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"May Seem Plausible On Grounds Of Natural Justice, May Not Be Possible Legally": Orissa HC Rejects Challenge To Evaluation In Teachers Recruitment Exam

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
26 May 2022 5:45 AM GMT
The Orissa High Court has held that candidature of a candidate seeking appointment to a public office cannot be outrightly and arbitrarily rejected only on the basis that he holds ‘dual degrees’. While providing relief to a candidate, whose application was rejected for such reason, a Single Judge Bench of Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi opined,  “Indisputably, in the case at hand, this Court is of the opinion that in the matters of appointment, the rules provided by the appointing committee have to be
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The Orissa High Court has recently rejected the plea of a candidate who challenged the evaluation process of the examination conducted for appointment of contractual Hindi teachers in government secondary schools. While dismissing the writ petition, the Single Bench of Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi observed,

"The court needs to see what is legally possible and not what possibly dehors the legal process. A thing that may seem plausible on the grounds of natural justice, may not be possible legally. As succinctly put by Mathew, J. in his judgment in the Union of India v. M.L. Kapur, "it is not expedient to extend the horizon of natural justice involved in the Audi alteram partem rule to the twilight zone of mere expectations, however great they might be."

Brief Facts:

Pursuant to Advertisement dated 13.08.2021, the petitioner applied for the post of Hindi Teacher on contractual basis in Government secondary school and appeared for the designated Computer Based Test (CBT) on 04.10.2021. Though he was quite hopeful of getting qualified owing to his satisfactory performance in the CBT, to his utter disappointment, he had scored 21.75 marks out of 90, falling short of only 0.75 marks from the qualifying marks (22.5) by less than one mark.

He challenged the aforesaid result and also alleged that a question was kept in the paper, which was out of the syllabus. Further, he asked for revaluation of his paper through the writ petition.

Contentions:

The Counsel for petitioner contended that Question No. 63 was out of syllabus and therefore, constitutes a plausible ground for awarding grace marks to the petitioner. Again, he submitted that the petitioner being 32-year-old would be barred by age and rendered ineligible to appear for examinations of similar kind in the future.

In the counter-affidavit filed by the opposite party, Merit Trac Services Pvt. Ltd., through the letter dated 17.02.2022, categorically explained as to how Q. 63 is a part of "Child Development-Process of growing up" and "Learning Process-understanding Learning Process/Learning as a Process and outcome". Moreover, it pleaded, the scheme & syllabus for Computer Based Recruitment Examination (CBRE) published by the Directorate of Secondary Education, Odisha also includes "Information Processing Approach- Sternberg" under the heading "Approaches to Understanding the Nature of Intelligence" in Section-IV of the syllabus.

Court's Observations:

The Court observed that if the petitioner had grievance of the questions being out of syllabus, such a discrepancy could have been ideally raised in the stipulated time frame i.e., 06.10.2021-08.10.2021 (3 days). But the petitioner, in his rejoinder affidavit, stated that he was providing medical attention to his relatives on the said dates fixed for addressing discrepancy in relation to the question paper and therefore, was not able to make his representation.

It held that the prayer of the petitioner to re-evaluate the answer script is unsustainable as the candidates selected in the concerned examination have been engaged since 15.12.2021. The Court relied on the decision of the Apex Court in Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education and Anr. v. Paritosh Bhupesh Kurmarsheth, where it was observed,

"The Court should be extremely reluctant to substitute its own views as to what is wise, prudent and proper in relation to academic matters in preference to those formulated by professional men possessing technical expertise and rich experience of actual day-to-day working of educational institutions and the departments controlling them."

Accordingly, the Court noted that since the present set of facts suggest that the examination was a computer-based test, it eliminates every possibility for human intervention in both examination and evaluation. Thus, due to lack of evidence suggesting possible malpractice, it is imperative that the due process involved in evaluation of answer scripts be followed without hinderance from courts. It further cited another decision of the Supreme Court in this respect in H.P Public Service Commission v. Mukesh Thakur & Anr, wherein it was observed,

"…it was not permissible for the High Court to examine the question paper and answer sheets itself, particularly, when the Commission had assessed the inter-se merit of the candidates. If there was a discrepancy in framing the question or evaluation of the answer, it could be for all the candidates appearing for the examination and not for respondent no.1 only. It is a matter of chance that the High Court was examining the answer sheets relating to law. Had it been other subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics, we are unable to understand as to whether such a course could have been adopted by the High Court."

Having regard for the aforesaid reasons and precedents, the Court deemed it apposite to dismiss the writ petition rejecting the prayers listed therein.

Case Title: Rabindra Panigrahi v. State of Odisha & Ors.

Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 33961 of 2021

Order Dated: 20th May 2022

Coram: Justice S.K. Panigrahi

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. S. Mishra, Standing Counsel

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ori) 85

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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