‘Irregular' Doordarshan appointments quashed

Published - September 14, 2010 02:26 am IST - NEW DELHI

The appointments of 25 Doordarshan News anchors and correspondents have been quashed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which ruled that “irregularities” were committed in the selection process in order to help certain candidates.

The complainant, DD News journalist Harikesh Bahadur Singh Gautam, has alleged that the system was manipulated to favour candidates with family connections and political influence. Among those who benefited were Yashvi Tirath, daughter of Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, and Priyanka Agarwal Choudhary, close relative of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. At least two other candidates are related to current or former members of the administration.

Mr. Gautam, along with 791 others, had applied for vacant positions after an advertisement was issued by government agency Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited in September 2008. However, while he was called for an interview, he was not selected when the final list of successful candidates was released in January 2009.

After an effort to gather information about the selection procedure by the Right to Information Act, Mr. Gautam took his complaint to the CAT. He alleged that the weightage of marks was arbitrarily changed at the last minute to allow candidates who scored poorly in the written test to be given higher scores in the interview stage.

He pointed out that the number of applicants called for interview was increased from 25 to 35 to accommodate Ms. Tirath, who held the 33rd rank, and would have otherwise been eliminated at the cut-off stage. He alleged that another successful candidate, Anika Kalra Kalha, was not even called for an audition and reporting skills test, and the remark in the relevant columns reads “did not qualify for this stage.”

“The intention of the respondents in increasing the number of candidates to be called for interview and in giving increased weightage to interview was to favour certain candidates,” said Mr. Gautam's lawyer, S.K. Pathak. “The entire selection process was completely arbitrary and selections were made on considerations other than [that of] merit….The whole process of selection was a mere charade.”

Two candidates — Sakal Bhatt and Tejinder Singh — were even allowed to write the test at a later date. Prasar Bharati argued that the two, who were already working as reporters with DD News, were on an assignment covering the Commonwealth Games in Pune and thus were unable to be present on the original date. However, Mr. Gautam pointed out that about 100 other candidates were also unable to be present for the test and not given any such special consideration. The Tribunal ruled that as the respondents could not provide any satisfactory explanation about the irregularities, all the appointments were to be quashed.

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