Uttarakhand High Court orders reconsideration of answers to 2 questions in Civil Judge prelim exam

The Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday directed the State Public Service Commission to constitute an Expert Committee to examine afresh answers to two questions asked in the Uttarakhand Judicial Service Civil Judge Preliminary Examination 2023. [Tarun Sahni Vs Uttarakhand Public Service Commission]

A division bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rakesh Thapliyal added that this Expert Committee should not include the subject experts who had earlier participated in this process of checking the answer keys.

This whole exercise shall be completed by the Commission within next four weeks,” the Court ordered.

Depending on the answers determined by the expert committee, the marks awarded to the candidates shall be re-calculated and a fresh merit list must be prepared, the Court further directed.

Besides these two questions, the Court also directed the Commission to exclude from consideration another question which it found to have “not been clearly framed in the English language.”

This question had stated: “Period of effect of holding over in the absence of agreement under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882? (sic)”

The judges lamented that no one seems to have vetted the question before it was asked in the exam.

It pains us to see, that the question has been framed with an utterly casual approach. No one seems to have bothered to vet the question, and to ensure that it makes sense to anyone, who may wish to attempt the question in English language,” the Court said.

The Court was dealing with a batch of petitions filed by unsuccessful candidates (petitioners) who had questioned the answers provided for some of the questions in the answer key.

The first answer challenged by the petitioners was in respect of a question on what ‘Tuhr’ means under Muslim law.

The four answers provided for this question were – a. Period of menstruation b. Period of iddat c. Period between menstruation and d. None of the above.

The Commission had announced ‘None of the above’ as the correct answer, while the petitioners maintained that the correct answer was the ‘period between menstruation.’

A subject expert later stated that the candidates’ answer would have been correct only if option (c) had stated that it was the ‘period between two menstruations.’

The Court, however, criticised this approach. The bench observed that the purpose of the exam was to test the candidates’ knowledge in law and not to assess their knowledge in English or “catch the suspicious detective in him” by checking if the candidate could catch trick questions.

The Court concluded that the reasoning given by the expert suffered from a non-application of mind and that it did not factor in relevant considerations.

The other answer challenged by the petitioners concerned a question that asked:

When an illiterate labourer makes a mark daily on the wall of his house to count his daily wages, would it be called – a. documentary b. Hearsay Evidence c. Oral Evidence or d. Circumstantial Evidence.

The petitioners maintained that the answer was ‘documentary’. The Commission declared ‘circumstantial evidence’ as the correct answer.

However, the Court said that the opinion of the expert did not appear to be founded upon any literary material, textbook, or law on the subject.

In view of these observations, the Court has allowed the writ petitions.

Advocates Swati Verma, Snigdha Tiwari and Nagesh Agarwal represented the petitioners. Advocate Alok Mehra represented the  Uttarakhand Public Service Commission.

Standing Counsel Pradeep Joshi represented the State. Advocate Pankaj Miglani represented the High Court of Uttarakhand

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