Read Order: Pawan Bishnoi and another v. State of Punjab and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, June 21, 2022:The Punjab and Haryana High Court has dismissed a Letters Patent Appeal filed by two appellant-petitioners challenging the revised category wise merit list issued by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) against the posts of Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) were advertised in 2013.

The Division Bench of Justices G S Sandhawalia and Vikas Suri, in agreement with the Single Judge Bench decision, observed that the litigation governing the ADA exam has been going on since 2013, and that the revised results issued by PPSC (based on which the impugned category-wise list was prepared) was a result of recommendations of the expert committee constituted to address objections to the questions and answer key which was released earlier. 

Primarily, in this case the petitioners participated in the selection process on the posts of Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) were advertised in 2013 by PPSC (second respondent). They made it to the list of 242 candidates and were called for an interview. 

In the meanwhile, some candidates challenged the written result alleging infirmities/ambiguities not only in the question paper but also in the answer keys released by the PPSC. This writ petition was disposed of with a direction to the PPSC to invite objections to any questions or the answer key. Consequently, objections were submitted (the first petitioner also made a detailed representation). 

Also, in the meanwhile another writ was filed, which resulted in the passing of directions requiring issuance of a revised merit list in view of the objections so raised. 

In compliance to the aforesaid directions and in view of the revised answer key, the names of 62 candidates were further shortlisted for interview. Thereafter, the PPSC notified category-wise merit list of 286 candidates for 80 posts of ADAs, a challenge to which was raised by the writ petitioners.

Initially, the first petitioner alone filed the writ petition, however later the sixtieth respondent was transposed as the second petitioner. 

The Single Judge Bench, taking note of the fact that selection of ADAs in question was under litigation since 2013 and the Writ Court had already directed PPSC to declare the revised result, concluded that the facts of the case were squarely covered by the settled principles of law and as such, dismissed the writ petition.

Thereafter, an application seeking review of the judgment was filed, but the same was also dismissed as no ground for seeking review was made out.

Hence, the present intra-court appeal was filed l. The petitioners raised challenge to the revised category wise merit list alleging irregularities in the question paper as well as the revised answer key, claiming that it affected their inter se merit the rest of the candidates (respondents). 

They further sought directions to the official respondents to consider the writ petitioners for selection and appoint them to the aforesaid posts on the basis of to be revised correct answer key as well as to re-cast final merit list.

It was the case of the petitioners’ counsel that the Single Judge Bench vide an interim order appointed an amicus to help the Court with questions with respect to which the Court harboured doubts. Thus, the Counsel argued that when the Writ Court itself harboured doubt about those questions, then it should have exercised jurisdiction in favour of the writ petitioners. It was also submitted that the questions under reference pertain to Law and the High Court would be better equipped to evaluate the correctness of the answer.

On the contrary, the State Counsel argued that there were no vacancies under the General category as all vacancies stood consumed. Much stress was put forth on the contention that the Constitutional Courts must exercise restraint in such matters and should not assume the role of ‘Subject Experts’, as such it should be left to the wisdom of ‘Expert Bodies’. 

It was also submitted that pursuant to the directions of the Writ Court, objections to the answer keys/questions were invited and an expert committee resolved the objections, and only then a revised merit list was issued. 

After considering these rival submissions, the Court, in order to address the question of whether it is permissible for the Court to take the task of examiner/Selection Board upon itself and examine the discrepancies and inconsistencies in the question papers and evaluation thereof (as was addressed by the Apex Court), observed that the Supreme Court has held it is a settled legal position that the Court cannot take upon itself the task of a statutory authority.

Coming to the present case, the Court opined that pursuant to the notice issued by PPSC inviting objections to the questions or the answer keys in compliance to the directions given by the Writ Court, the questions and answer key were re-examined by the Expert Committee; and as per settled law, in such circumstances, challenge to the view of the same expert body was liable to declined.

Further, the Court also observed that a perusal of the prayer of the writ petitioner would reveal that the petitioners did not challenge the final revised result, rather the revised merit which was drawn in accordance  with the final revised result was challenged.

Thus, the Court opined that in the absence of challenge to the result, the writ petitioners could not have succeeded. 

In view of the above discussion, we are of the considered opinion that the judgment and order passed by learned Single Judge does not suffer from any infirmity and thus, deserves to be upheld“, the Court held while dismissing the Letters Patent Appeal.

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