Taking up a petition alleging "large-scale discrepancies" in the answer keys and question papers of the Punjab State Civil Services Combined Competitive Examination (preliminary) conducted on November 25, the Punjab and Haryana high court, on Friday, stayed the further selection process for filling 160 posts.
"Further proceedings be kept in abeyance," the court ruled, implying that the main exam now stands suspended.
Before issuing a notice of motion to the Punjab government and the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) for January 10, the court of justice Tejinder Singh Dhindsa, after detailed arguments in the case, found that as per the petitioners' allegations, "prima facie" it appeared that the matter might have to be referred to the "expert committee".
The petitioners and unsuccessful candidates, Surinder Pal of Hoshiarpur district and three others, alleged a number of discrepancies in the answer keys/sheets to various questions of the preliminary exam. They sought directions for setting aside the result/merit list of the preliminary exam issued on December 11 by the PPSC and referring the matter to the expert committee.
After various candidates submitted their representations to the PPSC, the commission, on December 7, issued a corrigendum, accepting that only three wrong questions in Paper-I (general studies) and six questions in Paper-II (civil services aptitude test) carried wrong answers in the answer keys, and rectified them, the court was told.
Appearing for the petitioners, advocate DS Patwalia submitted, "The commission, keeping in stake all the rules and regulations, arbitrarily decided to grant to all the candidates grace marks for these wrong questions, irrespective of their attempt to those questions." He said the commission failed to properly decide the representations of all the candidates and issued the merit list on December 7.
The PPSC had issued an advertisement on September 14 for filling 160 executive branch posts, for which the preliminary exam was conducted on November 25. There were 150 multiple-choice questions each in general studies and civil services aptitude test.
The PPSC uploaded the answer keys, along with question paper, on its official website on November 27. However, to the utter surprise of the petitioners, they came across a number of questions, the correct answers of which did not match with the answers provided in the answer keys, it was submitted.
The petitioners brought to the notice of the commission that in the general studies paper, four questions of Set A (57, 61, 62, 122) were wrong, while there were three wrong Set A questions (39, 87, 131) in the civil services aptitude test. Other candidates also submitted objections pertaining to the disputed questions, they said.
The petitioners also told the court that in an almost similar recent case of the Haryana Civil Services preliminary exam conducted in 2011, the high court had directed the Haryana Public Service Commission to constitute an expert committee.
September 14: Advertisement issued
November 25: Preliminary exam conducted
November 27: Answer keys uploaded on website
December 7: Commission accepts wrong questions, issues merit list