Every reasonable person would find it hard to understand questions or answer answers, and the correct answer would not be identified by the examining authorities in either situation.

The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday stayed the appointment process for filling up 69,000 Assistant Teacher vaccancies for junior basic schools by the Uttar Pradesh Government. The Court was dealing with a batch of pleas raising questions over the answer key released by the Exam Authorities on May 8, 2020 for the 2019 Recruitment Exam.

Justice Alok Mathur stayed the counselling process that was scheduled to begin on Wednesday on the noting that there were material errors in the evaluation of the question paper, which were likely to affect a large number of candidates for no fault of theirs.

To arrive at this prima facie view, the judge examined some of the questions and answers that were given for the exam, finding ultimately that at least five of them “on the face of it seem to be incorrect/ debatable and deserve revaluation.”

“… any reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have difficulty in either understanding the questions or understanding the answers and in either situation would be unable to point out the correct answer as per the examining authorities.”

the Court said.

In particular, the Court took critical note that:

  • Certain answers as per the final answer key are clearly incorrect.
  • Same questions were included in certain other examinations, where a different answer was held to be correct.
  • The State authorities were unable to explain as to how identical or nearly identical questions have been put up in other examinations and different answers have been marked as correct.
  • The experts on whose opinion the final answer key was prepared have not lived up to their reputation and have submitted a cryptic and unreasoned opinion which cannot at any stretch of imagination be said to be an expert report.
  • There were discrepancies and ambiguity bordering on conflict in the Hindi and English version of a question.
  • In an objective type of question paper there is no scope for any deduction or inference nor is there any provision for giving reasons for the answer. Argumentative questions clearly have to be avoided and have no place in an objective question paper, the Court added.

Expert report is woefully inadequate

The Court has also directed that the provisional answer key and the objections made by candidates be placed before a panel constituted by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The Court has called for the submission of a report on the panel’s findings as well.

This followed the Court’s finding that the “expert panel” constituted examine objections made to the answer key, and who whose opinion the final key was issued, had presented a report that was totally unsatisfactory and woefully inadequate.

In this regard, the order also records

“None of the experts have given any sufficient reason in support of their decision but in the most cryptic manner in half a sentence have given their opinion. A perusal of the expert report leaves much to be desired as to the manner of the functioning in such an important matter. Expert opinion cannot be an eyewash but serves a salutary purpose as per the scheme of the examination by the respondents themselves.”

In view of these concerns, and keeping in mind that several candidates have failed to make the cut for the exam round on having lost 1 or 2 marks, Justice Mathur proceeded to stay the notification dated May 8, whereby the final answer key was released, and all subsequent recruitment proceedings.

The Court said that the discrepancies raised by the candidates deserved to be reconciled and that the fairness of the recruitment must be reflected in its process.

“In the present instance, the procedure prescribed in the guidelines would indicate that the procedure was meant to be extremely fair and transparent, but in its actual working as observed above, the fairness is clearly lacking”, the Court sad.

Apart from staying the counselling process, the Court has also directed the exam authorities to file a counter affidavit in three weeks time. The matter has been fixed for hearing next on July 12.

The Supreme Court is also due to take up in July another controversy that had erupted out of this recruitment exam.

The pleas before the Supreme Court concern the decision of the authorities to raise the cut off marks for qualifying the exam to 65% for the general category and 60% for reserved categories. Earlier, the cut off was fixed at 45% for the general category and 40% for the reserved category.

Whereas a single judge of the High Court set aside this increase, on May 6 a Division Bench affirmed the State’s decision to increase the cut off marks on appeal.

Later that month, the controversy reached the Supreme Court, prompting the top Court to question why different criteria for the assistant teacher recruitment exam were issued prior to and post the exam.

The top Court proceeded to direct the State government and other concerned authorities to file their reply by July 14. It had also ordered the State government to send a detailed chart showcasing the vacancies in assistant teacher posts by July 6.

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