NEW DELHI: The Haryana Judicial Services Examination could well be the toughest in the country. Of the 14,000-odd candidates who appeared for the preliminary examination, only 1,282 made it to the main written test and of them, 1,273 failed. Only nine candidates were called for interview as against the 107 posts advertised. Even Justice A K Sikri, who retired earlier this year after nearly 20 years as a judge of the Supreme Court and and high court, found the question papers extremely tough, requiring lengthy answers, and said the evaluation was very conservative. The SC had asked Justice Sikri to look into the evaluation process of the main exam. Though he did not find any bungling in the examination for the post of civil judge (junior division), Justice Sikri suggested that the SC consider giving grace marks to candidates in the Civil Law-I paper to increase the number of aspirants for the interview. Appearing for 92 candidates before a bench of CJI S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, advocate Prashant Bhushan said, “I can guarantee that there are more than 107 candidates among those who finally took the main written examination who are fit to be judicial officers. The persons who came to me, I found them quite intelligent and competent to be civil judges.” Bhushan further said, “Of the 92 candidates for whom I am appearing, 33 have already qualified as judicial officers for other states.” He suggested either pro-rata increase in marks of the candidates, or grace marks in the toughest paper to enable at least 150 candidates to appear for the interview. Appearing for other candidates, senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta said the court should also consider whether re-evaluation of answer sheets would better serve the purpose. The CJI-led bench said it would decide whether there was a need for holding fresh examination for all those who failed to make it to the interview stage without disturbing the successful candidates who could be allowed to appear in the viva voce. The bench also said it would consider suitability of re-evaluating the answer sheets of the 1,195 candidates who appeared in main written examination. Over 34,000 law graduates had applied for 109 posts of civil judge (junior division), which is the entry level post in judiciary, in response to an advertisement issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in March 2017 inviting candidates to appear in a three-stage screening-cum-examination process — preliminary, main and then interview (viva voce). In August 2017, the number of posts was reduced to 107. Of those who applied, as many as 32,230 were found eligible to appear for preliminary examination. The exam was held nine months after the date of advertisement and only 14,231 actually took the preliminary examination. On January 16 this year, the HC shortlisted 1,451 candidates from among those who appeared. Of the shortlisted ones, only 1,282 candidates were found eligible to appear for the main examination. The main examination was held on March 15 and 1,195 candidates appeared for it. On April 11, the results were declared and only nine cleared the main examination to be eligible for interview. The final stage of recruitment is not over, yet the screening process has eliminated more than 99% of candidates who appeared for the preliminary test.