No Service from the APSC
One of the most striking ironies of our democracy is that the word service has become an alien one as far as service to the people is concerned. We have the Union Public Service Commission and the service commissions of the different States. They are high-power recruiting bodies that hold periodic examitions for recruitment to the civil services and the other allied services of the Union government as well as the State governments. Unfortutely, the word service in this context does not even remotely relate to service to the people. For several decades now, the word service in these organizations has tacitly but very clearly indicated service of the government. This is not very astonishing in a milieu where the government itself has long ceased to be a government of the people, for the people and by the people. The abomition that we have in a so-called democracy is that the government should be solely of the government, for the government, and by the government. Its concern with the people must be confined to lame slogans like “Raijar podulit, raijar sarkaar” which are beginning to amuse people since they know how empty the words are.
Be that as it may, the Union Public Service Commission and the State public service commissions were bodies that did one bit of service quite competently till about 30 years ago. They conducted examitions for the recruitment of the best talent for the Central civil services and the State civil services so that the Centre and the States could be assured of the best talent for the civil services. This was the scerio till about 30 years ago. Thereafter, corrupt practices invaded the public service commissions of several States and the bulk of the jobs for which recruitment examitions were conducted began to be put on sale to the highest bidder. In Assam too, two illustrious chairpersons of the Assam Public Service Commission (APSC) were guilty of having sold jobs to the best bidders after ensuring that a small number of the recruitments went to the truly meritorious candidates. This was the small eye-wash part of the recruitments, so that later on, the chairman of the APSC would be in a position to claim that meritorious candidates had been selected purely on merit. In the case of these two chairmen of the APSC, the bulk of the jobs for which recruitment examitions had been conducted were sold at highly lucrative prices to totally undeserving candidates. In the recent APSC scam, the chairman of the APSC even wrote the answers to the examition questions himself (after the examitions were over and the answer scripts had been collected) for a number of candidates whom he wanted to favour with jobs since they had paid large sums of money for the favour. The earlier chairman of the APSC, who was removed from his job after the swindle became public knowledge, was even able to secure a Congress ticket for election as an MLA to the Assam Assembly, and even got elected as a lawmaker! What is indeed remarkable is that the Congress had no qualms about giving him a ticket to contest the elections and the voters too had no qualms about electing someone to the State Assembly with such a terrible record of corruption.
After the latest scandal of the APSC, the Assam government chose not to hand over the matter to a CBI inquiry, but to set up an inquiry committee under Subhas Das, IAS. There have been allegations that the inquiry committee virtually made the accused—the APSC—the judge of the inquiry, and did not physically visit and collect the answer scripts and the fictitious/forged caste certificates etc. as evidence from the APSC. This dissatisfaction with the functioning of the inquiry committee eventually led to the filing of a PIL (No. 106/2015) against the Subhas Das inquiry committee by RTI activist Okram Prasanta Singha in the Gauhati High Court. The petitioner prayed for the quashing of the Subhas Das inquiry committee and a direction to the committee to re-inquire the matter as per definition of administrative inquiry given by the Supreme Court in the Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978) case as well as according to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The petitioner has also sought a CBI inquiry. It passes our understanding as to why such an important inquiry was not handed over to the CBI in the first place. Any suspicion in the minds of people that the chairman of the APSC could have been sharing the sale proceeds of the jobs with those in the corridors of power cannot be dismissed out of hand.