Mains Examination for recruitment of civil judges in the subordinate judiciary of Rajasthan scheduled on 27th and 28th of July 2019 has been postponed and fresh dates and time schedule of the Main examination will be announced soon.
This came on the heels of Rajasthan High Court Judgment in case of Aarti Meena v. Rajasthan High Court wherein court decided on a batch of writ petitions that had challenged correctness of final answer key of the preliminary examination issued by the respondent Rajasthan High Court dated 20.05.2019 for recruitment of 197 posts to Civil Judge Cadre, notified vide advertisement dated 15.11.2018. Challenge had been made to decision of the respondent-High Court establishment, deleting five questions of the question paper of preliminary examination. In the alternative, prayer had also been made for award of bonus marks for the deleted five questions. It also challenged answers to twenty other questions on different grounds.
Direction to respondents'
Bench of Justice Narendra Singh Dhaddha and Justice Mohammad Rafiq partially allowing the writ petitions directed the respondents to delete Question A/66, B/62, C/55, D/66, from the question-paper booklet and keeping in view the ratio of judgment of the Supreme Court in Pallav Mongia V. Registrar General, Delhi High Court (2012) to re-compute the marks so as to prepare fresh list of eligible candidates, by including all such candidates therein, who secure more marks than the last candidate originally allowed to appear in the main examination and apart from originally allowed candidates, also permit the candidates newly included in the eligibility list, to appear in the main examination, for recruitment to Civil Judge Cadre.
Contention of counsel for the petitioners was that deletion of five questions from the question booklet has diminished the chances of the candidates, who diligently prepared for the examination and marked the correct answers to the question. Even in a case where there are multiple correct options, deletion of the questions would only work to the advantage of those who have chosen wrong answers, thereby putting the candidates who have attempted the correct answer in a disadvantageous position. The appropriate course, it was argued, even in the case of multiple correct answers, would be to award marks to each of those candidates, who selected any one of the correct answers.
It was also argued that the Expert Committee ought not to have given vague and unclear opinion. Its opinion in respect of five deleted questions was that either questions be deleted or any other appropriate decision, which is in the interest of the examinees, be taken. The best decision in the interest of the examinees would have been to award marks to all the candidates who chose any one of the correct answers. The decision of the respondent to delete the questions was therefore arbitrary, unreasonable and liable to be set aside.
Counsel for the petitioners also submitted that in view of the discrepancies found in number of questions/answers, present Court should appoint a fresh Expert Committee as was done by the Supreme Court in Richal Vs. Rajasthan Public Service Commission and Others - (2018) 8 SCC 81, with regard to recruitment to the post of School Lecturers.
Rajesh Sharma, counsel for petitioner Arti Meena, also submitted that the petitioner being a female candidate of Scheduled Tribe category, the respondents were required to notify a separate cut off for female candidates in each reserved category, viz., Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes etc.
On the other hand, A.K. Sharma, senior counsel for respondent, submitted before the court that scope of judicial review of correctness of answer key has been considered by the Supreme Court as well as present Court time and again. The Courts have entertained such challenge only on very limited grounds and have always given due weightage to the opinion of the subject experts. Even if there are any conflicting views in text books or other study material, each person should bow down to the opinion of experts, he argued. The court should not at all reevaluate or scrutinize the answer sheets of a candidate as it has no expertise, for academic matters are best left to academicians.
Observations of Court
Court at outset rejected the contention that separate cut off marks should be declared for female candidates of the reserved categories, i.e., Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, for the simple reason that the respondents in their reply to the writ petition filed in D.B. Civil Writ Petition No.10022/2019 - Arti Meena Vs. Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur through its Registrar, have categorically stated that separate cut off marks for women candidates of all categories have not been issued, reason being that more than required number of women have already found place in the main list of all categories, having secured more marks than the cut off, and no occasion had arisen to drag any less meritorious women candidate to make up for deficiency of the required 15 times the number of vacancies.
Writ court should not act like a court of appeal over the decision of experts
Court before proceeding to examine the submissions with regard to alleged discrepancies in the options given under different questions did acknowledge the fact that in this age of mass unemployment, there is always a very stiff competition amongst the candidates to secure a job. Difference of one wrong answer taken as correct and vice versa may result in loss of fortune to hundreds.
But at the same time it emphasized that the courts should be extremely loath in making interference in the opinion of the experts unless the key answer is proved to be palpably wrong, which no reasonable body of men would record as correct. Such decision however should not be arrived at on the basis of inferential process or process of rationalization, it said. The opinion of the academic experts is entitled to due weightage. The writ court should not act like a court of appeal over the decision of experts until it is proved on weighty material that such opinion is wholly perverse, it observed.
Court relied on decision of Supreme Court in Guru Nanak Dev University Vs. Saumil Garg and Others,(2005), wherein it was held that when correctness of the answer keys given by the paper setters is examined by the experts, it should be assumed to be correct unless they are shown to be palpably or demonstrably erroneous.
Select more correct option when it seems there are more than one answers to a question
Court also cleared the point that even if it could be said that as per understanding of the candidates, there could be more than one answer to a question, the candidates are expected to select more correct option out of alternative answers. It relied on judgment of Supreme Court in Subhash Chandra Verma and Others Vs. State of Bihar and Others - 1995 Supp (1) SCC 325.
Deletion of questions from question booklet doesn't affect anyone unevenly
Court also did not accept the argument that deletion of the questions may cause prejudice to those candidates who had attempted the correct answer and give advantage to those, who had given wrong answer. It said that after deletion of the questions, the performance of the candidates is evaluated on the remaining questions. The deletion of the questions thus does not affect any one unevenly as all the candidates are then uniformly subjected to examination on the remainder of the questions, with equal weightage to each of such questions, for the entire examination. It relied on decision of Supreme Court in Richal Vs. Rajasthan Public Service Commission and Others - (2018) 8 SCC 81.
As per the scheme of examination, the competitive examination for recruitment was to be conducted in two stages, i.e, preliminary examination and main examination. Marks obtained in the preliminary examination by the candidates, who are declared qualified for main examination, are not counted for determination of final merit. All those candidates who secure same percentage of marks of the last cut off would be admitted to the main examination. Candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes category were required to secure 35% minimum marks and candidates of all other categories were required to secure 40% minimum marks in the preliminary examination. It was also notified that number of candidates to be permitted to appear in the main examination would be 15 times the total number of vacancies category-wise. It was also notified that number of candidates to be called for interview shall be, as far as possible, three times the number of vacancies category-wise, provided that a candidate in order to qualify for interview shall have to secure minimum 35% marks in each law paper and 40% marks aggregate in main examination.
However, the candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes would be deemed to be eligible for interview if he/she has obtained minimum 30% marks in each of the law paper and 35% marks aggregate in the main examination. It was compulsory for every candidate to appear in each paper of written test as also before the interview board for viva-voce failing which he shall not be recommended for appointment. The preliminary examination carried 100 marks on the basis of hundred objective type questions, with one mark for each question.
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