Kanpur University & Ors Vs. Samir
Gupta & Ors  INSC 132 (27 September 1983)
CHANDRACHUD, Y.V. ((CJ) CHANDRACHUD, Y.V.
((CJ) PATHAK, R.S.
MUKHARJI, SABYASACHI (J)
CITATION: 1983 AIR 1230 1984 SCR (1) 73 1983
SCC (4) 309 1983 SCALE (2)477
Entrance Examinations to courses of
study-Multiple Choice Objective type Tests-Combined Pre-medical Test for
admission to medical colleges in U.P. Whether correctness of key-answers to
questions set in the examination open to challenge?
The appellant-University held the
"Combined Pre-Medical Test" for admission to the seven medical
colleges in U.P. during the year 1982. The pattern of examination adopted was
known as the "Multiple Choice Objective type" test according to which
a paper containing 100 questions with four alternative answers for each
question was set in each of the four subjects prescribed for the test and the
candidates were asked to tick the correct answer from out of the four
alternatives given. The marking of answer-book was done by a computer into
which had been fed the key-answers supplied by the paper-setters. When the
University published the key- answers along with the result of the test, the
respondents who had appeared in the test and whose names did not figure in the
list of successful candidates filed writ petitions contending that the
key-answers published by the University in regard to three questions were
wrong, that the answers ticked by them in regard to those three questions were
correct and that if their answer-books were reassessed correctly they would be
entitled to be entitled to the M.B.B.S. course. The High Court accepted their
contention and allowed the petitions.
Council for the University contended that no
challenge should be allowed to be made to the correctness of a key- answer
unless, on the face of it, it is wrong.
Dismissing the appeals,
HELD: Normally, the key-answer furnished by
the paper- setter and accepted by the University as correct, should not be
allowed to be challenged. The key-answer should be assumed to be correct unless
it is proved to be wrong and it should not be held to be wrong by an
inferential process of reasoning or by a process of rationalisation but must be
clearly demonstrated to be wrong, that is to say, it must be such as no reasonable
body of men well-versed in the particular subject would regard as correct. [81
D, H, 82 A- B] 74 In the instant case, the contention of the University is
falsified by a large number of acknowledged text-books, which are commonly read
by students in U.P. Those text books leave no room for doubt that the answers
given by the students are correct and the key-answers are incorrect.
Since the matter is beyond the realm of
doubt, it would be unfair to penalise the students for not giving an answer
which accords with the key-answer, that is to say, with an answer which is
demonstrated to be wrong. [82 B-D] The publication of the key-answer has
unravelled an unhappy state of affairs to which the University and the State
Government must find a solution. The State Government should compile under its
own auspices a text book which should be prescribed for student desirous of
appearing for the Combined Pre-medical Test. A system should be devised for
moderating the key-answers furnished by the paper- setters. If English
questions have to be translated into Hindi it is not enough to appoint an
expert in Hindi language as a translator. The translator must know the meaning
of the scientific terminology and the art of translation. In a system of
"Multiple Choice Objective-type Test" care must be taken to see that
questions having an ambiguous import are not set in the papers. Whenever the
attention of the University is drawn to any defect in a key- answer or any
ambiguity in a question set in the examination, prompt and timely decision must
be taken by the University to declare that the suspect question will be
excluded from the paper and no marks assigned to it. [81 F,82 E, G-H,83 A-B]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
Nos.4092- 4115 of 1983.
Appeals by Special leave from the Judgment
and Order dated the 24th February, 1983 of the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow
Bench) in Writ Petition Nos. 4773-74/82, 4827, 5024, 5216, 5314, 5716-5717,
5724,5816, 5817,5818, 5819, 5821, 6029, 6067, 6069, 6102,6103,6389, of 1982
& 9, 146,230, 277 of 1983.
AND Civil Appeal Nos. 4068 4091 of 1983.
Appeals by Special leave from the Judgment
and Order dated the 24th February, 1983 of the Allahabad High Court (Lucknow
Bench) in Civil Mis Writ Petition Nos. 4773,4827, 5024, 5216, 5314,5716,5717,5724,5816,5817,
5818, 5819, 5829, 6067, 6069, 6102, 6103, 6389 of 1982 and 9, 146,230, 277 of
In Civil Appeal No. 4092 - 4115 of 1983 S.N.
Kacker, Mrs. Shobha Dixit and Kulsherstha for the Appellants.
