Arguing on 'judicial interference' in examining the questions and answer keys of the preliminary examination of the Punjab Civil Services conducted in November 2012, Punjab advocate general Ashok Aggarwal argued before the high court that the court can only interfere, where the questions and answers are 'patently and apparently wrong'.
The AG contended before the court headed by justice Augustine George Masih, "Something has to be patently wrong before testing it in the court, otherwise the benefit has to come to the commission (PPSC)." He added, "This is the sum and substance of my arguments as well as a Supreme Court judgment in one such case."
The preliminary examination for filling up 160 different posts in executive branch is under challenge by unsuccessful candidates, mainly on the ground of large-scale discrepancies in question paper and answer key. The high court has stayed further process of the examination.
Answering the petitioners' main argument of referring all the objectionable questions to the independent experts' committee, Aggarwal argued, "If I think that a question or an answer to it can be verified from a government website, a reliable publication or the internet, do we still need to consult the experts."
On the question of attempting the 'most appropriate' answer amongst the options, as mentioned in the question papers, Aggarwal said, "This can only be understood to be applied where two answers out of the options are almost near to each other."
There are many such questions in the exam which were 'crystal clear and mathematical,' but still under challenge by the petitioners, he said.
He informed the court that since the commission found six questions to be wrong, the questions were deleted and six marks given to all candidates.
Countering petitioners' arguments, Aggarwal said, "There is a distinction between the Haryana Civil Services (HCS examination-2011, which was referred to an experts' committee by high court) and the Punjab Civil Services exam (under challenge)." He added, "We are dealing with a situation where there is no negative marking in the exam, both the papers are compulsory for all candidates and every question is to be attempted and thus it doesn't prejudice anyone."
Whereas in case of HCS one paper was of general studies and one optional, he said.
The advocate general said that paper setters were experts in their fields who had sent the commission a bunch of questions, out of which the final papers were designed.
"They (paper setters) are men of excellence and their services are being utilised by various universities. Of course, mistakes and errors can be committed by all as error is a part of system," argued Aggarwal.
To various arguments raised by Aggarwal, on the high court's earlier decision and opinion given in HCS-2012 preliminary examination case referred to the experts' committee, that the same opinion cannot be given in the present case, justice Masih said, "Don't take that the opinion I had earlier given cannot be changed. It depends on facts and circumstances of the case."
Arguments continue on February 18.