Dangers of 'Trial by Media' & the MPSC

Arshad Shah *

Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) Building in Imphal :: March 2013
Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) Building in Imphal in March 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam

When the Boston Bombing incident took place in 2014, users of Reddit (a social media platform) took it upon themselves to find the perpetrators. A suspect was singled out and a massive head-hunt was launched to harass this person and his family. The users congratulated each other, but it was soon realized that the suspect was just an innocent guy who had committed suicide. Damage control was initiated but when the fog settled, it was too late to undo the harassment caused to the deceased and his family .

Then here in India, in 2012, a nation-wide chaos ensued when rumours on Facebook alone created a mass exodus of Northeast denizens from mainland India. Closer to home, the recent stand-off between United Naga Council and Manipur government spilled over to social media and it began to fan fire of communal riots.

There is no dearth of such examples: Social media is used time and again to exploit the "herd mentality" of gullible people to spread propaganda or create social chaos. It is time for sensible minds to roil up and start asking whether social media is really the white knight that we hoped it would be. Discerning minds should ponder - How far can we rely on social media in the age of green screens, 3d printing, Photoshop and most importantly "half-truths" and "fake news"?

The alleged "fiasco" in the conduct of MCSCC Examination 2016 by MPSC which exploded recently on social media bears an uncanny resemblance. A closer inspection of the issue is warranted. Is MPSC really in the wrong or is the repercussions of "Educated Unemployed" creating havoc in the minds of the youth?

MPSC is no stranger to controversies. However, public opinion started to sway in its favour after having continuously conducted various exams successfully in the recent years. What else would explain the craze for civil services examinations among our youths and the explosion of coaching centres? Why would troves of youth head back home if not for faith in the institution?

Today, this hard-earned headway is being challenged vigorously by a group of aspirants who believe that the institution is corrupted to its very core. And the evidences they have produced through RTI applications, if proven, definitely needs further inspection. It is with an open mind and a skeptical stance that one should start to defog the hazed up truth.

Two of the main reasons for call to arms for a few of the aspirants against the MCSCC Examination 2016 were

1. The Mains/Written result was announced too soon.

2. And extra sheets were given to benefit only a select few candidates.

These issues, among others, were investigated by a High Court appointed independent committee headed by Retired Justice Maibam Binoykumar Singh as the Chairman. The report of this committee observes categorically that there was nothing "substantial on the basis of which one might reasonably conclude that there had been irregularity or impropriety on the part of the MPSC in getting the results announced speedily" .

Examining of each subject's answer papers started soon after each paper was conducted and not after the end of the entire Written/Mains examination - unlike in previous years. There was more manpower utilized, and thus the examiners had ample time. The issue of extra sheets was also summarily rejected as it was found that among this very group of aspirants, the majority had taken extra papers. Unfortunately, quite recently, the spokesperson of this group nitpicked on minor mistakes of the aforementioned Judicial Committee's independent report and labelled it an "eyewash" on a popular local television channel's Discussion Programme, which rightly outraged the other panelists. This particular aspirant was given a chance to retract his statement.

Now, after copies of answer sheets surfaced through RTI, one of the evidences of alleged corruption presented by this aspirant group is a collaged picture of altered marks (both up scaling and downscaling). But what amounts to tampering? Revision of marks is the norm in every evaluation process.

Isn't it fair that examiners are given liberty to undergo revision of their judgment albeit during the examining process? Correction, as per the discretion of the expert examiners cannot, logically or legally be equated to the illegal practice of 'tampering of marks'.

Now, if the other alleged 'evidences' are assumed to be undoctored, it would be wrong to assume that the MPSC is free of blemishes. These evidences allege negligence on the part of the MPSC - missing signature, and an isolated case of tabulation/totaling error.

But this should, and can only be proven in a court of law. And it is rather unfortunate that a few misguided aspirants have taken the route of orchestrating a "media trial" to tarnish the image of both the Commission and the successful candidates based on some alleged, and most likely, isolated inconsistencies.

In the media - print, TV or online, we haven't heard the other side of the story - neither from the Commission; nor from the successful candidates, whose image assassination goes on, almost daily, unabated and relentlessly.

And who is to defend the rights of these selected candidates, who may have well struggled and toiled for years to get to their goals? Are they to be summarily convicted by this hateful 'digital mob' without having a chance to exercise their moral and legal right to be heard?

This issue is one of the most high profile cases of social media manipulation in our state in recent history. Judicial route has been taken by the aspirants from the onset. And the Hon'ble single bench of High Court of Manipur had already dismissed a writ petition praying for the quashing/cancellation of the Mains examination of the MCSCCE 2016 stating that no patent illegality had been disclosed.

Now, the aggrieved party, if not satisfied with the judgement, can always appeal as the door of the court is always open for them. It is hoped that, in the garb of anti-corruption movement, they do not resort to petty tricks such as media trial via social media, print and electronic media.

There have also been instances where misinformation was openly spread or issues which are already sub judice were raked up. It would only leave a big doubt on their own credibility.

And it is hoped, for the sake of truth, that the government and the public in general will be able to sieve the right from wrong and stand up for what is right for our state and its future.

* Arshad Shah wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at arshadshah247(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on August 12, 2017.

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