75 R.K. Garg, R.K. Jain, M. Nitin Mohan
Popli, Santosh Sethi and Ms. Sangeeta Agarwal for Respondents in CA. 4092 of
E.C. Aggarwala Mahavir Singh and K.K. Gupta
Robin Mitra, Anil Kumar Gupta, and Brij
Bhushan, for Respondents in CA. 4096 of 1983.
E.C. Agarwala, Vijay K. Pandita and R. Satish
In Civil Appeal Nos. 4068-91 of 1983:
Mrs. Shoba Dixit and Kapil Sibal for the
M.M. Kshatriya, E.C. Aggarwala, Robin Mitra,
K.K. Gupta, M.B. Lal, Anil Kumar Gupta and Brij Bhushan for the Respondents.
M.M. Kshatriya for Respondent No. 1.
Mohan Pandey for Respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered
CHANDRACHUD, C.J. These appeals raise a some what awkward question: If a
paper-setter commits an error while indicating the correct answer to a question
set by him, can the students who answer that question correctly be failed for
the reason that though their answer is correct, it does not accord with the
answer supplied by the paper-setter to the University as the correct answer? The
answer which the paper-setter supplies to the University as the correct answer
is called the 'key answer'. No one can accuse the teacher of not knowing the
correct answer to the question set by him But it seems that, occasionally, not
enough care is taken by the teachers to set questions which are free from
ambiguity and to supply key answers which are correct beyond reasonable
controversy. The keys supplied by the paper-setters in these cases raised more
questions than they solved.
The respondents in these Appeals applied for
admission to the Medical Colleges in the State of Uttar Pradesh. There are 7
Medical Colleges in the State of U.P., to which admission is granted on the
basis of the result of a 'Combined Pre-Medical Test' which is held 76 in
pursuance of the orders passed by the State Government under section 8 of the
U.P. State Universities Act, 1973.
The Government nominates one of the
Universities in the State for holding the Test every year. In the year 1982,
the Kanpur University, the appellant herein, was entrusted with the task of
holding the Test. By any standard, it is a stupendous task because 20,000
applications are received every year for admission to a total number of 779
seats in the 7 Medical Colleges, out of which 50% are reserved seats and the
remaining 50% are open. Physics, Chemistry, Zoology and Botany are the four
subjects which are prescribed for the Test. One paper is set for each subject
and the pattern of the examination is what is called the 'Multiple choice of
objective-type test'. For persons belonging to yester generations, this is a
newfangled concept. Hundred questions are set in each paper and four
alternative answers are indicated against each question. The candidates are
required to tick the correct answer from out of those four. If he ticks the
correct answer, he secures 3 marks and if a candidate ticks an incorrect
answer, he loses I mark. Each paper is of a duration of 3 hours.
So far so good. The snag lies in determining
which out of the four suggested answers is the correct answer. That duty is
naturally assigned to the paper-setter, who is required to supply to the
University the correct answer to each question, called the 'key answer'. The
difficulty involved in evaluating a very large number of answer-books is solved
by the State Government, quite successfully, by computerising the result. The
key answers are fed into a computer and the marking computerised.
The difficulty which arose in these cases is
not due to the failure of the computer, which is quite encouraging. The habit
of man is to blame the machine. The difficulty arose because the key answers
furnished by the paper-setters turned out to be wrong. The students got to know
the key answers out of the generosity of the University. If wanted, rightly, to
be frank and fair. Therefore, it published the key answers along with the
result of the test. Respondents, whose names did not figure in the list of
successful candidates, filed writ petitions in the High Court of Allahabad,
contending that the answers ticked by them were correct and the key answers
wrong. The High Court has accepted their contention and that is how the Kanpur
University has come to file these appeals. There cannot be a more telling
instance of 'Shishyat Ichhet Parajam' (Wish for defeat 77 from your pupil). But
the Gurus contend that the Shishyas are wrong and do not deserve to win.
There is no controversy over the questions
set in the Physics paper. The controversy arises in regard to three questions,
one each in the papers in Chemistry, Zoology and Botany. We will deal with
those three questions one by one, without making our own guess as to which is
the correct answer. Any way, we cannot indicate the true answer to these
appeals by merely ticking off one of the two options open to us, either to allow
or to dismiss the appeals. Ticking is the privilege of the new generation of
students. We have to give reasons in support of our answer.
