The court said that the punishment was disproportionately high to the offence.
The order of the UPSC, passed in 2010, said the petitioner — Allahabad-based Ajit Kumar Singh — had furnished wrong information on the number of attempts he has already made, while appearing in Civil Services (Mains) Examination of 2009.
The UPPSC had adopted the same order without issuing notice to the petitioner. The petitioner had challenged the UPPSC’s order saying it should have issued notice to it before adopting the UPSC’s order.
Petitioner’s counsel Yogesh Agarwal said: “The petitioner can now participate in examinations that are held by the UPPSC, depending on his eligibility and other qualifications. Also, barring the Civil Services Examination, the petitioner can take part in any other examination conducted by the UPSC.”
Passing the order, a division bench of Justices Sheo Kumar Singh and Virendra Vikram Singh said: “We found that the punishment to the petitioner for disclosing wrong number of attempts made by him in terms of not only debarring him from the Civil Services (Mains) Examinations 2009, but also debarring him for a further period of 10 years was definitely disproportionate.”
The court also said that neither the UPSC and nor the UPPSC brought anything on record to suggest that the petitioner had a malicious intention. Therefore, the possibility of the petitioner having made a mistake could not be ruled out, it said. On the issue of UPPSC “blindly following” the UPSC order, the court said: “The action of the UPPSC in blindly accepting the UPSC’s mandate without issuance of the mandatory notice cannot be held to be legal exercise of the powers of the UPPSC.”
“It has been argued on behalf of the UPPSC that it is the prevailing practice that the order passed by the UPSC is adopted by the UP commission. (But) no legal strength could be put forward on (its) behalf as to why such practice is prevalent,” the court said.
Singh, an OBC candidate, while appearing for the Civil Services (Mains) Examination of 2009, had mentioned that it was his seventh attempt, even though he had already taken as many attempts. While general candidates are allowed four attempts at civil services examinations, OBC candidates are allowed a maximum of seven.
“He was under the confusion that he still had one more attempt left,” said the counsel. Following scrutiny, the UPSC issued a notice to him on taking an eighth attempt and then cancelled his candidature.
The order, passed on February 15, 2010, was circulated to all state commissions, including the UPPSC. The same was adopted by the latter. The petitioner came to know about it through an RTI application. Subsequently, he approached the high court in 2000.