The Supreme Court today stayed the declaration of results for the 2017 examination held for selection of staff for government departments and ministries, saying it appeared that the entire test and the system was tainted.
The top court said it cannot allow a person to benefit from this examination scam to enter government services.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao stayed the declaration of results of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) Combined Graduate Level (CGL)and Combined Higher Secondary Level (CHSL) Examination held in 2017, in which lakhs of students had appeared.
"Upon perusal of the status reports dated July 25, 2018 and August 30, 2018 filed by the CBI, we find that there is sufficient material on record at this stage to raise a presumption that the CGL Examination 2017 and CHSL Examination 2017 were tainted. "Hence, there shall be an injunction restraining the respondents (SSC) from declaring the results of the aforesaid examinations until further orders," it said.
During the hearing, the bench also pulled up Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for the CBI, for taking a stand 'different' than the status report implicating the SSC, officials of private vendor Sify which was entrusted to conduct the exam and some students.
"Mr. Solicitor, you should step out from the shoes of Union of India. Today, you are appearing for CBI. How can you take a different stand to defend the accused which is contrary to the status report you have filed. Going by the status report, you should yourself have asked for cancellation of examination," the bench told Banerjee.
The ASG urged the court not to give a copy of CBI's second status report to advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, claiming that it contained some sensitive statements.
The bench differed with the arguments of Banerjee, saying there was nothing in the report which could be said to be confidential or sensitive.
Bhushan and advocate Govind Jee, appearing for petitioner Shantanu Kumar, said it did not matter whether CBI gave them the copy of status report, as its first report has already cast aspersions on one Sant Prasad Gupta of Sify Technologies Pvt Ltd, who was the custodian of examination papers and they were probing him.
He said a Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh was also probing a case of alleged paper leak of Higher Secondary Level Examination conducted in 2017 and have also levelled similar allegations in the FIR.
Bhushan said that both CBI and UP STF are on the same page as far as allegations are concerned with respect to the conduct of the two examinations and the involvement of the same persons, including Sant Prasad Gupta.
Maintaining that the SSC was going to release the results in a day or two, he said it must be stayed till the petitions are being heard in the court.
"It prima facie appears that the entire SSC system is tainted and entire examinations (of 2017) are tainted. It can't be believed that the custodian of the examination paper is himself leaking the paper," the bench said.
It said there was so much material in the status report of CBI indicating the involvement of so many people, including that of SSC, Sify and the students, that it itself warranted that the process be stayed.
"We cannot permit people benefited from this examination scam to get into the services," the top court said.
The Staff Selection Commission is a government body conducts examinations to recruit staff at multiple levels in various ministries and departments. Several lakh students appear in the SSC examination each year and enter government services in Group C and D Categories of jobs once they qualify.
Earlier, the top court had asked the petitioners to approach the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) secretary and give an appropriate representation.
The petitioner had said that the CGL Examination of 2017 was outsourced to a private vendor, which was allegedly been accused in connection with the Satyam scam.
It was argued that there was a high probability of cheating and malpractice as the private vendor entrusted to conduct the exam by the SSC has further outsourced it in some centres.
On March 20, the apex court had dismissed another PIL seeking a CBI probe into the SSC paper leak case after the Centre informed it that the probe agency had already started investigating the paper leak case. The examination papers of the SSC CGL were allegedly leaked, leading to huge protests from job seekers for several days.
Amid the protests, the SSC had recommended a CBI probe into the allegations of paper leak following the demands by the protesting job aspirants.
The SSC Combined Graduate Level exam has a four-tier system, in which tier I and tier II are computer-based, while in tier III and IV, job applicants take up a descriptive paper and a computer proficiency test or skill test.