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May 18, 2019

Leakage of question papers cancerous to education and recruitment systems, observes SHC


May 18, 2019

The Sindh High Court on Friday observed that the menace of the leakage of question papers is cancerous to our education system and selection process, and if it is allowed to be rampant, merit and excellence in all fields would be seriously destroyed.

The observation came as the court dismissed a petition of a candidate against the cancellation/annulment of the first preliminary test conducted on April 7, 2019, by the testing service agency for the recruitment of additional district sessions judges (ADJs).

The petitioner, Saba, submitted that advertisement had been made for posts of ADJs for which she had also applied and appeared in the preliminary entry test. She submitted that the result of the preliminary test was discarded before the announcement of official results by the testing service agency. She questioned the non-announcement of official results, annulment of the preliminary test and calling upon the candidates, including the petitioner, to appear in the re-test. She said that she may be allowed to appear in the written test scheduled on May 18, 19, without going through the exercise of retest.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the cancellation of the earlier test amounted to infringement of the petitioner’s fundamental rights enshrined under Article 18 of the constitution.

The testing service agency submitted that questions were collected from different subject experts to create a question bank and after the successful conduct of the test, only an answer key was uploaded on the website. It was said that before the announcement of official results, it came to the knowledge that some next of kin/blood relatives of subject experts had also appeared in the preliminary test, but this fact was never disclosed by them at the time of handing over the questions for securing in the question bank.

The testing service agency representative submitted that there was no other option left but to cancel the entire process in order to avoid any conflict of interest and with an evenhanded aim of providing an equal opportunity to all candidates de novo.

The advocate general of Sindh argued that there was no violation of any rules or law and the petition was not maintainable keeping in view the bar contained under Article 199 (5) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He said that after the scrapping of the first preliminary test without the announcement of its official result, an opportunity was given to the petitioner to appear in the retest like other candidates but she failed to appear.

A division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed after hearing the arguments of the counsel that the decision taken for the retest was proportionate, well-balanced and harmonious and it did not stand to reason to interfere.

The court observed that allowing the petitioner at this stage to sit in the second written test without qualifying the retest would amount to sheer discrimination to those candidates who also sat in the preliminary test and after cancellation they appear in the retest without any demur, doubts or objections. The bench further observed that at least in the selection process of the High Court Establishment, all the best possible efforts should be made to avoid this disorder and upheaval in future.

It directed the Sukkur IBA Testing Service to maintain strict secrecy and confidentiality of test papers in future if engaged for a similar task and also structure a foolproof mechanism to ensure that the examiners/paper setters make disclosure of any conflict of interest beforehand (which is in fact had become cause of leakage of the paper in the ADJ selection process of this court). It said that if any next of kin/blood relative of any examiner/paper setter applied to join the selection process and sit in the preliminary test and the written test, then the question paper contributed by any such examiner/paper setter would be outright excluded from consideration. The court dismissed the petition in limine.

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