Pat HC | Entire examination process of Bihar Public Service Commission does not deserve to be derailed only because some candidates perceive injustice have been caused to them by an erroneous question or an erroneous answer

Patna High Court: The Division Bench of Shivaji Pandey and Partha Sarthy, JJ., addressed the demand of Bihar Public Service Commission to quash impugned order of the Single Judge directing the Commission to constitute an expert committee for re-evaluation of questions.

Background

 On 15-07-2018, an examination was conducted by the Commission for the post of Assistant Engineers (Civil). After completion of examination, Key Answers of the concerned subjects was published. Later, on receiving objections pertaining to framing of wrong questions, wrong answers in the model answer-sheet or having more than one answers of a question, an expert committee was set up by the Commission to examine the said objections. Altogether, answers of 15 questions were found to be wrong but the questions claimed to be wrong by the respondents were not within those 15 answers. Hence, a petition was filed before the Single Judge against the findings of the Committee, whereby it was held that the committee had made an error and the Commission was directed to re-evaluate the questions.

The Commission submitted that, question setters were experts in their respective fields and objections were referred to another committee of experts, who were also experts in their respective fields. The said committee, after examining the objections submitted its report that answers of 15 questions were wrong leaving the four questions raised by the respondents, so the petitioners could not raise the same claim twice. It was also contended that books relied by the respondents to prove errors were not standard books and that the Single Judge had no power under judicial review to scrutinize which answer of the expert was correct or which answer was incorrect.

Whereas, the respondents claimed that Doctrine of prejudice would apply in the present case as there were are justifiable doubts with regard to opinion of the committee. Hence, it will be appropriate for the Court, under the power of judicial review, to give direction to revisit the answers.

Observations

 The Court, while citing Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education v. Paritosh Bhupeshkumar Sheth, (1984) 4 SCC 27, stated that, the Court cannot enter into the domain of academician and act as an appellate body over the opinion of the experts. The Court has little expertise to embark upon and to assess correctness of the view of experts unless on the face of it, it appears to be absurd or wrong. The members of expert committee were from reputed institutions,they had knowledge of their respective subjects to verify the objections and give report. The Court could not say that they do not have knowledge to examine the correctness of the objections filed by the respondents. The Court stated, “The academic matter should be left to the domain of the academician.”

The Court relied on Kanpur University v. Samit Gupta, (1983) 4 SCC 309, wherein it was held by the Supreme Court that, the key answer should be assumed to be correct unless it is proved to be wrong and the onus is on the candidate to not only demonstrate that the key answer is incorrect but also that it is a glaring mistake which is totally apparent and no inferential process or reasoning is required to show that the key answer is wrong….The Constitutional Courts must exercise great restraint in such matters and should be reluctant to entertain a plea challenging the correctness of the key answers. The Court refused to interfere with the model answer key while citing the decision of Ran Vijay Singh and Ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2018) 2 SCC 357, where the Supreme Court had held that, “sympathy or compassion does not play any role in the matter of directing or not directing re-evaluation of an answer sheet. The entire examination process does not deserve to be derailed only because some candidates are disappointed or dissatisfied or perceive some injustice having been caused to them by an erroneous question or an erroneous answer. When there is no provision for re-evaluation, the candidate will not have right to get the answer-sheet re-evaluated but, when such provision is there in the statute and the error is so apparent without application of inferential process of reasoning and thought, then the Court may direct for re-evaluation of the answer-sheet.” But in the present case, the Court observed, the Commission had conducted the examination following the transparent process, had constituted a committee of experts on receipt of objections and the objections were examined and answers were re-evaluated by the said committee, so now there could not be further evaluation.

Decision

Noticing that, if this Court directs for revisit of answer sheets of impugned questions then, it might lead to a never-ending chain of litigation; the Court said,  the candidates and the examining body had invested their time and put their tremendous effort in the examination, that should not go waste and unless there exist blatant error in the key answers as well as in the opinion of the expert, it would be unjustified to interfere with the view of experts, otherwise it would be nothing but sitting over the opinion of the expert as an appellate authority, which would be outside the scope of the judicial review.

In view of the above, the Court held that interference by the Single in the report of the committee and giving direction for constitution of fresh expert committee to revisit the answer sheet was outside the realm of judicial review. Consequently, the impugned order was set aside with directions to the Commission to proceed further and declare the result of the mains examination. [Bihar Public Service Commission v. Ashish Kumar Pathak, 2021 SCC OnLine Pat 24, decided on 05-01-2021]

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