Question No. 24 of the Chemistry paper reads
"24. The theory of Electrolytic
Dissociation was given by-
4. Ostwald." Each question in each paper
is set both in English and Hindi, not one below the other but, there are two
question papers for each subject, one of which is set in English and the other
in Hindi. We do not know which is the original version and which the
translation but it is common ground that one is the translation of the other.
The Hindi version of Question No. 24, as
transliterated, reads thus:
"Vidyut Apaghatan ka sidhant kis
Vegyanik ne diya tha?
4. Ostwald." 78 The contention of the
University, which accords with the key answer, is that the third alternative
furnishes the correct answer, namely, "Arrehenius', whether the question
is read in English or in Hindi. There is no dispute that option No. 3 is the
correct answer to the question set in English, that is to say, that the theory
of Electrolytic Dissociation was given by Arrehenius. The contention of the
students, who are apparently very clever, is that the correct answer to the
Hindi version of the question is 'Faraday', which is the first alternative.
Their argument is that the English Question No. 24 and Hindi Question No. 24 do
not carry the same sense and one is not the exact translation of the other.
According to these well-taught students, 'Electrolytic' means 'Vidyut
apaghatan', whereas 'Electrolytic Dissociation means 'Vidyut apaghataniya
Viyojan', and in the Hindi version of the question, the word 'Dissociation'
does not find its equivalent.
With their born knowledge of Hindi, the
learned Judges of the Allahabad High Court have gone into the linguistic
niceties with some proficiency. Their judgment shows that in Medical Sciences
Glossary I, which is published by the Standing Commission for Scientific and
Technical Terminology, Ministry of Education, Government of India, the Hindi
equivalent of the word 'Electrolysis' is given as 'Vidyut apaghatana' and of
the word 'Dissociation' as 'Viyojan'. The High Court has quoted several
acknowledged text books in Hindi which show that though the law of
'Electrolysis' was first formulated by Faraday in 1834, the theory of
Electrolytic Dissociation' was evolved by Arrehenius 1887 which is known as
'Ionic-dissociation Theory'. Amongst the authorities quoted by the High Court
is a text-book prescribed for Intermediate classes by the 'Madhyamik Shiksha
Parishad, U.P.' The High Court has accepted the respondents' contention that
there is a 'marked difference' in the English and Hindi version of question No.
The case of the respondents is that they
tick-marked the answer to Question No. 24 as it reads in Hindi and not as it
reads in English. Whether the respondents read the Hindi question paper or the
one in English is incapable of verification and there is no means of
contradicting that contention. They had the option to answer the question paper
as set in English or in Hindi. There is no reason to disbelieve them when they
say that they read the Hindi version. Hindi is the medium of instruction in
U.P., until a late 79 stage of scholastic education. Besides, the tick-mark,
being a symbol, reads the same in English and Hindi.
In support of its contention that the English
and Hindi versions of the question convey the same meaning, the University
produced the opinion of two experts, Prof. R.P. Singh of the Department of
Chemistry, Delhi University, and Dr. B.R. Agarwal, an ex-Vice-Chancellor. These
two gentlemen are undoubtedly well-versed in their speciality but the
controversy turns more on the knowledge of Hindi than of chemistry. Dr. Agarwal
has himself stated in his opinion that: "Even now the Hindi terminology is
not so well defined as in English and the Hindi terminology for the same
English concepts differs from author to author". In any event, as stated
in the judgment of the High Court, the standard text- books which the students
consult, or are expected to consult, make a distinction between 'Vidyut
apaghatan' on the one hand and 'Vidyut apaghataniya viyojan' on the other.
We must, therefore, uphold the finding of the
High Court that the key answer to question No. 24 is correct in so far as the
English version is concerned but that, the correct answer to the Hindi version
of that question is the 1st option, namely, 'Faraday'.
Coming next to the Zoology paper, Question
No. 23 reads thus:
"23. Which one of the following was not
present in free form at the time life originated ?
