posts were either filled by unqualified persons or there did not exist any vacancy of such posts. The state government’s intention to rely on its earlier order to regularise contract/temporary/adhoc employees who were appointed prior to June 6, 2016 will not hold much water if any of the deserving candidates challenges it in the court of law. The Supreme Court found it appropriate to call such illegal and irregular appointments as litigious employment that has increased drastically impairing the constitutional scheme of the country. It is understandable that it is election year in Nagaland but the law with better clarity is finally on the side of the government if only it wants to clean the Naga society of the existing corruption in the recruitment process of government jobs.