ITANAGAR: The Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission has been directed to conduct a fresh examination within two months to put to rest the controversy surrounding the examinations.

The APPSC has been marred by controversy for close to two years now after anomalies in the general studies question paper, back in November 2017. From the resulting outrage and protests by aspiring candidates, the examination was scheduled again for July last year, with the state government even suspending mobile data services across the state.

But even the fresh examination was not free from controversy, with a section of candidates who had opted for commerce as their optional subject claiming that 64 of the 125 questions were “not from the prescribed syllabus”.

Writ petitions and counter-complaints were heard in the Itanagar bench of the Gauhati High Court, and the APPSC seemed determined to conduct the main examination (the mains) in November 2018 as ordered by the court, but it was told to withhold declaring the results.

That day - November 10 - witnessed unprecedented protests in the state capital as aspirants and job seekers fought off battering by the police and dodged water cannons. The use of what many saw as excessive force failed to dent the aspirations of some candidates, who began a relay hunger strike in Itanagar.

Around this time the High Court directed Rajiv Gandhi University vice-chancellor Saket Kushwaha to constitute a five-member expert committee to look into the alleged anomalies and to submit a report within 45 days.

Several pleas were made by the candidates, including the awarding of compensatory marks for all the controversial questions, or for the examination in Commerce to be held again, or that they be allowed to appear in the main examination.

Now an order by the High Court has directed the APPSC to conduct the examination once more, in eight weeks’ time.

“The Commission shall now conduct a fresh preliminary examination by strictly following the Rules, guidelines, syllabus etc. within a period of eight (8) weeks from today,” the order said.

The court decided its judgement on four separate writ petitions filed by candidates alleging anomalies and irregularities in the prelims and the mains.

While there was a plea for the mains to be conducted again, Justice Nelson Sailo’s order said that would not be the best option.

“…considering the fact that the Mains have already been conducted on 10.11.2018, such a recourse does not appear to be the best option. Rather, I am of the considered opinion that it will only be fair to all the stakeholders if the Prelims is conducted afresh with due care and caution and in conformity to the laid down norms and rules in this regard,” the order said.

The judge further said that “from the manner in which the various anomalies have been detected, coupled with the fact that the Commission itself has accepted the same though claiming to have addressed it at the same time, I find that the grievances put forth by the petitioners to be legitimate and with substance”.