Delhi HC asks UPSC to submit objections on plea for prelims answer key

The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Union Public Service Commission to file its preliminary objections to a petition by a group of civil services aspirants seeking answer key to this year’s prelims examination.

Naresh Kaushik, the UPSC counsel, told Justice Chandra Dhari Singh that the petition by 17 aspirants was not maintainable before the high court and the petitioners should approach the administrative tribunal for any relief.

The court, while listing the case for further hearing on July 26, noted that at this stage, the petitioners were not pressing their prayers to quash the UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination, 2023, and for re-conducting the preliminary test and general studies paper 1 and 2.

The counsel for the petitioners assailed a June press note issued by the UPSC which said the answer key would be declared only after the declaration of final result.

This, the petitioners have argued, was in violation of principles of natural justice.

Their counsel said that certain aspirants have already approached the Central Administrative Tribunal against the selection process.

UPSC lawyer Naresh Kaushik said the law does not permit the high court to adjudicate disputes pertaining to the process of civil services recruitment and the press note was also a part of that process.

“Let him (UPSC lawyer) file preliminary objections. I am only on the press note,” Justice Singh said.

The petition, filed through advocate Rajeev Kumar Dubey, has said the petitioners were aggrieved by the “arbitrariness” of the commission in the entire recruitment cycle.

“Not providing to the students the answer key of an exam they have appeared for, not considering the representations of the candidates despite a particular time window being provided for the same, and asking questions, which are disproportionately vague, testing candidates’ ability to answer only on the basis of guesswork, is not only arbitrary but defies all principles of fairness, logic and rationality,” it has said.

The petition has said when a competitive exam is conducted, the answer key to the multiple choice questions is prepared in advance so it can be released right after paper has ended, thus giving candidates a fair idea of their performance.

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However, the June 12 press note mentioned that “candidates are also informed that marks, cut off marks and answer keys of CS(P) Examination, 2023 will be uploaded on the Commission’s website i.e. only after the entire process of the Civil Services Examination 2023 is over, that is, after the declaration of final result”.

The petition has said almost all state Public Service Commissions and other authorities like the High Court of Delhi in respect of Delhi Judicial Service Examination, IITs, NLUs and IIMs release the provisional answer key within a week of the conduct of an examination and invite objections from the candidates.

They then release the final answer key by modifying their provisional answer key based on the objections, it added.

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