2 Jan 2023 11:05 AM GMT
Noting that there is always a presumption about the correctness of an exam answer key, the Allahabad High Court recently observed that in the event of doubt over the correctness of an answer key, the benefit should go to the examination authority rather than to the candidate.With this, the bench of Justice J. J. Munir dismissed a writ plea of one Gyan Prakash Singh challenging his...
Noting that there is always a presumption about the correctness of an exam answer key, the Allahabad High Court recently observed that in the event of doubt over the correctness of an answer key, the benefit should go to the examination authority rather than to the candidate.
With this, the bench of Justice J. J. Munir dismissed a writ plea of one Gyan Prakash Singh challenging his non-selection as an Assistant Professor (Chemistry) to aided nongovernment colleges, engaged in imparting higher education, in the competitive exam conducted by the UP Higher Education Service Commission (UPHESC).
The case in brief
It was the case of the petitioner that after the written examination, a provisional answer key was released by the commission and the petitioner filed objections with regard to the answers shown to Questions Nos. 37, 38, and 44 of the Question Booklet allotted to him (Series 'A'). However, when the final answer key was released, 2 out of 3 answers objected to, by him, were not deleted.
Though the petitioner was declared successful in the written examination, his name did not appear in the final list which was prepared after adding the marks earned in the written examination and the ensuing interview by the Commission.
Against this backdrop, it was his primary grievance that the entire selection exercise was carried out without rectifying the incorrect key answers and in case the impugned answers were rectified, upon a proper determination by experts, it would entitle him to the addition of three marks and if that were done, he would be selected.
On the other hand, filing a counter affidavit in the matter, the state submitted that the Commission does not have the power to re-evaluate or effect a change to the answer key of their own as the same is only possible after the experts of the Commission opine on the matter.
It was further submitted that the petitioner's objections were rejected by the panel of experts appointed by the Commission and therefore, 2 out of 3 questions weren't deleted.
High Court's observations
Having heard the counsels for both sides, the Court observed that so far as the correctness of the key answers is concerned, there is a presumption about their correctness, and the benefit of the doubt regarding the key answers, goes to the examination authority, rather than the candidate.
In this regard, the Court took into account the observations of the Supreme Court in the case of Ran Vijay Singh and others v. State of Uttar Pradesh and others, (2018) 2 SCC 357, Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission through its Chairman and another v. Rahul Singh and another, (2018) 7 SCC 254 and High Court of Tripura v. Tirtha Sarthi Mukherjee and others, (2019) 2 Scale 708 to note that the Court should generally keep its hands off, where it is a question of the correctness of key answers based on expert opinion in matters of public examination.
"Key answers are to be presumed correct, particularly once affirmed upon objection by a panel of experts accomplished in the subject, appointed by a selection authority, invested with the power of selection by Statute. The Court cannot be led into becoming a Court of Appeal from the expert's opinion relating to the answer key, on which evaluation is to be done for a public examination. It is 11 only in cases of palpable absurdity or manifest error demonstrable, without an elaborate process of technical reasoning in the relevant subject, that the Court may, in very rare cases, where convinced seek independent expert opinion to rectify an erroneous key," the Court remarked.
Further, the Court also noted that the in the writ petition no basis or source of the objections to the three impugned key answers had been disclosed by the petitioner.
Also, taking into account the profile of the three experts, the Court observed that it had no reason to doubt that they are experts in their field and upon their attention being drawn to fallacies in the provisional answer key, would have carefully scrutinized the objections to exclude wrong as well as ambiguous answers.
Consequently, finding that there have been sufficient safeguards observed by the Commission in scrutinizing the probity of their answer key, on the basis of which selections have been held, the Court dismissed the writ petition.
Counsel for Petitioner:- Mr. Pranesh Kumar Mishra and Mr. Amit Kumar Tiwari, Advocates
Counsel for Respondent:- Mr. Gagan Mehta, Advocate
Case title - Gyan Prakash Singh vs. State of U.P. and others [WRIT - A No. - 8892 of 2022]
Case Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (AB) 1
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