Manipur HC Quashes Manipur Public Service Commission Exam, 2016; Orders CBI Enquiry

Akshita Saxena

21 Oct 2019 1:31 PM GMT

  • Manipur HC Quashes Manipur Public Service Commission Exam, 2016; Orders CBI Enquiry

    The Manipur High Court on Friday quashed the Manipur Public Service Commission Exam, 2016 and ordered an independent CBI enquiry into the conduct of the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) in conducting the said examination. The order was passed by a division bench of Justice Lanusungkum Jamir and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh in various writ petitions and writ appeals filed by...

    The Manipur High Court on Friday quashed the Manipur Public Service Commission Exam, 2016 and ordered an independent CBI enquiry into the conduct of the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) in conducting the said examination.

    The order was passed by a division bench of Justice Lanusungkum Jamir and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh in various writ petitions and writ appeals filed by students affected by alleged anomalies, irregularities and illegalities committed by the Respondent MPSC, in the process of conducting the said exam.

    In this behalf, the high court said,

    "MPSC has no intention to conduct any examination in a fair and just manner. It had, in the present case, miserably failed to discharge its duties and functions as mandated in the Constitution of India. It would like to continue holding examinations, only in name, with a half baked rules so that it could manipulate it."

    In the present case, the Appellant-students had assailed the order of a single judge who had dismissed their petitions challenging the validity and correctness of the said examination, based on the report of a Commission appointed by the court itself.

    The said Commission, lead by the Director of the Manipur Judicial Academy, was given the authority to examine all the documents and papers and to examine such persons, officials or evaluators involved in the entire exercise of evaluation, beginning with codification upto the stage of tabulation and declaration of the results. The Commission was also given the authority to have access to the answer scripts of all the candidates as it might consider appropriate.

    The single judge in his order stated that the Commission had been appointed for the limited purpose of ascertaining prima facie existence of patent illegality or irrationality in the functioning of the MPSC. Since the Commission was satisfied with the arrangements made, steps taken and processes adopted by the MPSC in the conduct of examination, the question of ordering a full scale and extensive enquiry did not arise.

    The Appellants alleged before the high court that the aforesaid Commission had failed to hold a judicious enquiry inasmuch as the same was conducted one-sidedly with prior intention to prove that the conduct of the Examination was carried out without any unholy haste on the part of the MPSC. It was further alleged that the Commission never made an effort to verify the correctness of the statements made by the MPSC's officials by way of cross checking or by way of examining all the important examiners. Thus, it was asserted in light of the ruling in Avinash C. & Ors. v. State of Karnataka & Ors., (2018) 6 SCC 614, that the single judge ought not have passed the impugned order merely by relying on the Committee's report.

    The Appellants thereby prayed for setting aside of the impugned order and quashing of the MPSC Exam, 2016. The Appellants also sought constitution of a High Level Probe Committee to investigate into the manner in which the Main Examination, 2016 was conducted by the MPSC.

    Considerably, the examination was challenged on the following grounds:

    1. Despite written instructions contained in the answer sheet that "no extra sheets will be provided at any circumstance", many candidates were provided with extra sheets on the basis of alleged oral announcement that extra sheets would be provided to those who ask for it. It was contended that oral instructions cannot override the written instructions.
    2. Examination of the last paper was concluded on 23.09.2016 and the result thereof was declared within 11 days on 04.10.2016. Further discounting the number of days for collecting, coding, decoding and scrutinizing and the number of holidays, the number of working days actually available for checking/ evaluating the answer scripts is about 5 days only. It was contended that completion of the tedious and time consuming process of evaluating answer scripts in such a shot span of time depicted the process' unreasonableness and raised suspicions as to its legitimacy.
    3. The advertisement was ambiguous with regards the standard of the paper on General English and it was difficult for students to fathom the standard that MPSC was expecting.
    4. The qualifying marks for screening candidates in General English for the Main Examination 2016 was determined at 40% whereas UPSC has fixed the qualifying marks at only 25%. Thus the provision was contrary to the decision of UPSC as well as the high court's decision in H. Bobby Sharma v. MPSC, WP(C) No.150 of 2013. Moreover, it was alleged that the 40% criteria was notified on the official website of MPSC only on the day of commencing the Main Examination 2016, thus depriving the candidates an opportunity to prepare for the General English papers better and prioritize their strategy for preparation.
    5. MPSC did not maintain any guidelines for coding, checking, evaluating etc. the answer scripts and these were done in a haphazard and whimsical manner, thereby causing serious flaws on the manner of conducting the Main Examination, 2016.
    6. There was no moderation or scaling of marks while evaluating the answer scripts of the candidates despite the Apex Court's directions in Sanjay Singh v. UPPSC, (2007) 3 SCC 720.
    7. In many answer scripts, there was no signature of the examiner and some of the answer scripts bore different signatures of examiners and although the MPSC observed that only one examiner was utilized for evaluation.
    8. In some answer scripts, many different signatures were found in a single answer script indicating thereby that many evaluators had evaluated a single answer script or some of the signatures were forged.
    9. There were errors in totaling of marks in some of the answer scripts while in some of the answer scripts, the allotted marks were altered without the signatures authenticating such alteration.
    10. The alteration made in marks inside the answer scripts were authenticated by a person other than the examiner without reflecting it in the tabulation chart of the front page.
    11. In some of the answer scripts, marks were not allotted in respect of some answers while in some others, full marks were allotted even when the candidates had attempted only a portion of the question and in some, full marks were allotted for incorrect answers.
    12. The MPSC had not appointed a Controller of Examination to oversee the process of conduct of examination.

