Delhi Judicial (Preliminary) Examination, 2015 – Writ Petitions calling in question some of the questions and answer key – Scope and ambit of judicial review when a multiple choice question paper and answer key are questioned – Partly allowed the writ petitions with the direction that question Nos.94, 97, 113 and 197 in the Multiple Choice Question Paper shall be deleted – the respondents would proceed to recompute the marks and the eligibility list.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
CORAM: HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SANJIV KHANNA HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE NAJMI WAZIRI
9th May, 2016
SUMIT KUMAR ….. Petitioner Through: Mr. Prashant Manchanda with Mr. Montu Bhagwana, Advocates. Versus HIGH COURT OF DELHI & ANR. …. Respondent Through: Mr. Rajiv Bansal, Advocate with Ms. Arpita, Mr. Siddhant Gupta, Ms. Keshav and Ms. Ritu, Advocates for respondent-DHC. W.P.(C) 2104/2016 MANISH GUPTA ….. Petitioner Through: Mr. Arpit Bhargava and Ms. Hina Bhargava, Advocates. Versus REGISTRAR GENERAL, HIGH COURT OF DELHI & ANR. …. Respondent Through: Mr. Rajiv Bansal, Advocate with Ms. Arpita, Mr. Siddhant Gupta, Ms. Keshav and Ms. Ritu, Advocates for respondent-DHC.
SANJIV KHANNA, J.
This common judgment would dispose of the afore-stated two writ petitions calling in question some of the questions and answer key included in the Delhi Judicial (Preliminary) Examination held on 20th December, 2015.
2. With the consent of the learned counsel for the respondent-Delhi High Court, we have also heard arguments, though no counter affidavit was filed in W.P.(C) No. 3453/2016, Sumit Kumar Vs. High Court of Delhi & Another.
3. The High Court of Delhi (hereinafter referred to as the respondent) vide advertisement dated 6th October, 2015 had invited applications from eligible candidates for filling up 100 vacancies in the Delhi Judicial Service. The selection is by way of a three stage process, consisting of preliminary examination for selection and short listing of candidates for the mains written examination and viva voce. The preliminary examination was “multiple choice objective type” with the stipulation that there would be 25% negative marking for an incorrect answer.
4. The preliminary examination had 200 objective type multiple choice questions and candidates were required to mark the correct answer in the answer or scoring sheet. For each correct answer, the candidate was awarded 1 mark and for a wrong answer 0.25 marks were deducted. General candidates were required to secure a minimum of 60% or 120 marks out of 200, and obtain a rank within 10 times the number of vacancies advertised for being short listed for the main written examination. For reserved category the eligibility requirement was 55% marks.
5. By public noticed dated 26th December, 2015, the model answer key for the preliminary examination was released and objections were invited. The two petitioners submitted their objections to some of the questions and the model answer key. On 16th February, 2016, the respondent released the revised model answer key for five questions. They had also deleted eight questions. On 23rd February, 2016, a corrigendum to the revised answer key was released, correcting one answer.
6. On 5th March, 2016, a select list of 849 candidates who had secured at least the qualifying marks in the preliminary examination and a rank within 10 times the number of vacancies advertised, was made public. The last ranked candidate mentioned belonging to general category in the said select list had secured 131.75 marks out of 200.
7. Before we examine the questions and answers to which objections have been raised, we must elucidate and reflect on the legal position as to the scope and ambit of judicial review when a multiple choice question paper and answer key are questioned. The law on the point is no longer res integra and stands lucidly and clearly exposited in
Salil Maheshwari Vs. High Court of Delhi & Anr., 2014 (145) DRJ 225
in the following words:-
“11. Before recording a decision on the merits, the scope of judicial review of an answer key in a test for law graduates, such as for the DJS examination, must be recognised. The law prevailing in this regard is laid down in Kanpur University (supra), in respect of the answer key in a combined medical test in which the four subjects tested were physics, chemistry, zoology and botany. The Court in that case held:
“We agree that the key-answer should be assumed to be correct unless it is proved to be wrong and that it should not be held to be wrong by an inferential process of reasoning or by a process of rationalisation. It must be clearly demonstrated to be wrong, that is to say, it must be such as no reasonable body of men well-versed in the particular subject would regard as correct. The contention of the University is falsified in this case by a large number of acknowledged text-books, which are commonly read by students in U.P. Those text-books leave no room for doubt that the answer given by the students is correct and the key answer is incorrect.
17. …Certain books are prescribed for the Intermediate Board Examination and such knowledge of the subjects as the students have is derived from what is contained in those text- books. Those text-books support the case of the students fully. If this were a case of doubt, we would have unquestionably preferred the key answer. But if the matter is beyond the realm of doubt, it would be unfair to penalise the students for not giving an answer which accords with the key answer, that is to say, with an answer which is demonstrated to be wrong.”
The aforesaid paragraph refers to a quotation from the decision of the Supreme Court in
Kanpur University v. Samir Gupta, (1983) 4 SCC 309
and holds that three propositions of law emerge. These are:-
“12. Three propositions of law emerge from Kanpur University (supra), on the permissible extent of judicial review of an answer key. First, the answer key must be presumed to be correct and must be followed, even in the face of a mere doubt, second, only if a key answer is demonstrably wrong, in the opinion of a reasonable body of persons well-versed in the subject, it may be subject to judicial review, and third, if the answer key is incorrect beyond doubt, then a candidate cannot be penalised for answers at variance with the key. This position was reiterated in