KH.NOBIN SINGH, J. -
(1.) Heard Shri H.S. Paonam, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioners in all the writ petitions except WP(C) No.177 of 2018 and WP(C) No.931 of 2018; Shri S. Biswajit Meitei, learned Advocate appearing for the petitioners in WP(C) No.177 of 2018; Shri K. Rabei, Advocate appearing for the petitioners in WP(C) No.931 of 2018 and Smt. Momota Devi Oinam, learned Addl. Advocate General for the respondents.
(2.) All the above writ petitions have arisen out of a similar set of facts and therefore, the same are being disposed of by this common judgment and order. WP(C) No. 187 of 2019
(3.) By the instant writ petition, the petitioners have prayed for issuing a writ of certiorari or any other appropriate writ to quash and set aside the impugned Office Memorandum dated 31.01.2018 issued by Under Secretary (Works), Government of Manipur as illegal and to issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ to direct the respondents to allow the petitioners to resume their services in their respective circle/ division offices for the end of justice.
3.2. Facts and circumstances as narrated in the writ petition, are that pursuant to the Notifications dated 26.9.2016 and 1.10.2016 issued by the Chief Engineer, PWD, Government of Manipur for appointment to the posts of LDC, Electrician, Driver, Foreman Mechanic, Mechanic, Supervisor, Fitter, Surveyor, Tracer/DM-III, Road Mohorrior, Plumber, Peon, Sweeper, Chowkidar, Khalasi and Jugali, the Public Works Department, Government of Manipur (hereinafter referred to as "the PWD, Manipur") took up the recruitment process by holding written Test, computer/ typing test as well as interview/ viva voce on the dates notified by it. The candidates who were found successful in the written test held on 30.10.2016, were eligible to sit for the computer/ typing test and interview/ viva voce.
3.3. The petitioners being the candidates as sponsored by the employment exchange, were suitable and successful candidates in the written test held on 30.10.2016 in the office of the Chief Engineer, PWD, Manipur. Vide Notification dated 27.12.2016 issued by the Chief Engineer /PWD, the candidates who were successful in the computer/ typing test held on 22.12.2016, were informed to appear in the interview/ viva voce to be held on 30.12.2016. The Chief Engineer, PWD, Manipur, on the basis of the recommendation vide Notification dated 31.12.2016 by which 82(eighty two) candidates including the petitioners, were recommended by the DPC for appointment to the post of LDC, issued an order dated 31.12.2016 appointing them as LDCs. On 31.12.2016 itself, the PWD, Manipur issued offer forms for appointment to the post of LDC subject to the terms and conditions mentioned therein. The petitioners joined their services as LDCs by submitting their joining reports to the Chief Engineer, PWD on 03.01.2017. On 16.03.2017, the Chief Engineer, PWD issued an order No.290 dated 16.03.2017 by which the candidates appointed as LDCs on temporary capacity, were given their postings at the circle/ division offices in the PWD, Manipur shown against their names therein until further order. After the said candidates having been appointed and posted as aforesaid, they were issued their identity cards with the signature and seal of the issuing authority. After completing all formalities including the issuance of identity cards, the Chief Secretary, Government of Manipur issued an order dated 18.03.2017 to the effect that all transfer and posting orders issued in many departments on or after 15.03.2017, should be kept in abeyance till further instructions and no further order of appointment and transfer and posting should be issued, followed by another order dated 15.04.2017 stating that the Government order dated 18.03.2017 had been reviewed and that all the departments might issue orders of appointment and transfer and posting with the approval from the competent authority. Pursuant to the letter dated 17.04.2017 of the Chief Engineer, PWD, the Under Secretary (Works), Manipur wrote a letter dated 19.04.2017 to the Chief Engineer, PWD conveying the approval of the Government for issuing orders of transfer and posting and appointment in respect of the new appointees of different categories of Class-III and IV posts in the PWD, Manipur.
3.4. The Chief Engineer, PWD issued an Office Order No.12 dated 20-04-2017 stating that the LDCs appointed on temporary basis were posted at circle/ division offices in PWD shown against their names with immediate effect and until further orders. Pursuant to the said order dated 20.04.2017 and in continuation of their earlier joining reports, the petitioners submitted their joining reports again on the same day i.e. 20.04.2017 to their respective circle/ division offices, PWD and various orders were issued for transferring and posting of LDCs in their respective circle/division offices. All the petitioners continued to attend their respective circle/division offices rendering their services as LDCs but to their shock and surprise, the Under Secretary (Works), Manipur wrote a letter dated 29.04.2017 to the Chief Engineer, PWD informing that the approval conveyed for transfer and posting and appointment of new recruits in different categories of Class-III and IV posts in the PWD, Manipur be kept in abeyance till the screening of the said recruitment process was over.