    The MPSC refuted the aforementioned allegations on the following grounds:

    1. The petitions are not maintainable as the petitioners do not fall within the meaning of "aggrieved person", having failed in the Main Examination, 2016.
    2. No one raised any objection to the amendment to the Rules regarding qualifying criteria for English until they failed to qualify in the Main Examination, 2016. The petitioners cannot question the process of selection, after they having participated and failed in it, in view of the law laid down in Madan Lal & Ors v. State of J&K & Ors., (1995) 3 SCC 486.
    3. MPSC started coding exercise as soon as the examination of the first paper was concluded and the evaluation of the answer sheets was started simultaneously soon thereafter. The MPSC could complete the process of evaluation of the answer sheets within a short span of time by engaging more manpower and by starting the evaluation process right from the next day of starting the examination. The experts who evaluated the answer sheets, were given full liberty and time to evaluate the answer sheets and no pressure whatsoever was exerted on them to finish early.
    4. Due to oversight and bonafide mistake, the previous instructions regarding non-issuance of extra-sheets were repeated and on realizing thereof, the MPSC through the invigilators/ supervisors informed all the candidates by announcing in the examination halls that extra sheets would be issued to all the candidates. The instruction that "no extra sheets will be provided at any circumstances" did not cause any prejudice and no complaint of denial of extra sheets was received.
    5. It has not been made compulsory for the Supervisors to put their signature on all the answer scripts. Thus, non-signing of many answer sheets by the Supervisors is not fatal for the reason that it is not mandatory and the rule is silent on that.
    6. The scrutinizers are not allowed to sign in the answer scripts and their role is to find out errors in totaling, unchecked questions, transposing errors etc. and any bonafide mistake on their part may happen through oversight or else.
    7. Even if the report of the Committee appointed by the high court is given effect to, only two candidates from amongst the selected candidates, are likely to be affected and therefore, there is no reason as to why the remaining unaffected candidates shall be made to suffer for no fault of theirs. In view thereof, the principle of segregation of tainted one from untainted may be used and the unaffected candidates be allowed to continue in their respective services.
    8. In view of Union of India & Ors. v. Rajesh P. U., Puthuvalnikathu & Anr., (2003) 7 SCC 285, the high court must adopt a balancing approach while deciding the issue as to whether the entire process of selection shall be cancelled or not.

    The Private Respondents, the meritorious candidates who had qualified the impugned examination, also contested the maintainability of the appeals and petitions, stating that since the Petitioners/Appellants had failed to qualify for the cut-off marks, they had no locus standi to challenge the selection process.

    The plea of maintainability was not entertained by the court which noted that a similar preliminary objection was raised before the Single Judge who felt that there was no need of making any observation thereon, since the writ petitions were to be dismissed on merit. Since this portion of the judgment as regards the preliminary objections was not challenged by the Respondents, the court held that the same could not be contended.

