Delhi High Court: Summary Adjudication not possible for questions of Forgery, Fraud and Tampering
In a recent matter, the Delhi High Court has ruled that questions of forgery, fraud and tampering require elaborate evidence, and are thus not capable of summary adjudication under Article 226 of the Constitution (Gaurav Jaiswal v. Union of India). The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Prateek Jalan.
The case pertains to the final scoresheet of the JEE (Main) examination published by the NTA in September 2020 wrongly reflected the percentile in which he was placed in the January 2020 examination. It was alleged that his percentile was 98.8105888. However, after the second edition of JEE Mains in September 2020, the same had been reduced to 51.8105888 in the combined scoresheet, the petitioner asserted. Annexing a print-out of his scoresheet from January 2020, the petition was claimed.
Herein, the petitioner before the Court was an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) aspirant who appeared in the Joint Entrance Examinations [JEE] (Mains) conducted by the National Testing Agency [NTA] in January 2020 and September 2020.
The petition was opposed by the other party, i.e. NTA on the ground that the scoresheet shown in the petition annexure was a forged one. A copy of the scoresheet was also filed by the NTA to show that the petitioner was in fact placed in percentile 51.8105888. The same was supported by the National Informatics Centre also.
The agency further argued that had the petitioner been placed in percentile 98.8105888 in the January 2020 session, he would have been assured of his eligibility for the JEE (Advance) examination, and thus was very unlikely to have tried his luck in the September 2020 round of the JEE (Main).
Furthermore, the petitioner also asserted in the rejoinder affidavit, regarding a discrepancy between his OMR responses of the September 2020 session as downloaded by him, and the copies placed on record by the NTA. As alleged by the petitioner, this showed tampering of his result by NTA.
The Hon’ble Court, however, rejected this allegation, calling it a red herring. It noted that the September 2020 session was not the subject matter of the present writ petition at all, and that there was no challenge to the September 2020 result declared by NTA.
The Court further added, that
“The grievances of the petitioner regarding the OMR sheets of the September 2020 examination are not relevant to the determination of the present petition.”
Considering that the petitioner had not downloaded the January OMR sheet, the Court observed that it was now impossible for the petitioner to state that the NTA's stand was incorrect.
With respect to the scoresheet attached by the petitioner in the paperbook, which NTA characterised as false and fabricated, the Court stated,
"I am of the view that this is a matter entirely dependent on an adjudication of disputed questions of fact and unsuitable for determination in writ proceedings."
The petitioner relied on the Supreme Court judgment in Popatrao Vyankatrao Patil v. State of Maharashtra & Ors to contend that the existence of disputed questions of fact did not entirely preclude the jurisdiction of the writ court.
The Court, however, remarked,
"Just because something can be done in an appropriate case does not mean it must be done in every case – there are cases where the factual disputes raised may be appropriate for adjudication under Article 226, but that is an exceptional position and not the general rule. This is clear enough from the opening sentence of paragraph 11 of Popatrao..."
Concluding that the present case did not fall within the exception carved out by the Supreme Court in Popatrao, the Court observed,
"...the NTA has certainly raised a credible doubt as to the genuineness of the scoresheet at page 23 of the writ petition. The technical agency responsible, the NIC, has looked into the matter and supported its stand. The NTA cannot be said, in these circumstances, to have acted unreasonably or arbitrarily. The questions of forgery, fraud and tampering raised in present case would require elaborate evidence, and are not capable of summary adjudication under Article 226 of the Constitution."
The petition was accordingly dismissed with liberty to the petitioner to take such other remedy as may be available to him in law.