Court
The court passed the order on a 2013-petition filed by a student who had missed out on appearing for IIT-JEE Advanced due to negative marking scheme.

“Every one comes across a situation in life where decisions are taken purely out of intuition... The threat of negative marks will never allow intuition to grow in a student,” read a portion of Madras High Court’s order which held that negative marking scheme must be scrapped from competitive examinations.

The court delivered this order on Friday, on a 2013 petition filed by a student belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC) category who had missed out on qualifying for IIT-JEE Advanced due to the negative marking system.

The petitioner, S Nelson Prabhakar, had explained on how he lost his chance to pursue a course at IIT, and pleaded for scrutiny of the negative marking scheme followed in many competitive examinations. He further had submitted that he went on to study in a private college and earn an engineering degree. The counsel appearing for CBSE and JEE however stated that negative marking scheme, in a way, ensures that only diligent and deserving candidates get selected for admissions and hence cannot be faulted.

Justice R Mahadevan, who heard the arguments from all the parties to the case, observed that students who take the test must not be punished for wrong answers since it would discourage them.

“The multiple choice tests are meant to assess the knowledge and nothing else. It is not supposed to be concerned about behavioural/attitude related aspects of the examinee. It is also known that the students differ in their guessing behaviour. Some students dare to take more risks than others. The negative marking introduces concern about students’ risk taking attitude which is unrelated to skill or knowledge level of the student,” he noted.

The court then studied the competitive examinations conducted by the authorities in other countries and also by Christian Medical College, Vellore. “Thus, when the most developed countries do not follow the system of negative marking, this Court is unable to fathom as to why the method of negative marking is followed by the CBSE,” it stated.

Drawing lines between intelligent guessing and wild guessing, the court explained that a student, in his life, might come across many situations which might need intelligent guessing. The court also stated that the negative marking method adopted by the testing authorities will cripple the students from making a calculated guess in their life and restrict their risk aptitude. “By awarding negative marks, the intuition of a student is crippled. Every one comes across a situation in life where decisions are taken purely out of intuition. It may work or may not, but, an element of boldness comes along, while making a decision through intuition. The threat of negative marks will never allow intuition to grow in a student,” remarked the judge.

Justice Mahadevan then stated that the students taking part in competitive exams come from various strata of the society and hence the scheme of negative marking is against the principles of fairness, equality and equity. “Those hailing from affluent families, can afford to take private coaching and enhance their knowledge and techniques and the same cannot be expected from meritorious students coming from economically weaker background. There has to be a level playing field in examination in general, especially in competitive examination,” he stated and ordered competent authority to take further action based on this order.