SC Dismisses Petitions Against Delhi Judicial Service Examination 2015 [Read Judgment]

SC Dismisses Petitions Against Delhi Judicial Service Examination 2015 [Read Judgment]

The Supreme Court has refused to interfere in Delhi Judicial Service Examination held in 2015. The division bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy was considering a batch of writ petitions filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The grievances of petitioners were as follows:

  • Prayer for relaxing minimum qualifying mark in each paper: These petitions prayed for reduction of relaxation of obtaining a minimum cut-off mark of 40% in each paper in the main examination. Only 64 candidates out of 914 candidates who appeared in the main examination (8534 candidates attended the preliminary examination) were selected for interview. According to the petitioners, ordinarily three times the number of notified posts are called for interview. Therefore, relaxation of minimum cut-off to at least 33% was sought.

  • Prayer for revaluation and moderation: Another set of petitions sought for re-evaluation of papers by an independent expert committee. The petitioner contended that the valuation was very strict, especially in criminal law paper. It is averred that as only a minuscule number of 24 candidates could obtain more than 50% marks in  Criminal Law  paper, prima facie it appears that Criminal Law  paper has been very strictly marked and marks given do not reflect the actual performance of the candidates.

  • Prayer for rounding off to eligible percentage: One petitioner, who had secured 49.9% marks in the examination, sought for rounding of the marks to 50% to attain eligibility to attend interview.

  • Prayer to quash minimum requirement in interview: One petition was filed by a candidate who was the only person to get disqualified at the interview stage. He sought for quashing the requirement of obtaining minimum 45% in the interview and to declare him qualified for selection on the vacant post available in his reserved category.

The court rejected the prayers made in all the petitions. The findings in respect of each of the prayers are as follows:

No moderation when one examiner examined same part of all papers

The court noted that separate examiners were allotted to evaluate each part of different papers, in order to attain uniformity. Referring to Sanjay Singh Case, it was held that moderation was needed   here there are multiple examiners of the same subject.  This is to avoid variability of examiners, which is known as hawk-doe effect. But in the instant case, only one examiner had evaluated the same part of the one subject, and hence moderation was not required.

Revaluation cannot be ordered in the absence of specific enabling provision

The prayer for directing revaluation was rejected on the ground that there was no specific enabling provision in the notification to that effect. This was a settled position of law as per Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission v. Mukesh Thakur & Anr. (2010) 6 SCC 759, Pramod Kumar Srivastava v. Bihar Public Service Commission (2004) 6 SCC714 etc.

Minimum pass mark in interview is a valid condition

The condition prescribing minimum pass mark in interview was upheld as a valid condition. Reference was made to decision in KH Siraj v High Court of Kerala & Ors (2006) 6 SCC 395 in that regard, wherein it was held that interview is the best method to assess the ability of the candidate and to judge the capacity and minimum marks can also be prescribed.

"In our considered opinion, it is desirable to have the interview and it is necessary to prescribe minimum passing marks for the same when the appointment in the higher judiciary to the post of District Judge is involved. The interview is the best method of judging the performance, overall personality and the actual working knowledge and capacity to perform otherwise the standard of judiciary is likely to be compromised. A written examination only tests academic knowledge, which is some time, gained without possessing overall qualities, practical experience of practice and law. In written exam, even the person with no caliber who takes decision by cramming may obtain better marks. When the Judges of the High Court too are appointed by adjudging the performance and intellect, an interview would be indispensable for judicial post. As ultimately, they also come to adorn the chair of a Judge and Judges of subordinate and higher judiciary to deliver justice to masses, the criteria of experience of practice for direct recruitment of 7 years whether actually gained can be adjudged only by interview, communicating skills and by elucidation of certain aspects which would not be possible by written exam alone", said the bench.

The court also stated that the fact that only the petitioner got disqualified in the interview does not show the prejudice but   is rather indicative of the fact that the performance of the petitioner was such that in spite of the committee being most liberal, it did not find it appropriate to award even the minimum passing marks to the said candidate.

Conditions of examination cannot be challenged by candidates after taking part in it

The court also invoked the principle of estoppel that a candidate taking part in an examination without challenging its conditions cannot turn around at a later point of time to raise challenge against the same. This principle was laid down in KH Siraj v High Court of Kerala & Ors (2006) 6 SCC 395.

No direction can be issued to round off marks.

Dealing with the prayer to round off 49.9% as 50%, the Court said that it cannot issue such orders.  In The Registrar, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences,Bangalore v G Hemlatha and Ors (2012) 8 SCC 568, rounding¬ off of eligibility criteria was held as impermissible.  Similar was the decision in Orissa Public Service Commission & Anr v Rupashree Chowdhary and Anr (2011) 8 SCC 108. Following the precedents, it was held that the principle of rounding off method could not be applied in view of requirement to obtain minimum aggregate marks to be called for interview in the instant case.

Condition prescribing minimum qualifying mark in each paper cannot be relaxed

The court stated that the condition of minimum qualifying mark in each paper cannot be relaxed. "It may happen in any examination that a person who is having better aggregate may not fair well in one of the papers and may be declared ‘failed’. That cannot be a ground to order relaxation or to doubt the correctness of the evaluation process", observed the bench.

Read the Judgment Here