New Delhi, Dec 14: Coming to the rescue of the candidates who appeared for 107 posts of civil judge (junior division) in Haryana, the Supreme Court Friday directed awarding 30 grace marks in two papers to them, saying that the marking in mains examination-2017 was "strict". Due to strict marking only nine of the total 1,195 candidates in the mains exam could manage to qualify as against 107 vacancies, the top court said.
It added however that evaluation process was "not discriminatory".
Further, it directed the Punjab and Haryana High Court through its registrar to prepare fresh results of the main (written) examination within two weeks and complete the selection process within four weeks thereafter.
It fixed the deadline of February 15, 2020, to complete the entire selection process while noting that the candidates have been suffering for the last five years.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant said the left out vacant posts, along with vacancies that have occurred meanwhile as also those anticipated within next six months, be advertised as early as possible and filled in accordance with the timeline prescribed by this Court.
"The Punjab and Haryana High Court through its Registrar General is directed to award 20 grace marks in Civil Law-I paper and 10 grace marks in Civil Law-II paper to all the candidates of 2019 Examination and prepare fresh results of the Main (Written) Examination of Civil Judge (Junior Division) within two weeks and complete the selection process within four weeks thereafter," it said in its verdict.
With the award of 30 marks in two papers, 60 more candidates including 27 from reserved categories will get through to viva voce taking the tally of qualified candidates to 69.
The case had caught the attention of the top court, which was apprised by 90 candidates, who were declared unsuccessful that only nine aspirants, out of 1,195 candidates appearing for the mains (written) examination, were selected for viva voce.
Initially, for the 107 advertised vacancies, more than 34,000 candidates had applied and 14,301 aspirants turned up for the test.
Of those who appeared, 1,282 aspirants qualified for the main examination in the preliminary test. Only 1,195 candidates took the exam and just nine were selected for viva voce. The results were declared on April 11, 2019.
The top court took note of the factual situation and requested its former judge Justice A K Sikri to assess different aspects related to examinations and selection process and suggest measures to rectify alleged deficiencies.
Justice (retd) Sikri had "unambiguously" opined that the situation can be remedied by moderating marks so that more students can qualify the main exam for appearing in viva voce.
He did not find any fault with the answer sheet evaluation process but found that process of marking was strict as there were too many descriptive questions and dearth of time for the candidates to answer them.
The bench said, "Justice Sikri critically examined the selection process as well as the evaluation method and it is explicit from his report that the procedure of evaluation was uniform".
It said the court is of the view that evaluation is done by multiple evaluators -- one evaluator examining and marking one question in all the mark-sheets -- ensures uniformity and prevents chance grading.
"Every candidate's answers are marked on the same parameters by the same examiner. There can possibly be no other better method to ensure uniformity in evaluation," the top court said, adding that this method ensures equal level playfield for all candidates.
It said the marking criteria was strict but it was so for everyone and this was, maybe, for the reason that one evaluator checked one answer in each script and in this manner an entire lot of scripts were marked.
"The evaluators failed to keep a pragmatic view that source of recruitment was likely to be the same in a fresh attempt also and that candidates had only 8.5 minutes to answer each question and time constraint did not allow them to give their best of performance.
Even those candidates who covered all aspects briefly were not awarded proper marks," it said.
The bench said it has been found that the officials and officers of the high court ensured adequate security measures such as keeping the answer scripts in iron boxes under round-the-clock security and CCTV cameras.
"Hence, it is just and fair to hold that no discriminatory or mala fide practice was undertaken while conducting the exam or its following processes," it said.
"The remedy of moderation of marks, in order to remove the variation caused by multiple examiners and dearth of time, is the only effective, equitable and efficacious solution", it said.
It said there was "no examiner variability in present case but marking was strict which is why we are of the view that the option of moderation deserves to be considered and applied" in the form of addition of marks.
The court said that since the candidates have been suffering for last five years, it is, therefore, "inevitable to do complete justice and invoke the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and consequently award grace marks to the candidates so that more candidates, who are otherwise no less meritorious, get an opportunity to appear for the viva-voce".