4. Ammonia" Whereas the students assert
that the 2nd alternative, namely, 'Oxygen' furnishes the correct answer to the
question, the key answer shows that the correct answer is 'Ammonia . Here
again, as pointed out by the High Court, the standard text-books shows that
'Oxygen' was not present in free form at the time when life originated. The
famous book on Biology by Claude A. Villas, while dealing with the subject 'The
Origin of Life', says: "Most authorities now agree that the earth was very
hot and molten when it was first formed and 80 that conditions consistent with
life appeared on the earth only perhaps three billion years ago". Two
authors of international repute, Tracy I. Starer and Rober L. Usinger, say in
their book "General Zoology' that "At some time more than a billion
years ago temperature and moisture conditions became suitable for life. There
was no free oxygen, but the atmosphere contained methane, ammonia, hydrogen and
water vapor". Two Indian authors, Dr. Ramesh Gupta and Virbala Rastogi,
have expressed the same view in their respective books 'Aadhunik Jantu Vigyan'
and 'Madhyamik Jantu Vigyan'.
The University produced the opinion of Shri
H. S. Vishnoi of the Department of Zoology, University of Delhi.
We agree with the High Court that though Shri
Vishnoi is a knowledgeable person in his speciality, he was evidently under
some confusion while giving his opinion. Profundity sometimes creates
confusion. In the very opening sentence of his opinion, Shri Vishnoi says:
"The point is about free ammonia". That is not the point. The
question which the students were asked to answer was not "about free
ammonia" but which of the four alternatives was not present in free form
when life originated. Shri Vishnoi has also not given specific citations from
the two books to which he has referred in support of his opinion. We therefore
agree with the conclusion of the High Court that the answer to question No. 23
in the Zoology paper is 'oxygen' as contended for by the respondents and not
'Ammonia' as stated in the key answer.
Question No. 66 in the Botany paper has an
interesting story of its own. That question reads as follows:
"66. The net gain of A.T.P. Molecules in
Glycolysis is (1) O (2) 2 (3) 4 (4) 8" Whereas the students contended that
the 2nd alternative furnishes the correct answer, the key answer which was fed
to the computer 81 was alternative No. 4. Here also, the various text-books
cited by the students tend to show that the key answer fed into the computer
was not the correct answer. The High Court has copiously referred to the
standard text-books on the subject. We need not do so since, the more
interesting part of this controversy is the expert opinion of Shri Arya Bhushan
Gupta which was filed by the University in the High Court. According to that
opinion, the correct answer to Question No. 66 is neither the 2nd option nor
the 4th but the 3rd. In other words, according to Shri Gupta, the net gain of
A.T.P. molecules in Glycolysis is neither 2 as contended by the students, nor 8
as mentioned in the key answer but 4 which is nobody's case except the
Thus, the case of the University is
demolished by its own expert. In these circumstances, we cannot find fault with
the High Court for holding that the key answer is not the correct answer to
Question No. 66.
The findings of the High Court raise a
question of great importance to the student community. Normally, one would be
inclined to the view, especially if one has been a paper setter and an
examiner, that the key answer furnished by the paper setter and accepted by the
University as correct, should not be allowed to be challenged. One way of
achieving it is not to publish the key answer at all. If the University had not
published the key answer along with the result of the test, no controversy
would have arisen in this case. But that is not a correct way of looking at
these matters which involve the future of hundreds of students who are
aspirants for admission to professional courses. If the key answer were kept
secret in this case, the remedy would have been worse than the disease because,
so many students would have had to suffer the injustice in silence. The
publication of the key answer has unravelled an unhappy state of affairs to
which the University and the State Government must find a solution. Their sense
of fairness in publishing the key answer has given them an opportunity to have
a closer look at the system of examinations which they conduct. What has failed
is not the computer but the human system.
Shri Kacker, who appears on behalf of the
University, contended that no challenge should be allowed to be made to the
correctness of a key answer unless, on the face of it, it is wrong. We agree
that the key-answer should be assumed to be correct unless it is proved to be
wrong and that it should not be held to be wrong 82 by an inferential process
of reasoning or by a process of rationalisation. It must be clearly
demonstrated to be wrong, that is to say, it must be such as no reasonable body
of men well-versed in the particular subject would regard as correct. The
contention of the University is falsified in this case by a large number of
acknowledged text-books, which are commonly read by students in U.P. Those
text-books leave no room for doubt that the answer given by the students is
correct and the key answer is incorrect.
Students who have passed their Intermediate
Board Examination are eligible to appear for the entrance Test for admission to
the Medical Colleges in U.P. Certain books are prescribed for the Intermediate
Board Examination and such knowledge of the subjects as the students have is
derived from what is contained in those text-books. Those text-books support
the case of the students fully. If this were a case of doubt, we would have
unquestionably preferred the key answer. But if the matter is beyond the realm
of doubt, it would be unfair to penalise the students for not giving an answer
which accords with the key answer, that is to say, with an answer which is
demonstrated to be wrong.