    Further to ascertain the correctness of allegations so leveled against the MPSC, the high court constituted a Committee, consisting of a retired District & Sessions Judge and a retired IAS officer. The scope of enquiry of the Committee was confined to the answer sheets of the candidates who had approached the High Court. Accordingly, the Committee submitted the following findings:

    1. Out of 8163 answer sheets, the Examiners do not put their signatures in respect of seven papers/ subjects;
    2. Out of 8163 answer sheets, the Supervisors do not put their signature in respect of fifteen papers/ subjects;
    3. Marks are not awarded in respect of three answers of Education Paper-II and Public Administration Paper-II;
    4. Twelve answers of General English Paper-I, Education Paper-II and Public Adminstration Paper-II are not recorded for awarding marks on the answers but marks are recorded on the table for totaling;
    5. All four answer scripts of Geology Paper-I are not awarded marks on all the answers but marks are recorded on the table for totaling;
    6. Alteration of marks, without initials of the examiners, is made in 523 answer scripts in respect of 24 papers/ subjects;
    7. As per the information furnished by the MPSC, the evaluation of the answer scripts of General Studies Paper-I and Paper-II, the examination of which was held on 23-09-2016, commenced on 24-09-2016 but there is no record about the handing over and taking over of the answer scripts;
    8. The Moderation or scaling the marks was not adopted by the MPSC


    Based on these findings, the court said,

    "From the materials on record, the MPSC has miserably failed to discharge its duties properly... The MPSC appears to have proceeded on the footing that it could do whatever it feels like and that nobody could question its bonafide. This Main Examination, 2016 which is considered to be the highest examination in the State, had been conducted for the namesake without any botheration about its outcome… One or two irregularities can be said to be attributed to human error but the irregularities which are innumerable and alarming, demonstrate the callous attitude of the MPSC in playing with the career and future of the candidates. Considering the lapses and irregularities, no considerate and reasonable man would agree that the Main Examination, 2016 had been conducted in a fair and just manner."

    The following discrepancies in the examination process were found to be fatal:

    1. Non-appointment of the Controller of Examination given the essential and extensive duties devolved upon him.
    2. Non-laying down the procedure for the evaluation and tabulation of answer books which consequently gave licence to the examiner to do whatever he feels like. Certainly, one examiner had taken answer sheets to his home outside Manipur for evaluation.
    3. Declaration of the result of Main Examination, 2016, even when the evaluation of the last subject was concluded only a day prior to such declaration. The court found it hard to believe that the scrutiny would have been carried out in few hours prior to the declaration of the result and that too, in the night.
    4. Moderation or scaling of marks was not adopted by the MPSC, in clear violation of the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
    5. MPSC was duty bound by the directions issued by the high court in H. Bobby Sharma v. MPSC, WP(C) No.150 of 2013, with regards the qualifying criteria for English.

    The court said that to ensure equality of opportunity as enshrined under Article 16 of the Constitution, the procedure established by law for making public employment ought to have been followed by MPSC. Reliance was placed on Public Service Commission v. Girish Jayantilal Vaghela & Ors., (2006) 2 SCC 482. Further, it asserted that the decision making process should have been transparent, fair and open, in terms of Article 14 of the Constitution.

    However, the MPSC had not only miserably failed in upholding the Constitutional vires but had also breached the provisions, specifically Rule 26 B, of the Manipur Public Service Commission (Procedure & Conduct of Business) Rules, 2011.

    Stating the Supreme Court has in Joginder Pal & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Ors., (2014) 6 SCC 644, held that an appointment made in violation of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution would be void, the court quashed the MPSC, 2016 examination with liberty to MPSC to conduct the Main Examination, 2016 afresh after due notice being given to the candidates.

    Further observing that "It is the right time for the MPSC or for that matter, its staff or officials to be penalized for their misdeeds which they have been doing for the last many years and if not penalized now, they would continue to do so in future at the cost of public interest and public money," the court directed the CBI to investigate into the conduct of the Main Examination, 2016 by the MPSC within three months and take appropriate action thereafter in accordance with law.

    The Petitioners/Appellants were represented by Senior Advocate Y. Nirmolchand with Advocates G. Pushpa and R. K Deepak. The Respondents were represented by Senior Advocates Vijay Hansaria, A. Bimol Singh and N. Ibotombi, with Advocate S. Biswajit Meitei, Premjit, Ng. Kumar, T. Momo Singh, B. R. Sharma, Kh. Tarunkumar, and Govt. Advocate Shyam Sharma.

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