SrinagarUnderling that J&K Public Service Commission was under duty to hold fair and transparent examinations, the Jammu and Kashmir high court on Tuesday cancelled main examination at whatever stage it is as on date.
Disposing of an appeal filed by J&KPSC, a division bench of the court comprising Justice Janak Raj Kotwal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar said permit candidates who have been shortlisted to participate in the preliminary examination on the basis of their merit determined upon re-evaluation; 429 candidates who were shortlisted in the first result of the preliminary examination but could not make it to main examination on the basis of re-evaluation, and all 2365 candidates who have obtained merit in the preliminary examination determined in the process of re-evaluation equal to or more than the marks secured by the last candidate amongst 429 candidates.
Since the examination in question has been delayed due to litigation, we hope and trust that the appellant (JKPSC) would take immediate steps to hold the main examination and complete the whole process culminating into declaration of result without any further wastage of time, the court said.
The court observed that the mode (key) answers prepared by the experts appointed by none other than the appellant and moderated by 3rd expert should not have been tempered with.
It said that examinee can ask for re-evaluation of answer scripts and access to the model answer keys, if the statute, rules or regulations governing the examination provide for it.
Even in the absence of any specific provisions, the court said the power to correct the model answer keys and re-evaluate the answer scripts of the candidates inheres in the examination body, unless there is specific prohibition in such Statute, Rules or Regulations.
The division bench said the Court may also permit re-evaluation or scrutiny, if it finds that the errors in the model answer keys are demonstrably erroneous without any inferential process of reasoning or by a process of rationalization.
Ordinarily, the court said, the questions set out in the question paper and the model answer keys prepared by the examination body with the assistance of experts are presumed to be correct and the Courts would be loathe to interfere with the opinion of the experts.
While the examination body has inherent power to correct the question paper and model answer key and direct re-evaluation, the court said, yet the power was to be exercised in a bona fide manner and should not be actuated by mala fide considerations or result in arbitrariness.
Inherent in the function of the Commission, as enumerated in Section 133, is the duty to hold fair and transparent examinations and make all endeavors to maintain purity of such examinations. This duty carries with itself the responsibility to ensure that the model answer keys prepared for evaluating the answer scripts and questions set out in the question paper are correct so that a student who answers that questions correctly does not fail for the reason that though his answer is correct but it does not accord with the answer indicated in the model answer key, the court said.
The court replied in negative whether the exercise undertaken by JKPSC for correction of model answer keys and then re-evaluating the answer scripts of concerned subjects was fair, bona fide and aimed at ensuring the fairness, transparency and purity of the competitive examination.
The decision of the Public Service Commission, therefore, cannot be said to be illegal, arbitrary or actuated by any mala fide or extraneous considerations.
By virtue of their merit determined upon re-evaluation, 2365 candidates were found to have secured marks equal to or higher than the marks secured by the last candidate amongst 429 candidates.
That being the position, keeping these 2365 candidates out of the process of selection would be doing grave injustice to such candidates and would generate unnecessary litigation, the court added.
On February 23, the High court had reserved its verdict on commissions appeal, challenging the single benchs judgment dated December 29 by virtue of which the JKPSC was directed to allow the aspirants who appeared in first notification of shortlisted candidates as well as those appearing in the revised list, issued after 108 days.
The J&PSC, the single bench had said, has an onerous responsibility to exert and exercise the highest degree of care and caution in handling the examinations and to maintain transparency so that the candidates repose trust and confidence in the institution.
In June last year, the JKPSC had invited online applications for admission to the J&K Combined Competitive (Preliminary) Examination, 2016, to fill up 277 posts in the pay scale of Rs.9300-34800 with the grade pay of Rs.4800, in the various ServicesJunior Scale of J&K Administrative Service, J&K Police (Gazetted) Service and J&K Accounts (Gazetted) Service. It received 47122 applications, out of which 36,681 candidates appeared in the preliminary examination on March 3. The result of shortlisted candidates was declared on April 23 and cut off merit was 270.77 points. 6925 candidates were declared as qualified for admission to the J&K Combined Competitive (Main) Examination, 2016. The number of the candidates admitted to the Main Examination was in the proportion of 25 times of the total number of vacancies. Later the J&KPSC revised the cut-off merit at 277.275 points and issued a revised result on August 9 as a result, 429 candidates could not make it to the cut-off merit for appearing in the Combined Services Competitive (main) examination.
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