Supreme Court: In the case relating to examinations conducted in 2017 by the Rajasthan Public Service Commission for filling up the posts of Senior Teachers where the Rajasthan High Court had re-evaluated the answers and had come to conclusion different from that of the Expert Committee, the 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao*, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, JJ held that the division bench of the High Court committed an error in recording findings on the correctness of 5 questions by holding the opinion of the experts to be wrong. The Court, however, did not set aside the judgment as it did not want to upset the appointments of 5 out of 21 appellants-therein who have already been appointed.
- Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC) conducted written examinations on 01.05.2017 and 02.07.2017 in General Knowledge and Social Science respectively for selection of 9,551 Senior Teachers in Social Science, Sanskrit, Hindi, English and Mathematics.
- RPSC issued the 1st Answer Key on 06.02.2018 and declared the results.
- On 25.04.2018, a Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan, Jaipur Bench referred 3 questions in the 1st Answer Key to be reconsidered by an Expert Committee. Shortly thereafter, a Single Judge of the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan, Jodhpur Bench referred another 8 questions for reconsideration by an Expert Committee on 05.05.2018.
- An Expert Committee constituted by the RPSC revised the Key Answers for 2 questions in Social Science and 1 question in General Knowledge. The 2nd Answer Key was issued pursuant thereto, and the Merit List was also revised on 17.09.2018.
- The 2nd Answer Key was released by the RPSC on the basis of the recommendations made by the Expert Committee constituted pursuant to the directions issued by the High Court. Not being satisfied with the revised Select List which included only a few candidates, certain unsuccessful candidates filed Appeals before the Division Bench which were disposed of on 12.03.2019.
- The High Court examined the correctness of the disputed questions by itself and came to a conclusion that the answers to 5 questions were wrong. After being informed that the results have been announced and the selection process was completed, the Division Bench of the High Court by its judgment dated 12.03.2019 directed revision of the Select List and give benefit of the revision only to the Appellants before the Court.
- Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether the revised Select List ought to have been prepared on the basis of the 2nd Answer Key. The Appellants contended that the Wait List also should be prepared on the basis of the 3rd Answer Key and not on the basis of the 2nd Answer Key.
The Court noticed that though re-evaluation can be directed if rules permit, the Supreme Court has, through various judgments, deprecated the practice of reevaluation and scrutiny of the questions by the courts which lack expertise in academic matters.
“It is not permissible for the High Court to examine the question papers and answer sheets itself, particularly when the Commission has assessed the inter se merit of the candidates.”
Hence, it was not open to the Division Bench to have examined the correctness of the questions and the answer key to come to a conclusion different from that of the Expert Committee in its judgment dated 12.03.2019.
Stating that courts should be very slow in interfering with expert opinion in academic matters, the Court said,
“In any event, assessment of the questions by the courts itself to arrive at correct answers is not permissible. The delay in finalization of appointments to public posts is mainly caused due to pendency of cases challenging selections pending in courts for a long period of time. The cascading effect of delay in appointments is the continuance of those appointed on temporary basis and their claims for regularization. The other consequence resulting from delayed appointments to public posts is the serious damage caused to administration due to lack of sufficient personnel.”
The Court, despite finding the approach of the High Court erroneous, did not set aside the judgment as it did not want to upset the appointments of 5 out of 21 appellants-therein who have already been appointed. It hence, upheld the Select List dated 21.05.2019 and the Wait List dated 22.05.2019 prepared on the basis of the 2nd Answer Key.
Taking note of the statement filed by the RPSC that there are vacancies existing which can be utilized for appointing the Appellants, the Court left it open to the RPSC and the State Government to fill up the existing vacancies from the Wait List in accordance with the merits of the candidates and directed the completion of the selection process within a period of 8 weeks from the date of decision.
[Vikesh Kumar Gupta v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 993, decided on 07.12.2020]
*Justice L. Nageswara Rao has penned this judgment
For appellants: Advocates Akhilesh Kumar Pandey, Rakesh Karela and Ranbir Yadav
For State: Senior Advocate Dr. Manish Singhvi