If the State Government wants to avoid a
recurrence of such lapses, it should compile under its own auspices a text-book
which should be prescribed for students desirous of appearing for the combined
Pre-Medical Test. Education has more than its fair share of politics, which is
the bane of our Universities. Numerous problems are bound to arise in the
compilation of such a text-book for, various applicants will come forward for
doing the job and forces and counter- forces will wage a battle on the question
as to who should be commissioned to do the work. If the State can succeed in
overcoming those difficulties, the argument will not be open to the students
that the answer contained in the text-book which is prescribed for the test is
not the correct answer.
Secondly, a system should be devised by the
State Government for moderating the key answers furnished by the paper setters.
Thirdly, if English questions have to be translated into Hindi, it is not
enough to appoint an expert in the Hindi language as a translator. The
translator must know the meaning of the scientific terminology and the art of
translation. Fourthly, in a system of 'Multiple Choice Objective-type test',
care must be taken to see that questions having an ambiguous import are not set
in the papers. That kind of system of examination involves merely the
tick-marking of the correct answer. It 83 leaves no scope for reasoning or
argument. The answer is 'yes' or 'no'. That is why the questions have to be
clear and unequivocal. Lastly, if the attention of the University is drawn to
any defect in a key answer or any ambiguity in a question set in the
examination, prompt and timely decision must be taken by the University to
declare that the suspect question will be excluded from the paper and no marks
assigned to it.
There was some argument before us as to the
nature of the relief which can be granted to the respondents. It was contended
by Smt. Dixit, who appears on behalf of the State of U.P., that six of the
respondents have been already admitted to the B.D.S. Course and, therefore,
they should not now be admitted to the M.B.B.S. course. We cannot accept this
submission since, those students sought admission to the Dental course only
because they were not admitted to the M.B.B.S. course. And they were denied
admission to the M.B.B.S. course wrongly.
Twenty-seven students in all were concerned
with these proceedings, out of whom 8 were admitted to the B.D.S. course, 3
were admitted to the M.B.B.S. course last year itself in place of the students
who dropped out and 5 have succeeded in getting admission this year. Omitting 8
of the respondents who have been already admitted to the M.B.B.S.
course, the remaining 19 shall have to be
given admission as directed by the High Court. If the key answer was not wrong
as it has turned out to be, they would have succeeded in getting admission. In
view of the findings of the High Court, the question naturally arose as to how
the marks were to be allotted to the respondents for the three questions
answered by them and which were wrongly assessed by the University. The High
Court has held that the respondents would be entitled to be given 3 marks for
each of the questions correctly ticked by them, and in addition they would be
entitled to 1 mark for those very questions, since 1 mark was deducted from
their total for each of the questions wrongly answered by them. Putting it
briefly, such of the respondents as are found to have attempted the three
questions or any of them would be entitled to an addition of 4 marks per
question. If the answer-books are reassessed in accordance with this formula,
the respondents would be entitled to be admitted to the M.B.B.S. course, about
which there is no dispute. Accordingly, we confirm the directions given by the
High Court in regard to the reassessment of the particular questions and the
admission of the respondents to the M.B.B.S. course.
84 There is one student, Miss Reeta Gupta,
whose grievance is that if she is given additional marks as directed by the
High Court, her place will go higher up in the merit list, as a consequence
whereof she would be eligible for admission to the Medical College situated in
her place of residence.
Smt. Dixit says that Miss Gupta should apply
to the Government in this behalf and the Government could consider her
application. We do not think that there is any justification for us to
interfere with the order passed by the High Court on this score also.
We understand that some petitions are pending
in the High Court on these very points. Those petitions will be disposed of by
the High Court in the light of this judgment, provided that the petitioners
therein make out a case for interference as the students in these appeals have
done. We however, direct that no fresh petitions should be entertained by the
High Court and, of course, none will be entertained by us hereafter on the
questions involved in these appeals arising out of the test which was held in
1982. The new academic session is due to commence within the next few days and
these questions cannot be allowed to be raised in a leisurely fashion so as to
disorganise the scheme of fresh admissions.
In the result, these appeals are dismissed
H.L.C. Appeals dismissed.