In May this year, the Department of Posts under the Ministry of Communication, Government of India, issued a notification to conduct a departmental exam to promote Postal Assistants to the post of Inspector of Posts. Under the official communication issued by Director (DE) Ranjeet Kumar Sinha through Postal Directorate's letter dated 09-05-2022, nine posts for Jammu & Kashmir Postal circle were advertised along with vacancies for other postal circles of the country.
The written test known as Limited Departmental Examination was conducted on June 25 and 26 this year by the Postal Department in three rooms instead of making arrangements for the same in a single hall. Prior to this, on June 2, 2022, a notification was issued by the Ministry of Communications, Department of Posts in New Delhi. The notification mentioned that the videography of the exam was to be done besides installing CCTV cameras.
But during the examination, CCTV cameras were installed only inside classrooms and not in the corridors etc., and videography which was mandated was not carried out by the authorities. It is alleged that at least ten candidates in three rooms used unfair means to write the exam by way of copying, discussing, assisting each other, showing papers to each other, and obtaining assistance from the clerk on duty. A candidate, Irfan Khan, who was also appearing for the examination and happened to be an employee of the Postal Department in Srinagar (Postal Assistant), tried to raise his voice and reported the matter to the invigilator, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Irfan then wrote to the top bosses of his department and also to the ministry, but when he didn’t get a response, he moved the court with a formal complaint. The court eventually directed the J&K Crime Branch to investigate the matter.
Malpractices recorded on CCTV exclusively available with The Probe | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement
Irfan wrote about the issue of malpractices during the conduct of the examination to the Secretary Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication New Delhi, Director General of Posts New Delhi and Chief Postmaster General J&K Postal Circle, Srinagar, on June 28 2022. Aggrieved, Irfan requested the officials to order a fair enquiry into the matter, but he alleges that there was no response from the officials. Two more reminders were issued to Secretary Posts, DG Posts and Chief Postmaster General J&K on September 18, 2022, and October 31, 2022.
The written complaint filed by Irfan before the Secretary, Postal Department on September 18 reads: “During the conduct of the exam at the Jammu centre, Anchal Chambyal, then ADPS (Staff) in the office of Chief Postmaster General - CPMG now SPOs Ladakh Division, who was not assigned any exam duty which later revealed through information obtained from RTI, entered the exam rooms and treated himself like an invigilator and allowed some candidates to do unfair means without any hesitation and fear in front of CCTV camera. He was not only seen by me but also by all the candidates present inside the hall where I was seated. The officer was playing with his mobile phone, and two candidates used unfair means in front of him, which can be easily seen by referring to the CCTV footage. The officer was not assigned any duty, but he was present inside the hall as well as outside the exam hall during the whole exam, which is a matter of great concern and needs thorough investigation by referring to CCTV cameras. Since it involves the career prospects of deserving candidates, therefore it is a kind request to arrange a fair investigation of the matter by referring to the CCTV footage in a transparent manner by constituting a high-level inquiry team at the directorate level so that deserving candidates will not get deprived of their rights, as the matter is sensitive in nature. Besides, it is requested that the result of the said exam may not be held until finalisation of fair investigation please.”
Crime Branch Report
Malpractices recorded on CCTV exclusively available with The Probe | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement
The recent report of the Crime Branch, dated November 23, 2022, a copy of which is available with The Probe, mentions that two candidates, namely Sandeep and Naresh, were talking to each other in the examination room, which should not have been allowed. The report adds that Anchal Singh Chamyal, a senior official of the Postal Department Jammu, has been shown as an authorised person to visit the examination hall, being Assistant Director of Postal Services (Recruitment J&K Circle). The Crime Branch, in its report, says that this “contradicts” the earlier information provided under the Right to Information Act (RTI) to Irfan Khan (complainant). The information provided under the RTI Act by the Senior Superintendent of Post Offices, Jammu division, Dr Ankush Bhagat, on September 14, 2022, has mentioned names of at least nine officials, which includes one examination Supervisor, Dr Ankush Bhagat, three Invigilators R D Pathak, Sandeep Bhat and Arvind Kher and other supporting staff. All these nine persons are employees of the Postal Department of J&K circle.
The report reads: “The perusal of the CCTV footage has revealed that most of the candidates were gossiping with each other, including Sandeep and Naresh and the invigilators on duty in the examination rooms on June 25 and 26, 2022. The invigilators were found busy on their mobile phones, and no proper supervision was found, resulting in inside talks and gossip by the in-service candidates. There are instances where few students have been allowed to talk freely without any intervention by the invigilators. The students have been allowed to visit outside examination rooms freely. It has also been noticed that the invigilators and other examination staff are reading the question papers, which should not have been allowed. The probe is in progress and will be taken to its logical end.”