3.5. A letter dated 13.09.2107 was addressed to the Commissioner (CAF and PD), Manipur by the Joint Secretary(DP), Manipur informing that the matter relating to recruitment which was undertaken by it, had been minutely examined by the State Government and that the SIT which was formed, would investigate into the matter. By the said letter, the Commissioner (CAF and PD), Manipur was requested to take necessary steps to cancel all irregular and excess appointments by issuing a speaking order after taking advice from the Law Department and fresh process would be initiated with the approval of the Cabinet. The Under Secretary (Works), Government of Manipur issued an Office Memorandum dated 31.01.2018 which was published in the local newspapers including the Sangai Express in its publication dated 23.02.2018 with regard to the proposed cancellation of the appointment of 351 persons in different posts in the PWD, Manipur on the ground of recommendation made in excess of the advertised posts by the State Government. By the said Office Memorandum dated 31.01.2018, the petitioners were informed to submit their claims and objections within 15 days therefrom. Being aggrieved by the said Office Memorandum dated 31.1.2018, the instant writ petition was filed by the petitioners.
3.6. An affidavit in opposition on behalf of the respondent Nos.1 and 2 was filed on 15.03.2018 contending that the letter dated 09.03.2018 issued by the Under Secretary (Works), Government of Manipur be permitted to be placed on record to assist this Court. Thereafter, an affidavit on behalf of the respondent Nos.1 to 4 was filed wherein it has been stated that although the DPCs for filling-up of 239 Grade-III and IV posts were held between October, 2016 and December, 2016, as many as 348 were appointed. The Screening Committee constituted vide order dated 16.05.2017 examined the matter and the proceedings of its meeting held on 12.06.2017 stated that no appointment was done after the model code of conduct was enforced and the only irregularity was in respect of the excess appointment. The learned Advocate General, Manipur was consulted and he gave his opinion to cancel the DPC proceeding allowing the appointment of all 351 persons mainly on two grounds that the filing up of vacancies in excess of the notified vacancies amounted to violation of the law laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of State of Orissa Vs. Rajkeshore Nanda and Ors., 2010 6 SCC 777 and that since the DPC proceedings did not mention anything about the written test being held, it amounted to violation of the Office Memorandum dated 17.12.2005 which was in force. Accordingly, the PWD, Manipur issued the Office Memorandum dated 30.01.2018 giving notice to the petitioners to submit their claims/objections to the decisions for cancellation of the proceedings. As many as 264 objections were received from the appointees in respect of the various posts and it would be appropriate for the department to dispose of the objections post-wise, as there had been different 14 DPC proceedings. Objections had been checked and verified and in order to dispose of the objections/ claims, various issues were discussed but because of the interim order dated 01.032018 passed by this Court, the objections/ claims could not be disposed. Another affidavit on behalf of the respondent Nos. 1 to 4 was filed on 21.01.2019 and in addition to what had been stated in the earlier affidavit, it has been stated that in order to dispose of the said objections, the relevant documents of the DPC were examined minutely and a joint inspection by a team comprising the Commissioner (Works), Manipur; the Deputy Secretary (Works), Manipur; the Under Secretary (Works), Manipur and the Chief Engineer, Manipur was conducted on 15.01.2019 and during the course of inspection, no documents such as OMR of the written test, typing test and driving test of drivers, worksheets of the DPC, were found in the office of the Chief Engineer, PWD except the DPC proceedings of various posts along with the corresponding assessment of marks/scores of the candidates. The DPC proceedings in respect of the LDC did not show the number of total applicants and their respective score marks which should be visible from the working sheets. Assessment of marks/scores in respect of the LDC has shown only the selected list, waiting list and unselected list which is neither a working sheet of DPC nor is it a merit list. Hence, the State Government decided to cancel the recruitment process for filling up of 239 posts of Grade-III posts in the PWD, Manipur which was held between December 2000 and January 2017 and the subsequent orders on the following grounds:
(i) The appointments was done over and above the notified vacancies amounts to violation of the settled law alid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in (2010) 6 SCC 777 (State of Orissa Vs. Rajkishore Nanda) and other catena of cases;
(ii) The DPC Proceedings for recruitment of Class-III posts do not mention for holding a written test and it amounts to violation of DP's OM No.1/22/2005-DR-III/DP dated 17.12.20005 which is in force;
(iii) And, during the inspection also, no other documents such as OMR sheet of written test, typing test and driving test of drivers, working sheet of the DPC were found in the office of the Chief Engineer, PWD except only one file containing DPC proceedings along with corresponding assessment of marks/ scores which is irregular as mentioned in para 14 above.
WP(C) No. 177 of 2018;