The decision raises several questions. The Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) has awarded marks for "inaccurate or erroneous questions" to candidates who appeared in the Haryana Civil Services (Executive Branch) and other allied services preliminary examination held on March 25, 2012.
The commission's controversial move, which seems to be against the tenets of fair play, is likely to be challenged in a court of law.
For instance, suppose if five questions of the political science (optional subject) paper were incorrect or inaccurately framed, then the candidates appearing in the preliminary exam with political science as optional subject would get five grace marks, according to the commission's logic.
In comparison, if there was no error (or fewer errors) in the question paper of another optional subject, say physics, then the grace marks given in political science would seriously affect the interests of candidates appearing with physics as optional subject.
"This would adversely affect the fortunes of many as there are several candidates having same marks at the cut-off. These grace marks for inaccurate questions will give an unfair advantage to many," said a candidate who appeared in the preliminary examination.
HPSC chairman Manbir Bhadana, however, said this was the best way the commission could have settled the issue.
"Nothing unusual has been done. We could not have scrapped the entire examination," Bhadana said.
"We adopted a uniform pattern to satisfy all candidates. There was no other way."
Sources in the commission said most mistakes and inaccuracies, at least seven, were in the general studies paper. Question papers of several optional subjects also had inaccurately framed or erroneous questions. The HPSC chairman, while defending the decision to give marks for erroneous questions, said that since all papers had such questions, grace marks were given to all candidates.
"This brought parity for everyone," he said.
However, many candidates beg to differ.
"Even the benefit given to all candidates for wrong questions in the general studies paper, which was common for all the candidates, is discriminatory," said a candidate who did not wish to be named.
"If there were no wrong or inaccurately framed questions, then all candidates would not have got the same marks."
For instance, if wrong questions were from general science, grace marks would give undue advantage to candidates weak in that particular subject, he explained.
While declaring the results of the preliminary examination on May 4, the HPSC had said: "This is also for the information of the candidates who represented to the commission with regard to any type of error in the question papers, that their representations have been duly considered by the commission and benefit of marks has been given to all the candidates in their respective subjects as per recommendations of the paper setters."
Court orders in similar cases
The Patna high court in January 2012 set aside the preliminary tests of the 53rd to 55th common combined competitive examination conducted by the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC) in 2011, directing the BPSC to publish fresh results of unsuccessful candidates after re-evaluating their papers.
The Bihar court had directed the BPSC to re-evaluate the papers of unsuccessful candidates after deleting nine questions found to be wrong by an expert committee constituted by the BPSC in accordance with the court's earlier directive of September 2011.
The Delhi high court had also in April 2012 ordered fresh evaluation of answer scripts for a preliminary test for the Delhi Judicial Services Examination after 12 wrong questions out of 200 were deleted from the paper.
What HPSC could have done
The commission sent the representations of candidates to the very paper setters who had set the wrong questions. A better way out could have been to constitute a panel of experts for seeking advice on the matter.
Scaling and moderation
Several candidates appearing in the preliminary exam told HT that since majority of the candidates who qualified for the mains examination had particular optional subjects, it was time that HPSC started scaling and moderation of scores as is done by the Union Public Service Commission. This would provide a level-playing field to each candidate since some may be disadvantaged by opting for a particular subject whose question paper was difficult as compared to that of another subject.
The principal bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), while quoting a Supreme Court directive in its orders, said the methodology of moderation and scaling was the most unexceptional method available to bring about as much objectivity as possible in the system of examination.
"For civil services, it seems that the method being followed by the UPSC has served well and without discrimination. We are convinced that it would serve no purpose for the tribunal to peruse the answer sheets, as prayed for, and come to any conclusion. It is the work for the experts, which should best be left to them," the CAT said.
Questionable questions (in HPSC's general studies paper)
Literacy rate (%) in Haryana is:
Glitch: None of the options is correct. According to Census 2011, the state's literacy rate is 76.64 %
Part-V of the Constitution deals with
a) Union executives
c) Supreme Court and high court
d) Comptroller and Auditor General
Glitch: All are in the Part-V of the Constitution
Population density according to 2011 census is
a) 1,002 people/per sqkm
b) 642 people/per sqkm
c) 573 people/per sqkm
d) 945 people/per sqkm
Glitch: Not clear whether population density of India or Haryana is being asked
Arrange the sectoral growth in Haryana
Glitch: Not clear whether to be arranged in ascending or descending order
Who among the following has been honoured the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals Award for 2010 for their work in using innovative approaches for poverty and hunger alleviation?
Glitch: None. Award was given to IBSA not ISBA
Haryana is a landlocked state lies between:
a) 28 Degree 37 Minutes to 31 Degree 35 Minutes North
b) 24 Degree 26 Minutes to 27 Degree 28 Minutes North
c) 29 Degree 20 Minutes to 31 Degree 30 Minutes North
d) 27 Degree 37 Minutes to 30 Degree 35 Minutes North
Glitch: None of the options is exactly correct (27°39' to 30°35' N is the correct answer)
How many divisions the state is divided for administrative purpose?
Glitch: Which state?
The Haryana Special Economic Zone came in the year
Glitch: An absurd question. A similar question - The Haryana Special Economic Zones Act came in which year - is also in the paper