The Supreme Court has directed the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to award 20 grace marks in Civil Law-I paper and 10 grace marks in Civil Law-II paper to all the candidates of Haryana Civil Service (Judicial Branch) Examination – 2017.
90 candidates had approached the Apex Court challenging the entire selection process and evaluation method adopted in the Main (Written) Examination of Civil Judge (Junior Division) in the Haryana Civil Service (Judicial Branch) Examination – 2017. As per the result declared, only 0.702% candidates managed to pass the Main Exam and the rest 99.298% failed. The explanation given for this was that no other candidate could secure a minimum of 33% in each subject and an aggregate of 50% in all five.
As per the request made by the Court, former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri evaluated the selection process as well as the evaluation method used in the Main Exam. Referring to the report submitted in this regard, the bench held that no discriminatory or malafide practice was undertaken while conducting the exam or its following processes.
The bench comprising of CJI SA Bobde, Justices Surya Kant and BR Gavai, however, noted that, marking was strict and therefore the option of moderation deserves to be considered and applied. It is, therefore, inevitable to do complete justice and invoke the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and consequently award grace marks to the candidates so that more candidates, who are otherwise no less meritorious, get an opportunity to appear for the viva-voce, the bench said.
The bench also emphasised the need of viva-voce as an integral part of the selection process. The viva-voce and Written Examination (Main Exam), thus, both have their own importance in a selection process and it is for the interviewing panel to decide how many marks be awarded to a candidate keeping in view his/her performance in interview, it added.
Another contention made by the petitioner candidates was that the marks of the Main Exam should be disclosed before conducting viva-voce. It said:
"we are of the considered opinion that such a practice may not insulate the desired transparency, rather will invite criticism of likelihood of bias or favouritism. The broad principles to be laid down in this regard must be viewed keeping in view the selections for various categories of posts by different Selecting Authorities, for such a self-evolved criteria cannot be restricted to Judicial Services only. If the Members of the Interviewing Boards are already aware of the marks of a candidate secured in the Written Examination, they can individually or jointly tilt the final result in favour or against such candidate. The suggested recourse, thus, is likely to form bias affecting the impartial evaluation of a candidate in viva-voce. The acceptance of the plea of the petitioners in this regard will also run contrary to the authoritative pronouncement of this Court in Ashok Kumar Yadav and Others v. State of Haryana. As the written examination assesses knowledge and intellectual abilities of a candidate, the interview is aimed at assessing their overall intellectual and personal qualities which are imperative to hold a judicial post. Any measure which fosters bias in the minds of the interviewers, therefore, must be done away with."
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