Irfan Khan told The Probe that Assistant Director Anchal Chamyal’s presence in the exam centre was recorded on the CCTV camera on both days, which is questionable and was taken up with the Crime Branch. The Crime Branch, after looking into CCTV footage, authenticated the fact, but Irfan alleges that the Postal Department, in a bid to protect Chamyal issued a post-dated order saying he was nominated as in-charge of the Control Room to monitor the examination.
“Anchal Chamyal was facilitating copying during the examination. When this was exposed by Crime Branch J&K by scanning the CCTV footage, the Postal Department issued a post dated order on June 21, 2022 wherein Chamyal was nominated as in charge of the Control Room at the Circle Office, Jammu for monitoring of examination. This was only to hide the misdeeds. Even if he was in charge of the control room, what did he have to do in the examination centre?" questioned Irfan.
The J&K Crime Branch’s report dated 10 November 2022, which authenticates Irfan’s statement, reads: “Anchal Singh Chamyal has been shown as an authorised person to visit the examination hall as being Assistant Director Postal Services (Recruitment J&K Circle) and was nominated in-charge of the Control Room at the Circle Office, Jammu for monitoring of examination vide letter No. ADPS/CON/2-1/2021/IP dated 21.06.2022, which contradicts the information provided to the complainant under RTI, wherein no such authorisation or duty of Anchal Singh Chamyal has been communicated.”
Postal Employees Union Intervenes
Irfan Khan, with the aim of apprising the top officials of his department, took up the copying incident in Jammu during a departmental examination with his union leaders. On June 29 2022, the Circle Secretary J&K of All India Postal Employees Union wrote a letter to Chief Postmaster General Jammu & Kashmir Circle seeking his intervention to investigate the matter. The Chief Post Master General failed to hold any inquiry. After this, a letter was issued on July 2 2022, by the National General Secretary of the Indian Postal Employees Union, J Majumdar, requesting the Secretary Department of Posts New Delhi to hold an enquiry.
When there was no response from the Secretary Posts, Govt of India, the union leader sent a reminder to him on August 29 2022. The communication reads: “Kindly refer to this union letter of even no dated (copy enclosed) 02.07.2022, regarding the above subject. A considerable period of time has so far been elapsed, but no response from your office. Considering the gravity of this case, this Union urges you to issue an appropriate instruction in this case.”
Another detailed reminder was sent to the Secretary Posts, government of India by the National General Secretary of All India Postal Employees Union on November 25, 2022. The Union has clearly written that action be taken against the officials/officers of J&K Postal Department for supporting the unfair practice during the departmental examination held in June this year.
The union also demanded that the exam be cancelled and conducted afresh to protect the fame of the Postal Department. The letter reads: “It is requested to take appropriate action against the officers/officials for unfair practice and biased departmental enquiry conducted by Assistant Postmaster General (Vigilance) J&K Circle, Jammu, just to cover up the matter. Besides, cancellation of candidature may be arranged in respect of those candidates involved in unfair practice, or exam may be re-conducted as per feasibility in order to protect the fame of our Department.”
A Departmental Inquiry was conducted more than a month back by Assistant Postmaster General (APMG) Vigilance. Irfan says that his report was completely biased as he also wanted to save his officials and Assistant Director Anchal Singh Chamyal. Meanwhile, Chamyal, the officer who allegedly facilitated the copying in the exam centre, has managed to get a stay order from the High Court of J&K. The matter has now been listed for hearing on February 10, 2022
Conduct of Exam by Independent Agency
When contacted, Mohammad Ashraf Wani, Advocate J&K High Court, said that an independent agency should conduct the departmental examination in all central and state government departments.“How can the Postal Department conduct a prestigious exam themselves which enables junior officers to get promoted to a higher grade? I think the High Court must look into this aspect as well. In future, all the departmental exams in central government organisations should be conducted either by the Staff Selection Commission or Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), as similar departmental exams are conducted by J&K Public Service Commission (JKPSC) in Jammu & Kashmir. I would suggest a CBI probe into this case.”
When the Probe contacted Shahnawaz Khan, Assistant Postmaster General, JK Circle who is also the Vigilance Officer of the department said that he investigated the matter but did not find anything irregular. When he was told about the JK Crime Branch having produced three interim reports on the matter that questioned the conduct of examination and malpractices, he said that he was not aware of any Crime Branch report.