IMPHAL, June 9: In a landmark judgement, the High Court of Manipur directed the Manipur Public Service Commission to re-fix the qualifying mark in the General English paper for the Manipur Civil Services combined competitive examination 2010 by treating it to be the “pass mark” keeping into consideration the intent and purpose of the rules and the norms followed all over the country for such civil service competitive examinations including the UPSC.
It is learnt that the common judgement and order was passed on March, 24 last and the High Court of Manipur had granted five weeks time to the MPSC and the State government from the date of the order to comply with the directions.
However, it is learnt that the MPSC has already filed Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s order.
The court has also directed the MPSC to re-fix the said qualifying mark in respect of candidates belonging to the physically disabled persons.
The court has further directed upon such re-fixation of the qualifying mark in general English paper. Necessary recommendations are to be made to the state Government if the petitioners are found to have scored marks higher than any of the private respondents, and for this, the state Government has been directed to create supernumerary posts for affording their appointments with retrospective effect.
The verdict came in response to the writ petitions filed by two unsuccessful candidates namely Hanjabam Boby Sharma son of H Kunjakishor Sharma of Brahmapur Thangapat Mapal (an OBC candidate who scored 45 percent in the general English paper) and Tongbram Shyamkumar Singh son of T Dhananjoy Singh of Utlou Makha Leikai, Nambol (a visually impaired candidate who scored 41.5 percent in the general English paper).
Allowing the writ petitions WP (C) No.31 of 2013 and WP(C) No. 150 of 2013, Justice N Kotiswar Singh has held that the fixation of 50 percent as qualifying mark in general English paper by the MPSC is found to be unreasonably high, manifestly arbitrary and hence illegal.
The court has observed that the purpose of invoking the qualifying mark in general English that the other subjects in the mains examination would be evaluated and no otherwise.
The paper on general English is of qualifying nature and matriculation standard. Therefore, the nature of the qualifying mark as contemplated for general state and at the mains stage in respect of the remaining papers for the purpose of calling for the interview, the court observed.
The court observed that the purpose of determining the qualifying mark in general English paper is not to select the best candidates but for the limited purpose of determining the minimum standard required of a candidate to be able to discharge the public functions and duties efficiently as required of a public servant.
The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and to express his ideas clearly and correctly in English language. That’s the reason the marks obtained in English has not been counted towards ranking, the court observed.
The qualifying mark as mentioned under the rules has to be read as “passing mark”. It need not vary from examination and will be of a determinate nature as its purpose is only to test the basic in English, the court asserted.
Giving strong observation, the Court opined that the result of the said examination would be vitiated and rendered illegal.
Consequently, the appointments made on the basis of the result of the said examination cannot be held valid.
However, inspite of making such observation, the court has refrained from declaring all the appointments invalid as it will consequently result in administrative disruption and chaos and therefore, the court has held that the recommendation and selection made by the MPSC by acting upon the said qualifying mark need to be disturbed in public interest.
Noting that the UPSC and other states public service commissions have fixed the qualifying mark in English between 20 percent-40 percent, the Court questioned the rationale behind the MPSC which has fixed 50 percent.
As per the records available, it is only the MPSC in the entire country which has fixed 50 percent as qualifying mark in English. The MPSC has also failed to satisfactorily explain as to how they have fixed such a high mark of 50 percent for stating that it was so fixed in previous examination of 2006.
Apart from this precedence, there is nothing on record either in the affidavit in opposition filed by the MPSC or by way of producing relevant records to show that the MPSC had given due consideration to various factors including the practice or norm prevailing in other States or even in UPSC while fixing the qualifying mark.
This is in contrast to the subsequent affidavit filed by the MPSC on January 20, 2014 in which it was stated that MPSC has consulted the UPSC and after taking into consideration the various factors including the practice or norm prevailing in other State public service commissions, the relevant factors and present situation, changed the qualifying mark of general English to 40 percent for general, 38 for OBC, 35 percent for ST&SC and 30 percent for disabled candidates.
The court has also relied on the decisions of two cases by the Supreme Court including the Arunachal Pradesh Service Commission versus Tabe Habung (2013) 7 SCC 77, in which the Supreme Court had held that fixing the cut off mark as 40 percent in English as qualifying mark was unreasonable and unjustified.
The other case was between Sanchit Bansal and Joint Admission board (2012) 1 SCC 157, in which the Supreme Court has held that where the procedure adopted is arbitrary and capricious, the Court can interfere in the academic & policy matters.
The counsel of the MPSC contended that an unsuccessful candidate cannot challenge the recruitment process after participating in the same.
The Court also rejected this contention on the ground that the qualifying mark of 50 percent was not made known to the candidates beforehand and hence, the petitioners were entitled to question the validity of the fixation of the qualifying mark.
Senior advocate Ibotombi Namoijam appeared for the petitioner and advocate L Shyamkishore Singh appeared for the MPSC.
It may be noted that the petitioner Hanjabam Bobby Sharma stood fourth position in the overall written test of the said examination but he was deliberately denied interview call on the pretext that he did not qualify in the general English paper.