1. The petitioner, youngster, who has a brilliant academic career, with the aspiration to take the Hippocratic oath, sat for the Entrance Examination conducted by the State through a Selection Board for admission to the M.B.B.S. Course, 1982.
2. For the purpose of the test, certain objective type questions are set, The system is different from the one, one gels accustomed to, in course of the traditional form of examination and tests conducted in the schools and colleges. Each question indicates a few probable answers, one of which is the exact correct answer, the others may be incorrect or not so very exact. The question indicates a box or a few boxes. The question is answered by putting the appropriate mark corresponding to the answer selected by the candidate. With a view to eliminating bluffs, instructions indicate that a wrong answer would entail one minus point. The candidates are further instructed that where he or she does not know the answer, that is to say, if the question is left unanswered, the box should not be left blank, but should be scored through by putting a cross in it. Failure to put a cross where the question is not answered would also entail a minus mark.
3. The petitioner took the examination held on 30-9-82 at the S.C.B. Medical College Centre. There were hundred questions with answers suggested. The duration of the examination was one hour and the questions carried 200 marks. So, for a correct answer a candidate was entitled to two marks and for a wrong answer liability for deduction of one mark was incurred. So also if a blank was left without a cross mark where the question was not answered. The petitioner has contended that the room was crowded. She felt dizzy due to suffocation and after answering such questions which she could, she handed over the answer paper to the invigilator. By then the allotted time was not up. According to her there were fifteen minutes still to go. As soon as she had handed over the answer paper and was about to leave the Centre, she recollected that the blanks in respect of questions which she had not answered, had not been scored through by putting cross over each. She immediately approached the invigilator to permit her to score through the blanks left by her inadvertently. According to the petitioner, the invigilator hesitated lest she might answer a few more questions. But the petitioner pleaded that she would only score through the blanks in his presence by putting a cross over each and would not add anything else to her answer paper. The Invigilator, however, did not accede to the plea and she was advised to represent her case to the Board.
4. The petitioner forthwith wrote out an appeal to the Board stating the circumstances. The document is a contemporaneous one. The Invigilator has also helped for an ascertainment of the correct position by making his comments thereon. Hence there is no scope for any dispute as to what happened.
5. In the petition, a copy whereof has been filed as Annexure-2, the petitioner has stated that after she handed over the answer paper and was on the varendah just after crossing the doorstep, she 'immediately remembered that I have not crossed out the blanks'. The time was not up and she went to the Chief Invigilator asking him to permit her 'to cross out the blanks in his presence'.
6. On this application, the Chief Invigilator made the following endorsement :--
'Forwarded for necessary action. She submitted the answer-sheet about fifteen minutes earlier than the stipulated time (12 A.M.), and went out of the examination hall and then immediately returned and asked for her answer-sheet to cross the blanks left over the answer-sheet in my presence. The examination was still not yet over.
However I expressed my inability to allow her to do so as per the procedure since she had left the hall after submitting the answer-sheet.' (Underlining mine)
7. It seems to us that the petitioner has narrated the circumstances truly. Immediately after she handed over this answer paper, she wanted to score through the blanks and not to furnish answer to any question she had not answered.
8. An Impedes from the inner self--the guardian angel--alerted her to the sudden turn of fate that was about to overtake her. It prompted her to rectify the slip inadvertently made before her career was brighted. And she responded.
9. Others were still engaged in answering. She has asserted that in other halls where the examination was going on, candidates had been verbally instructed to score through blanks as per instruction. Even after the incident relating to her, the candidates in the hall where she was taking the examination were forthwith alerted. These assertions made in paragraphs 14 and 15 of the writ application stand uncontroverted.
10. We do not intend to lay down a rule or precedent that a candidate has the option to take back his/her answer paper after submitting the same to the Invigilator if the stipulated time is not over. Each case has its own personality and involves a human problem. The approach must not be rigid and iron-handed. Cases differ as facts differ. In this case, the petitioner had not left the Centre. May be there was a few seconds' gap between her handing over the answer paper and her beseeching the Invigilator to permit her to score through the blanks according to the instructions Scoring through the blanks was not answering the question. We do not lay down the law that a candidate has the option to ask for the return of the answer paper in all circumstances if the time was not up; but the special circumstances of this case make all the difference. And we think, the youngster should advance unimpeded on the path of realisation of her aspirations and that way alone justice would be done.
11. At our request, the learned Government Advocate produced before us on 18-11-82 the answer paper submitted by the petitioner. That day we had noted that she had left sixteen blanks and had been awarded 142 marks for the correct answers and 29 marks therefrom had been deducted. So, she had been given the credit for 113 marks. The tabulation of marks has not been correctly done. Against the blank answers the word 'nil' has been written, that is not correct. Deduction of 29 marks has been on account of the wrong answers and the answers left blank. The petitioner had given wrong answers to 13 questions and had left 16 blanks. As we have held in the peculiar facts of the case, if she would have been permitted to score out the blanks, she was entitled to the credit of 16 marks more. Thereby she would have secured 129 marks and we so declare. By our order dated 21-10-82, we had directed that one seat might be kept vacant to accommodate the petitioner in case she succeeds in this writ application, We direct the opposite parties to act on the basis of the declaration given herein.
12. In the result, the writ application is allowed. Let a writ of Mandamus issue to the opposite parties containing the direction given above. In the circumstances, we make no order as to costs.
J.K. Mohanty, J.