Manipur High Court on Friday granted the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) a time of another six months to investigate the alleged irregularities during the Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive Examination (MCSCCE), 2016 conducted by the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC).
After CBI had twice sought for extension of time for investigation, it again sought further extension to complete the investigation.
The HC gave the CBI to complete the investigation and take appropriate action into the matter by October 31 without fail.
The HC stated that the CBI should note that the prayer in the review petition was for six months from February 3, 2022, but the court is granting more time as a last opportunity for the CBI.
The High Court had quashed and set aside the examination in 2019, leaving it open to the MPSC to conduct an examination afresh. Further, the CBI was directed to investigate into the conduct of the examination by the MPSC within a period of three months in 2019 and thereafter, take appropriate action in accordance with law.
However, it appears that the CBI registered a case in RC.2A2020-IMP only on January 31, 2020 under Sections 420, 468, 471 r/w Section 120B IPC and Section 13(2) r/w Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The first extension of time, by six months, was granted to the CBI on February 21, 2020. Thereafter, the CBI obtained extension after extension, culminating in the last extension on August 2, 2021.
The review petition filed by the CBI disclosed that all the relevant documents, including 8,162 original answer scripts, have been seized by the CBI.
The answer scripts of 82 successful candidates and 125 unsuccessful candidates were sent to the North Eastern Hill University, Shillong, in September, 2020, for re-evaluation and expert opinion.
However, a response was received from the University only in September, 2021. Details of the persons who were already examined by the CBI have been furnished, and it was stated that 13 more examiners, who had evaluated the answer scripts, were yet to be examined.
“It is indeed distressing to note that the order passed as early as October 18, 2019 for fixing a time frame for completion of the investigation by the CBI is yet to be complied with. More than two-and-a-half-year have elapsed since then, but the CBI is still in the process of conducting the investigation” stated the HC.
It also stated that the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic also played a major role in slowing down the progress of the investigation, but an investigating agency of the stature of the CBI cannot drag its feet when a temporal mandate has been visited upon it by a Constitutional Court.
Delay in an inquiry of this nature would be ultimately counterproductive as witnesses may conveniently state that they no longer remember what happened a long time ago, HC observed.
“Needless to state, the CBI should not approach the court hereinafter, seeking some more time in the regard,” the HC warned.