Q: The Jharkhand High Court advertised for the posts of personal assistants and stenograp- hers for the high court and district courts and cond- ucted a written examination in February 2007. About 1,500 candidates took the exam but only 620 qualified for the next skill test which was held in July. There were, however, many bloomers in the paper. Moreover, the woman who gave us dictation was incompetent and kept faltering.
Before the results were published, another skill test was held in September for some other candidates who had not passed the written test. This second skill test was more or less identical to the earlier one except that the mistakes in the paper had been rectified.
We came to learn that the passage for dictation was the same though this time it was dictated by a man. Upon learning of this test, some of the candidates who had taken the July test challenged the action of the authorities by filing a writ petition which is pending before the court. All of a sudden, the results were published on April 11, 2008. It was written that the selection would be subject to the result of the writ petition pending before the high court. Interestingly, most of the successful candidates were those who had not qualified in the written examination. I want to know whether they can legally keep the same cut-off marks for both the skill tests even though these were conducted on different dates by different persons.
Subhasis Chatterjee, Jamshedpur
A:Merely arguing that the skill tests were held at different places and by different persons would not be sufficient to vitiate the appointment of the second batch of skill test candidates.
In order to challenge the recruitment process you will either have to demonstrate that the rules of recruitment were not followed or that there was mala fide intention or fraud in the matter of selection. The courts may consider the validity of the rules themselves which must necessarily be in keeping with the constitutional principles of reasonableness (Article 14) or equality of opportunity (Article 16) and also natural justice.
In your case it appears that candidates who have failed the written exam have still been selected only on the basis of the skill test. Sometimes disputes take place over the weightage of marks allocated for each test. There is no hard and fast rule regarding the distribution of marks, but considering the inherent weaknesses of the interview process, the courts have observed that there should not be excess allocation of marks for the oral test since it is more prone to arbitrariness, subjectivity and even manipulation. The Supreme Court has in one case held that the percentage of marks reserved for the viva voce test at 25 per cent of the total marks was arbitrary and excessive.
Therefore, if the selected candidates have failed in their written tests, it is unlikely that they would have received sufficient marks in total to allow them score more than those who passed their written tests and, as such, their appointment is questionable. You have stated that some other candidates have already challenged this issue. Even the results published in April are expressly subject to the outcome of the writ petition. As such the proper step for you to take is to add as a party to the above writ and seek relief there.
Send your letters to
Inlaw at The Telegraph,
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street, Calcutta 700001;
or fax at 225 3142;
or send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.