Himachal Pradesh High Court accused of seeking video recording of interviews from HPPSC

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Himachal Pradesh High Court accused of seeking video recording of interviews from HPPSC

The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by an NGO seeking mandatory video recording of the interviews conducted by the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (HPPSC) and other recruitment agencies in the state.

“..One should not start with the premise that something untoward is being done / will be done in any selection process; and unnecessarily, cannot create great distrust in the public in this regard and cause them to lose confidence in the choice made by the respondents,” Chief Justice MS Ramachandra Rao & Justice Ajay Mohan GoeI noticed.

The petitioner has urged the court to direct the respondents, including the HPPSC and other universities and commissions, to conduct video recordings of all selection processes in accordance with a Supreme Court judgment titled “State of Meghalaya v. Chikirbha.”. They also sought to formulate rules and guidelines for videotaping both tests and interviews.

The main contention of the petitioner was the alleged unfairness in the selection procedures conducted by the respondents. They argued that Article 14 of the Constitution mandated that appointments should be made freely, fairly and transparently without any ulterior motive and cited cases where controversies surrounded recruitments made by certain recruitment agencies in the state.

The State on the other hand contended that the Supreme Court had indeed emphasized the desirability of certain steps as laid down in the Phikirbha judgment to ensure transparency in the selection process. However, the final decision to implement these steps was left to the agencies making the selection, the HPPSC being the constitutional body charged with its responsibilities.

As far as the video recording is concerned, the state government informed the court that the HPPSC has sought funds to install CCTV cameras in the examination centers and has agreed in principle to videotape all the examination centres. However, it said the government cannot advise the HPPSC on videotaping of personal interviews because of the Commission’s autonomy under Article 320 of the Constitution.

The HPPSC, in its reply, expressed reservations about the videotaping of interviews. He also raised concerns about confidentiality, claiming that the interaction and discussions between the interview panel and the candidates were of a sensitive nature. Making the content of the interviews public could compromise the integrity of the process and potentially lead to unnecessary litigation, he argued.

The HPPSC further argued that the constitutional provisions do not provide for oversight of its work and the creation of an independent commission to review the videotaped interview process may affect its independence as a constitutional body. It also highlights the risk of the identity of the relevant panel being compromised, leading to potential inducement, threats or undue influence on the panel’s decision-making process.

The Bench thoroughly discussed the contentions raised by all the parties and acknowledged that the Supreme Court, in its order in State of Meghalaya (supra) held that for the purity of selection to a public office it is desirable that, as far as possible, the process of selection be conducted by selection authorities, to be videotaped.

The bench, however, clarified that the Supreme Court in the said order left it to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel and other state and central agencies to consider the desirability of adopting this approach; and refrained from issuing an order to execute the same.

“Therefore, the view taken by the petitioner that the Supreme Court has held that recruitment agencies should carry out video recording while conducting the tests as well as during the interviews cannot be accepted as it is mandatory an indication is not contained in the said decision,’ the bench is supported.

Finding merit in the contention raised by the HPPSC regarding its constitutional authority, the Bench recorded,

“…Considering the constitutional position enjoyed by the State Public Service Commission and the fact that the selection committee normally consists of the other respondents in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations/rules, we are of the view that A Writ of Mandamus cannot be issued to the respondents in matters of this nature”.

The court further noted that the state government had already taken steps to stop the interviews for Class III and Class IV posts keeping in view the concerns of the petitioner. “Therefore, in our opinion, no relief can be granted on the petitioner’s application for a Writ of Mandamus to the respondents for videotaping the interview process of the selections conducted by the respondents,” the panel concluded that it dismissed the appeal.

Case Title: People for Responsible Governance vs HP Status

Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (HP) 54

Click here to read/download the decision

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