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Allahabad High Court dismisses petition for answer key of Geography in Assistant Professor Recruitment Examination Uttar Pradesh

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The Allahabad High Court has dismissed the petition filed for the answer key of Geography subject in the Assistant Professor Recruitment Examination conducted by the Uttar Pradesh Higher Education Service Commission.

A Single Bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Anoop Kumar Singh and Another.

The writ petition has been filed by the petitioners with the following prayer:-

“(i) Issue a writ order or direction in the nature of certiorari quashing the impugned result annexed as Annexure No.11 published on the 17.02.2022 by the Respondent no 2 Uttar Pradesh Higher Education Service Commission.

(ii) Issue a writ order or direction in the nature of mandamus commanding/directing the respondent no2 to re-evaluate the answer sheet of the petitioners and declare a fresh result on the basis of revaluation.

(iii Issue an appropriate writ order or direction to the respondent no 2 to consider the candidature of the petitioners for interview for post of Assistant Professor of Geography subject.”

The facts of the case are that the respondent-Commission published an advertisement for filling the vacancies of Assistant Professor in various subjects. The petitioners being eligible applied for the post of Assistant Professor in Geography subject. The petitioners appeared in a written examination scheduled on 30.10.2021 and attempted the questions to the best of their ability and knowledge. After the examination, the answer key inviting objections from the candidates in case of any wrong answer in the answer key was published by the respondent-Commission. The question papers were in four sets i.e A, B, C, D and the petitioners were given ‘D’ Series of the booklet.

The petitioners found that some of the answers given in the answer key published by respondent- Commission were wrong, therefore, they raised their objections separately with respect to questions at serial.

Without considering the objections as raised by the petitioners, the final result was published by only correcting question no 14 of ‘D’ series of the booklet, as suggested by the petitioners. Apart from the aforesaid, the Commission has also deleted one question i.e question no 36 and corrected one question i.e question no 43 of the ‘D’ series of the booklet. The revised and final results of the written paper of Assistant Professor (Geography) were declared on 11.02.2022 without correcting the answers as raised in the objections by the petitioners.

The answers of 10 questions as stated were said to be incorrect relying upon certain books as placed by the petitioners but respondent-Commission neither corrected the questions which was wrongly answered by the Commission in the answer key, as objected by the petitioners nor communicated the reason behind non consideration of rest 8 questions as suggested by the petitioners.

The petitioners found that question no 29 of ‘D’ series of the booklet had two correct answers but the objection with respect to the same could not be raised prior to declaration of the result.

The petitioners are confident and self possessed that in case the answers as relied upon by the petitioners and raised in their objections, if taken into consideration, the petitioners will qualify in the written examination.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the petitioners while raising their objections had placed reliance upon the reliable and renowned books, therefore, their objections should have been taken into consideration prior to declaration of the result. The conduct of the respondents to declare the result without considering the objections of the petitioners amounts to arbitrariness and hard-heartedness on their part, therefore, he submits that the selection of the petitioners on the post of Assistant Professor (Geography) has been denied by not taking into consideration the objections as raised by the petitioners, which in case done, the petitioners would have succeeded.

Thus, the writ petition has been filed with the prayer to direct the respondents to re-evaluate the answer sheets on the basis of the answers as given by the petitioners in the objections placed before respondentsCommission and declare the result of the petitioners accordingly.

On the other hand Gagan Mehta, counsel for respondent nos 2 & 3 and Shailendra Singh, Standing Counsel for the State respondents submitted that the relief as prayed on behalf of the petitioners cannot be granted by the Court while exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

The request of the petitioners for re-evaluation of the answer sheets regarding question no 3, 29, 55, 65, 66 and 79 cannot be accepted as the correctness of the option given in the answer key is based upon experts opinion as obtained by the respondent-Commission and in the opinion of the subject experts, the answer key has been rightly uploaded. Since the answer key has been examined by the subject experts and the petitioners have not pleaded mala fide as against the respondents, as such no judicial review would lie and the writ petition is liable to be dismissed.

The examiners as well as experts being an independent body, their decision cannot be interfered as the same is given after proper consultation and research. They further submit that in case of any mistake, the benefit of change in the answer key is given to each and every candidate, after following due process. The change in the tentative answer key can be made only after the expert opinion, the Commission takes into consideration the objections as raised by the candidates and after placing the same before the experts, the answer key is uploaded. The deletion of answer can be possible only after the experts opinion and benefit of deleted question is given to each and every candidate, in such a manner that there is no discrepancy or discrimination with any candidates.

Only after taking into consideration the experts opinion, after considering the objections raised by the candidates, the final key was published on 11.02.2022.

Therefore, counsel for respondents submitted that the writ petition is not maintainable and the same is liable to be dismissed.

The Court noted that the Counsel for the petitioners has not brought to this Court’s attention any Rules, Regulations or any guidelines framed by the respondents, notification or circular issued by the respondents or any authority of law that may permit re-evaluation.

The Court held that,

The Court feels that sympathy or compassion does not play any role in the matter of directing or not directing re-evaluation of an answer sheet. The law is well settled that the burden is on the candidates, not only to demonstrate that the key answer is incorrect but also to show 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 should not over-step its jurisdiction by giving the directions for re-evaluation which would amount to judicially reviewing the decision of the expert in the field.

Undoubtedly, the Courts cannot judicially review the expert opinion unless and until the key answer is patently wrong.

There is no doubt that the candidates put in dreadful efforts while preparing for an examination, it must not be unremembered that even the examination authorities as well as experts put in equally great efforts to successfully conduct the examination, therefore the Court must consider the internal checks and balances put in place by the examination authorities before interfering with the efforts put in by the candidates who have successfully participated in the examination and the examination authorities.

Therefore, the Court should restrain in interfering with the efforts put in by the candidates as well as the examination authorities unless and until the mistake is apparent on the face of record and no research has to be done in proving the same, as the same will be an unending process resulting in uncertainty and confusion.

It is settled law that when a decision is taken by the Committee of Expert having high academic qualifications and long experience in the specialised field, the Courts should not normally interfere in the matters unless there are compelling circumstances for doing so.

The Court further held that the aforesaid issue is also well settled in view of the judgement of Apex Court in case of Bihar Staff Selection Commission Vs Arun Kumar, reported in (2020) 6 SCC 362. There are otherwise catena of judgments of the Supreme Court holding that in the competitive selection test, prayer for re-evaluation of marks cannot be accepted unless a rule for it exists.

“Taking into consideration the settled position of law in the matters where the answer key is disputed, the Court in case of Jitendra Singh Vs Union of India and Another, passed in Writ C No 53877 of 2017, has held that the Court has to proceed on the assumption and presumption that the answer key is correct as the same is based on experts opinion given by the persons specialised. In the event of any doubt, benefit should go to the examination authority rather than to the candidate. It is with a rider that the Court should not re-evaluate or scrutinize the answer sheets of the candidates as it has no expertise in the matter, the academic matters are best left to the academicians there being no scope of judicial review in the matter.

Appropriately, considering the capitulations made by the counsel for respondent no 2 and law laid down by the Apex Court, established position of law, this Court finds no good ground to interfere in the petition”, the Court observed while dismissing the petition.

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