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2023 JKAS PRELIMS | CAT directs PSC to allow 50 candidates for mains exam

“The courts are not powerless to issue appropriate directions, where the decision is found to be arbitrary. The examination of the applicants could not have been cancelled, particularly in violation of the basic Statute and that too based on those candidates who had failed in the earlier test,” it said.
12:12 AM Mar 06, 2024 IST | D A RASHID
2023 jkas prelims   cat directs psc to allow 50 candidates for mains exam
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Srinagar, Mar 5:  The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in Srinagar on Tuesday directed the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (PSC) to allow 50 candidates to appear in the mains examination of J&K Combined Competitive Examination 2023 provisionally at their own risk and responsibility.

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These candidates have challenged PSC’s notification dated November 18, 2023, related to a revised answer key with the contention that the same was illegal as an answer key based on an expert opinion had already been notified by the commission.

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The aggrieved candidates through their counsel submitted that there was no provision in the Business Rules of the PSC or the Rules for Conduct of Examinations that there could be a review of the final answer key.

Their contention was that sub-rule E of Rule 10 of the J&K Public Service Commission (Conduct of Examination) Rules, 2022, that “the position of the team of experts should be final and binding upon all the stakeholders”.

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“Once, vide notification dated October 27, 2023, the experts had given their opinion, there was no occasion for the respondent PSC to have yet again issued notification dated November 18, 2023,” they said.

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In its reply, the PSC submitted that the revised result was notified given a number of representations having been received in the PSC regarding certain, purportedly, factual errors in the notified final answer key of the first paper.

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The reply indicated that the PSC on receipt of representations took a sympathetic stance towards the concerns of the aspirants and decided to re-refer the concerns so raised to the experts for scrutiny once again.

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It was further averred that with the revision of the result and the modification so made, a total number of 167 candidates including the applicant (aggrieved candidates) who were earlier declared to have qualified in the main examination as per result notification dated October 27, 2023, were falling below the revised cut off point, therefore, were ousted from the revised result.

“Admittedly, the applicants had qualified and made it in the first list after having been subjected to examination or test. However, subsequently, passing of the impugned order, cancelling the candidature of the applicants, is definitely against the PSC Conduct of Examination Rules 2022,” a division bench comprising M S Latif, Member (J), and Prasant Kumar, Member (A), said.

The court observed that although it was true that, in law, a candidate who had passed the examination and whose name appears in the select list even, does not have an indefeasible right to seek an appointment, the appointment, it said, could not be denied arbitrarily nor could the selection list be cancelled without giving any proper justification.

“The courts are not powerless to issue appropriate directions, where the decision is found to be arbitrary. The examination of the applicants could not have been cancelled, particularly in violation of the basic Statute and that too based on those candidates who had failed in the earlier test,” it said.

While the court noted that “prima facie” the order impugned seemed to have been passed without proper application of mind, it said: “It is also apparent that the decision-making authority has not applied its mind and has not been alive to the material based on which the impugned action has been taken other than showering sympathy upon a few and this court will not hesitate in terming them as blue-eyed, at least, tentatively.”

“The power conferred upon the authority is held by that authority in trust and thus the power has to be exercised for legitimate purposes,” the court said. “The court is not powerless if it finds an action to be arbitrary, backed by favouritism or activated with colourable exercise of power.”

“Non-application of mind, as a facet of arbitrariness, need for a reason to dispel, the sufficiency of material has all along been the subject matter before the constitutional courts,” the court said, citing a Supreme Court judgment.

Observing that a case for indulgence was made out, the court accordingly, ordered that the PSC would allow the applicants to appear provisionally in the J&K Combined Competitive Examination 2023 to be conducted in pursuance to Advertisement Notification No 12 PSC (DR-P) of 2023 dated April 13, 2023.

While the court made it clear that the applicants shall be allowed to appear in the mains strictly at their own risk and responsibility, it said: “Mere appearance of the applicants in the examination shall not confer any preferential right upon them to claim for their appointment.”

“It is also directed that the result of the applicants shall not be declared unless otherwise directed by the court,” the court said. “This order shall, however, be subject to the outcome of the main OA,” the court said and listed the matter for consideration on April 15, 2024.”

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