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PESB in a quagmire on AAI Board-level post: Court questions shortlisting policy, a fresh list of shortlisted candidates still awaited

By Rakesh Ranjan- 22 Dec 2022


New Delhi (22.12.2022): The second round of shortlisting of candidates for the post of AAI Director (Finance) is underway as the selection process was mired with a legal tangle and the PESB stumbled into a quagmire.
A section of senior officials in various Central PSUs are discussing that the Delhi High Court in its decision dated 31.10.2022 questioned the intent while shortlisting the candidates and to an extent the policy framework as such. “This Court has no other option but to quash the entire list of shortlisted candidates, with a direction to PESB to prepare a fresh list of candidates for interview, after taking into account not only the phrase ‘preference would be given to Chartered Accountants’ as per clause III (3) of the advertisement but also by taking into account the term ‘preference’ as envisaged under the PESB guidelines dated 29.08.2017,” this is how the Delhi HC summed up its decision while hearing the petition over Director (Finance), AAI.
The post was advertised by the PESB on 17.01.2022. The petitioner applied for the post on 24.03.2022 and on 22.07.2022 the list of eight shortlisted candidates was released for interview. Examining the intricacies, Delhi HC quashed the impugned list of shortlisted candidates and ordered a fresh one considering the fundamentals of the DPE guidelines, PESB rules and the judgment.
The court clearly opined that while determining the seniority and shortlisting the candidates, the phrase “preference to the CAs” overshadowed the larger aspect of the term “preference”. The Court also said that it would be “a travesty of justice”, if the petitioner is altogether excluded even from consideration for selection for the post of Member (Finance), AAI and that too by giving preference over her to two “below Board level officers” in ‘lower pay’ scale’ in the impugned list under the external category.
The DPE guidelines clearly prescribe that preference has to be given to applicants drawing a ‘higher pay scale’ and in case of ‘same pay scale’ of the applicants, ‘Board level applicants’ will be given ‘preference’ over the applicants who are below Board level.
The HC also made it clear that it did not express any opinion on the merit and suitability of the petitioner for appointment to the post of Member (Finance) in AAI. It directed the PESB to issue a fresh list of candidates for interview with a condition that the preference which the petitioner was entitled to get by virtue of drawing a ‘higher pay scale’ than the shortlisted candidates in the “external category”, and ‘Board level position’ should also not be ignored while determining seniority and shortlisting a fresh list of candidates for interview.
(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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