Judicial review cannot be totally overruled when key answer is patently wrong, court cannot overlook the obvious: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court recently said that where the correction key is manifestly and manifestly wrong, interference will be justified.

Dealing with a petition relating to the examination organized for the recruitment of teachers, Judge GR Swaminathan said the Supreme Court in Vikesh Kumar Gupta v. state of rajasthan held that the courts should be very slow to interfere with expert opinion in academic matters and, in any event, the evaluation of questions by the courts themselves to arrive at correct answers is not allowed.

However, the court added that the Supreme Court of Kanpur University vs. Samir Gupta argued that the key answer should be assumed to be correct unless proven to be wrong, and should not be found to be wrong by any process of inferential reasoning or by any process of rationalization.

“’Only truth triumphs, not lies’ is the statement found in Mundaka Upanishad. ‘Satyameva Jayate’ is the national motto. , interference will be justified. In other words, the court, without examining the foreign documents, must be able to reach a final and clear conclusion on the strength of the documents on which the academic experts themselves rely, ” said Judge Swaminathan.

The court added: “Otherwise, absurd consequences will follow by logical necessity (reductio ad absurdum). Let me demonstrate. Suppose the question is ‘who is now the Prime Minister of India?’ “. If the key answer is ‘Shri.Rahul Gandhi’, won’t that be nonsense?”

The petitioner had participated in the recruitment process conducted by the Teachers Recruitment Board for the position of PG Assistant (English) for the year 2021. She was awarded 97.773003 points out of 150. The cut off mark for the BC (W) category was 98.196. . In the motion to court, she argued that she had mistakenly received lower grades.

She told the court that she should have gotten two extra marks for her answers to question no. 71 and 108 were correct. The Teacher Recruitment Council argued that the opinion expressed by the expert panel is final and that it is not open to the court to guess the accuracy of the final key answers.

Question 71

The question asked was Who is the narrator of ‘Wuthering Heights’ the novel written by Emily Bronte?. The four answers in the diary were Mrs. Ellen, Heathcliff, Linton and Catherine. The petitioner told the court that the correct answer was Ms Ellen. However, the board itself canceled the question after being told by a candidate that all four options were incorrect.

On the claimant’s argument that the objection was raised by only one candidate, the court said:

“I find no merit in maintaining that there was only one objection among thousands of candidates. What matters is not the quantity. The numbers are determining and decisive only in democratic politics. Not in all fields. Certainly not in academic matters. The number is irrelevant. Only the weight counts. I therefore do not fault the respondents for having acted on the representation of a single candidate.

The court said even a casual reader can conclude that the narrator is Mr. Lockwood.

“I contacted veteran writer Ms. Malathi Rangarajan and asked the question alone. The response was instant – Lockwood. I persisted ‘what about Ms. Ellen?’. Not the main narrator, was the answer. She had told her experiences only to Mr. Lockwood who introduces them to the readers. Therefore, the correct answer to this question was only Lockwood,” Judge Swaminathan said.

Rejecting the claimant’s assertion and approving the Council’s action, the court however stated that it did not understand how the options had been ill-defined at first instance.

“The Council must not let the problem go. It must fix the responsibility. The writers of the questions must be held accountable.”

issue 108

The question was: According to Allen Tate, the meaning of good poetry, “is its _______, the organized body complete with all the extension and intension that we can find in it”. The available answers were Confusion, Stress, Tension and Depression.

While the petitioner mentioned Tension as the correct answer, the Council said Confusion is the correct answer.

“I have asked the learned permanent lawyer to make available the basis on which the experts came to the conclusion that the correct alternative was ‘confusion’ and not ‘tension’. It is all too clear from the record that the experts have arbitrarily taken a position that the key answer is correct and does not require change. Even the excerpt included in the sealed cover indicated that ‘tension’ is the correct answer,” the court said.

The court said the respondents passed on a “thin sealed blanket” and when it made it clear that the material did not support Council’s key response, there was no objection.

She added that the Commission did not even attempt to indicate that its answer might be correct. Also in the counter affidavit, “emphasis” was placed on the issue of the court’s jurisdiction to hear the motion in writ, the court said.

“Respectfully implementing the decision of the Honorable Bench of Three Honorable Supreme Court Judges in the Kanpur University Case. I find that the Applicant has demonstrated that the key answer to question 108 is manifestly, demonstrably and manifestly wrong. The court cannot close its eyes to what is too obvious and apparent. Only an ostrich in judicial robes will hide its head in the sand” said Judge Swaminathan.

Observing that the petitioner is a backward class woman and her future is at stake, the court said that the paper setters showed a wrong answer in the key.

“The paper setters had shown a wrong answer in the key. The experts arbitrarily refused to correct the same when posting the final key. I have already concluded that the experts not only did not place any items for show that the key answer is correct, but even the material provided to the court shows that the applicant’s answer is correct. The applicant should therefore be awarded an additional point. She was wrongly denied an additional point,” said said the bench.

As a result, the court said she would be treated as having scored 98.773003 out of 150 marks.

“I direct the Respondent Board to send a communication to the Director of the School Education Department citing the Applicant’s marks as 98.773003 and including it in the appropriate place in the selection list. The Director of the Department of School Education will issue an order appointing the petitioner as Assistant PG (English) without delay”

However, the court clarified that since the process is over, it will not accept any more written petitions even though other candidates may be on the same footing.

“I don’t want to open the floodgates. The granting of aid must remain limited to the applicant alone,” he said.

Case title: K Vinopratha v The Teachers Recruitment Board and another

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 458

Case No: WP(MD)No.22129 of 2022

Counsel for the Applicant: Mr.K.Mahendran

Counsel for the Respondent: Mr. VRShanmuganthan, Permanent Counsel.

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