Courts must exercise restraint when expert opinion challenged

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The Supreme Court recently observed that judges are not and cannot be experts in all fields, and therefore must exercise great restraint and not overstep their jurisdiction to interfere with the opinion of experts.

In UPPSC through its chairman v Rahul Singh, the Supreme Court presided over petitions by candidates challenging the correctness of the key answers to preliminary examinations conducted by the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC) in 2017 for various posts in its provincial civil services. The petitioners contended that some of the key answers in the examination were incorrect or that some of the questions had more than one right answer. Allahabad High Court directed for that the answer sheets of the preliminary examination for upper-subordinate services in Uttar Pradesh be re-evaluated and disagreed with the view of the UPPSC. The court accepted the submission of the petitioners that the answers given in the key were incorrect.

The UPPSC challenged the judgment of the high court on the ground that the court should not have overruled its view, which was based on the report of two committees of experts.

The Supreme Court held that constitutional courts must exercise great restraint in academic matters and should be reluctant to entertain a plea challenging the correctness of the key answers. The court observed that in the facts of the case, even before publishing the first list of key answers, the UPPSC had obtained key answers moderated by two expert committees. Under such circumstances, it can be presumed that these committees consisted of experts in various subjects for which the examinees were tested. Unless it can be demonstrated that the key answers are patently wrong, the courts cannot enter into the academic field, weigh the pros and cons of the arguments given by both sides and then come to the conclusion as to which of the answers are better or more correct.

The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected] Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.