Taking up a petition seeking cancellation of papers containing erroneous questions in the Haryana Civil Service and Allied Services preliminary examination conducted by the Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) in March, justice Augustine George Masih of the Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday issued a notice of motion to the HPSC for July 9.
In his petition, Jitender Kumar, a candidate who appeared in the preliminary examination, stated that after many candidates pointed out wrong questions and answers in the booklet of general studies (compulsory paper) and some optional papers, the commission sent their representations to the paper-setters for comments.
"On the basis of recommendations of the paper-setters, such wrong questions have been deleted and not marked, and grace marks for such questions have been given to all candidates of the papers. As such, the course of action adopted by the respondent (HPSC) was totally unknown to law, arbitrary, illegal, against previous precedent/rules.
The action of the commission is liable to be questioned and results of such papers are liable to be quashed," the petition said.
The petition said competitive examinations for such premier posts in states as well as at the central level were conducted so that deserving persons were selected. But the respondent has dealt with the preliminary examination as if conducting a school examination or a degree examination wherein there is a provision for awarding grace marks, the petition added.
"Such course of action of giving grace marks has never been heard of in the history of public service commissions… the respondent has degraded the system of examination for recruitment to such a premier post," it said. Appending a series of news reports published in Hindustan Times, the petitioner stated that even the media had highlighted these lapses on the commission's part. HT was the only newspaper to have extensively reported on the issue.
"It is quite strange to note, on the bare perusal of the news items, that the seniormost member of the commission is putting the entire blame on the secretary, and the latter is putting the blame on the commission. Not only this, when a correspondent asked the secretary as to why the procedure of holding a fresh examination (when mistakes were detected in geography paper of the HCS preliminary exam) was not adopted… as it was done in 2004 by the commission, the secretary very strangely answered that this fact of re-examination in 2004 was not brought to his notice by the office," the petition said.
It further stated that deserving candidates remained victims of such tactics, adding that fair course of action would be to hold a fresh examination only of all such papers wherein mistakes were found, as was done by the respondent in 2004.
The petitioner stated that nowhere in the Haryana Civil Services (Executive Branch) Rules 2008, was there any provision for giving grace marks for wrong questions, if found in papers/booklets of the preliminary/main examination.
The petitioner said it was not for the first time that such mistakes had been identified in question papers/booklets. On earlier occasions also, various state public service commissions, including the HPSC, had faced similar situations. But such course of action (giving grace marks) had never been adopted by them, not even by the HPSC, in previous years, according to the petition.