Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a breather to the candidates challenging the RAS Pre-examination result, the bench of KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has confirmed the Rajasthan High Court’s division bench directing Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) to go ahead with the RAS/RTS Combined Competitive Examination-2021 mains examination. It has, however, allowed the 243 candidates, who had approached the Courts, to sit in the Mains Examination to be conducted on March 20-21, 2022.

The Controversy

243 candidates, who had failed to secure position in the list of candidates eligible to appear in the mains examination of RAS/RTS Combined Competitive Examination-2021 had approached the Single Bench of the Rajasthan High Court. It was the case of the candidates that as per the answer key published by the RPSC, some of the answers were marked wrong in the key and hence, it had affected their result.

Single Bench’s order

Mahendar Kumar Goyal J. partly allowed the writ petitions and quashed the final answer key dated 22-11-2021 and result dated 19-11-2021. The RPSC was directed to revise the result of the preliminary examination and to prepare a fresh list of candidates eligible to appear in the mains examination accordingly. This order dated February 22, 2022, came 3 days before the Main Examination was originally scheduled to take place i.e. February 25-26, 2022, not leaving much choice with the RPSC but to reschedule the examination.

Division Bench’s order

The Bench of Akil Kureshi CJ and Sudesh Bansal J. stayed the impugned Single Bench order and left it open for RPSC to conduct a written main examination on the rescheduled date.

Noticing that generally the scope of judicial review against expert’s opinion is extremely limited, the Court observed,

“We have strong prima facie belief that the learned Judge had exceeded the scope of writ jurisdiction in the present case. No legal or factual malafides are demonstrated nor procedural illegality established. It may be that in some cases there is a grey area. That by itself would not be sufficient for the writ court to upturn the decision of the expert’s body.”

Hence, the RPSC had made out a strong prima facie case not only for further hearing of the appeals but also for staying the judgment of the Single Judge.

Supreme Court’s order

The Court refused to interfere with the Division Bench’s order noticing in particular that the order is one granting interlocutory relief and the main matter is pending adjudication.

RPSC had submitted before the Court that the 243 persons before the learned Single Judge in the High Court including the petitioners before this Court can be permitted to participate in the main examination subject to certain safeguards.

The Court, hence, directed that the petitioners in both these cases and also the rest of the persons who approached the Single Judge shall be permitted to sit in the Mains examination to take place on 20th and 21st March, 2022.

The Court, however, made clear that it will be subject to the result of the appeals pending adjudication before the High Court.

“The result of this group shall be kept in a sealed cover and a further decision in regard to them will abide by the result of the appeals before the High Court.”

The Court, hence, directed RPSC to take necessary steps for facilitating the participation of the 243 candidates.

[Ankit Sharma v. Rajasthan Public Service Commission, Special Leave to Appeal (C) Nos. 4270-4271/2022, order dated 14.03.2022]


Counsels

For Candidates: Senior Advocate Guru Krishna Kumar

For RPSC: Senior Advocates Dr. A. M. Singhvi and V. Giri


Also Read:

Raj HC | It would be open for RPSC to conduct written main examination on the rescheduled date, Single Judge bench order stayed

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of Akil Kureshi CJ and Sudesh Bansal J. stayed the impugned judgment and left it open for RPSC to conduct a written main examination on the rescheduled date.

Being dissatisfied with the answer key published by the respondent-Rajasthan Public Service Commission i.e. the RPSC’, this batch of writ petitions was filed by the candidates who have failed to secure position in the list of candidates eligible to appear in the mains examination of RAS/RTS Combined Competitive Examination-2021. Mahendar Kumar Goyal J. partly allowed the writ petitions and quashed the final answer key dated 22-11-2021 and result dated 19-11-2021. The RPSC was directed to revise the result of the preliminary examination and to prepare a fresh list of candidates eligible to appear in the mains examination accordingly. The instant appeal arise out of this impugned judgment of Single Judge dated 22-02-2022.

Counsel for petitioners submitted that the Single Judge has examined all the concerned questions carefully and when it was found that the decision of RPSC was wholly incorrect, interference was made. In majority of the cases the direction is only for reconsideration by the experts committee.  originally the written main examination was scheduled on 25.02.2022 and 26.02.2022 however in view of the decision of the learned Single Judge the same has been cancelled and would be rescheduled for later.

Counsel for respondents submitted that the Single Judge has committed serious error in interfering with the decision of the experts body. RPSC had entertained all objections and examined the same carefully before coming to its final conclusions. Whenever it was found necessary experts committees were formed. In cases where the questions were found to be ambiguous or no clear cut single answer was correct the RPSC decided to delete the question to avoid any injustice. In some cases even the correct answer was changed  accepting the objections of the candidates. Once this exercise is completed, the scope of judicial review is extremely limited. Unless the decision of the experts body such as RPSC is tainted with malafides or suffers from material procedural irregularity or is totally irrational, no intereference is demanded from the Courts.

