Expert committee to review new exam pattern
UPSC’s love for English gets a rap from Delhi High Court
Court direction on a PIL filed by Shri Dinanath Batra
The Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) new exam pattern displaying love for English and discrimination against Hindi speaking students received a rap from Delhi High Court on June 3 when the Court directed to set up an expert committee to review the new exam pattern within three months. The court directed the constitution of the committee while disposing off a PIL filed against the pattern, which adversely affect the Hindi medium students by making English a compulsory language.
The petitioner prior to filing the petition had made representations but the same were not dealt appropriately. Rather the Union of India did not even choose to file a reply to the writ petition.
The present PIL was filed by Shri Dinanath Batra of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti through his counsels Shri Jagdeep Dhankar and Smt Monika Arora alleging that in new pattern, adopted by UPSC in 2011, the test of English Language Comprehension Skills worth 22.5 marks adversely affects the Hindi and other regional language speaking candidates taking the said exam.
The petitioner contended that the compulsion to secure 22.5 marks in English language has affected the results negatively by around 5 to 10 per cent. Taking note of this fact, Justice Shri Rajiv Sahai Endlaw disposed off the petition by directing the Central Government to constitute an appropriate committee/body, within three months, if not already in place, for examination of the questions raised by the petitioners. “In consultation with the UPSC, the Central Government should, within nine months, take a decision on the nature of the test of knowledge of English language in the Civil Services Examination i.e. whether it is to be only qualifying or competitive or mixture of both,” the order said.
On the argument that English is a mandatory language till Class X in all schools, the petitioner countered it saying that most Government schools teach English from Class V onwards which doesn’t put them at par with schools where English is compulsory.
The new pattern implemented from 2011 deprives the candidates from rural and semi-urban backgrounds from getting a fair chance and level playing field in the examination. The Counsels for the petitioner argued that the penalty for wrong answer applies to the comprehension skill section of the paper also. They said owing to the penalty for wrong answers the impact of the English Language Comprehension Skills section, though of 22.5 marks, can be as many as 30 marks and which are vital in this day of competition. English thus becomes the only language, comparative knowledge whereof determines the position/ rank in the result of the examination. Earlier, the test of English language was only a qualifying and not a competitive one and in the main examination English is still only a qualifying subject. In the government schools English is taught only from 5th Class, thus the aspirants from Government schools will not have that proficiency in English language; and the rule of non-interference in policy matters does not apply if the policy is unconstitutional.
The petitioner challenged the inclusion of English Language Comprehension Skills test in one of the two papers in the PE/CSAT on the grounds that the Presidential Order issued on April 27, 1960 issued in accordance with various reports provided that local offices of the Central Government departments should use Hindi for their internal working and the respective regional languages in their public dealings and the Union Government would be justified in prescribing a reasonable measure of knowledge of Hindi language as a qualification for entering into their services. The order had said that though English may continue as the medium of instruction for training establishments such as the National Defence Academy but suitable steps may be taken to introduce Hindi as the medium for all or some of the purposes of instruction, and that Hindi and English should be the media of examination for entrance to training establishments with the option to candidates to select either with reference to all or any of the papers.
Also, in the year 1968 both Houses of Parliament (vide Resolution dated January 18, 1968) agreed that a more intensive and comprehensive programme shall be prepared and implemented by the Government of India for accelerating the spread and development of Hindi and its progressive use for the various official purposes of the Union and for compulsory knowledge of either Hindi or English at the stage of selection of candidates for recruitment to Union Services or posts except in respect of any special services for which a high standard of knowledge of English alone or Hindi alone may be considered essential and that all the languages included in the 8th Schedule to the Constitution and English shall be permitted as alternative media for All India and higher Central Services Examination.
Though the Central Government provides coaching for Civil Services Examination to the candidates belonging to certain sections of the society but the Institutes imparting the said coaching or their students were also not consulted before the impugned change in PE. The compulsory test in English Language Comprehension Skills of 22.5 marks is violative of Articles 14, 16 (1), 343 & 351 of the Constitution.
Every year more than 4 lakh candidates appear in Preliminary Examination of Civil Services out of which approximately 12000 are selected for the main examination. Any student who is weak in English language will automatically lose in the aforesaid paper comprising of 22.5 marks. Year by year the number of students writing the main examination in Hindi language is increasing. A candidate not having good command over English language will not understand the passage (for comprehension) and will not be able to answer the questions properly which would result in his/her rejection at the PE/CSAT stage only; In this age of cut-throat competition, even a single mark can make a huge difference and can eliminate a candidate. Therefore, nine questions on English Language Comprehension Skills worth 22.5 marks are uncalled for and would eliminate the students not much familiar with English language.
Talking to Organiser petitioner Shri Dinanath Batra said the incomplete court order has added to suspense among the students who would appear in the UPSC exams next year. “It would have been better if the candidates who have already appeared in the exams this year and also those who will appear next year would have got some relief. The court should not have postponed the matter without giving any clear cut direction, as the suspense would disturb the preparations for next year’s exams,” Shri Batra said.
He said the court however admitted that the UPSC decision is violation of the Constitution and also it discriminates against the Hindi speaking students, but gave no clear cut direction. The case was against the Government of India. But no representative of the Government appeared in the court to plead the case. The final decision in the case has to be taken by the Government of India only. But it did not think it necessary to plead the case in the court. That is why the court directed the Government to constitute a committee and look into the matter. The court has not directed the UPSC to take any decision. The court has directed the proposed committee to consider the objections raised by us and also the court’s deliberations, he said.