The Court relied on the judgment of Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission v. Rahul Singh, (2018) 7 SCC 254 and observed that not only the onus is on the candidates to 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 court stated that broadly the approach in such situation is that the scope of judicial review against expert’s opinion is extremely limited. There is a requirement of finality to the process of public employment. This is not to suggest that judicial review is completely shutout; it cannot be. However unless the situation presents a clear cut, black and white, open and shut choice of the decision of the expert body being palpably wrong, the Court would not interfere. An element of tolerance to the minor error or calibration is discernible since achieving certainty and finality is also important. The finality and perfection are sworn enemies.

The Court observed “we have strong prima facie belief that the learned Judge had exceeded the scope of writ jurisdiction in the present case. No legal or factual malafides are demonstrated nor procedural illegality established. It may be that in some cases there is a grey area. That by itself would not be sufficient for the writ court to upturn the decision of the expert’s body.”

The Court held “we find that the appellants have made out a strong prima facie case not only for further hearing of the appeals but also for staying the judgment of the learned Single Judge. Under the circumstances impugned judgment is stayed. Resultantly it would be open for RPSC to conduct written main examination on the rescheduled date.” [RPSC v. Ankit Sharma, D.B. Special Appeal Writ No. 429/2022, decided on 23-02-2022]


Appearances

For Appellant(s) : Mr. M.S. Singhvi, Mr. Sheetanshu Sharma, Mr. Siddhant Jain, Mr. Yash Joshi and Mr. Pranav Bhansali, Mr. M.F. Baig and Mr. Amit Lubhaya

For Respondent(s): Mr. R.N. Mathur, Mr. Shovit Jhajharia, Mr. Raghunandan Sharma with Mr. Abhinav Srivastava, Mr. Ram Pratap Saini

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Orissa High Court:  A Division Bench of Sanju Panda and S.K Panigrahi JJ., sets aside the impugned judgment and held that it is the duty of the recruitment agency to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to pre-empt any doubts or confusion with respect to the question posed to evaluate a candidate.

The present appeal has been filed due to being aggrieved by an impugned order dated 03-12-2019 of Single Judge Bench which directed the respondents i.e. State Selection Board (SSB) in the impugned order to conduct fresh examinations for the post of Lecturer and cancel the previous results on account of various defaults being found in the result and merit list due to discrepancies in the questions asked in the question paper in the subject History, along with the release of wrong answer key and allotting marks finally in accordance with Expert Committee Recommendations. The students registered their protest with respect to the entire selection process being unprofessional and filed a petition seeking relief, pursuant to which the impugned order was passed which stands challenged before this Court.

It was observed by the Single Judge in the impugned order that when the candidates are facing negative marks with various counts and a large chunk of questions are defective, it would be equitable if the fresh written examination would be conducted in subject History only as opposed to awarding marks in all 23 questions to all the candidates, ignoring the objections made in various counts, a re-examination will be in the interest of justice, equity and fair play.

Counsel for the State submitted that Single Judge has erred in not appreciating the fact that the merit of the successful candidates has been compromised by setting aside the entire examination.

Counsel for the respondents submitted that high degree of probity and fairness has been maintained while revising the Answer Keys to protect the interests of all the candidates, for the subject of History. The SSB, it is stated, adopted the Principle of Uniformity in awarding full marks to all the candidates who appeared in the Written Examination including the appellants.

The Court further relied on the ratio laid down in judgments West Bengal Council of Higher Education v. Ayan Das, (2007) 8 SCC 242 and UGC v. Neha Anil Bobde (2013) 10 SCC 519 which held

“29. We are of the view that, in academic matters, unless there is a clear violation of statutory provisions, the Regulations or the Notification issued, the Courts shall keep their hands off since those issues fall within the domain of the experts.”

 “…. the Court shall not generally sit in appeal over the opinion expressed by expert academic bodies and normally it is wise and safe for the Courts to leave the decision of academic experts who are more familiar with the problem they face, than the Courts generally are.”

 The Court further relied on President, Board of Secondary Education v. D. सुवणकर, (2007) 1 SCC 603 and held that

“The court should be extremely reluctant to substitute its own views as to what is wise, prudent and proper in relation to academic matters in preference to those formulated by professional men possessing technical expertise and rich experience of actual day-to-day working of educational institutions and the departments controlling them. It would be wholly wrong for the court to make a pedantic and purely idealistic approach to the problems of this nature, isolated from the actual realities and grass root problems involved in the working of the system and unmindful of the consequences which would emanate if a purely idealistic view as opposed to pragmatic one was to be propounded.”

 Justice Panigrahi quoted ‘Albert Einstein’

 “If I had an hour to solve a problem, and my life

depended on the solution, I would spend the first

55 minutes determining the proper question to

ask… for once I know the proper question, I could

solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

It held that in view of the observations above, the re-examination is an unnecessary exercise that will cause major inconvenience to all applicants without much gain. It was further held that sufficient steps have been taken to alleviate the concerns of the applicants based on the advice by experts in the field.

In view of the above, impugned order set aside.[Sasmita Pattnaik v. State of Odisha, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 728, decided on 14-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant ahs put this story together