Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: Sanjeev Narula, J. upheld the denial of admission by AIIMS and PGIMER as mere mentioning of eligibility criteria for admission as a foreign national in its prospectus does not mean that PGIMER advertised seats for foreign nationals.

AIIMS undertook to conduct the INI-SS Examination at the national level by integrating certain institutes of national importance through a common entrance test. PGIMER is amongst the said institutes that sought to admit students based on their performance in the INI-SS into various courses. The petitioner is a Nepalese national who is aggrieved with the denial of admission in M.Ch. (cornea, cataract and refractive surgery) course (hereinafter, “course”) by Respondent 2 – Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research and Education, Chandigarh “PGIMER, despite fulfilling the eligibility criteria and being declared as a selected candidate in the entrance test for Institutes of National Importance Super-Specialty “INI-SS” conducted by Respondent 1 – Examination Section of All India Institute for Medical Sciences “AIIMS”, pursuant to a Merit List on the ground that Respondent 2 did not have any seats reserved for foreign national candidates. Thus, the petitioner is seeking direction from respondents to grant him admission.

The Court noted that there is ambiguity in the prospectus issued by PGIMER in as much as there is no clarity qua the position of foreign nationals in the said academic session – which led to allocation of seats under the sponsored category to a foreign national, i.e., the Petitioner. However, considering that conducting of the INI-SS Examination by AIIMS is still at a nascent stage, it is plausible that the same had inadvertently been done based on the general rules of admission and in the absence of counselling sessions that are usually held before admission.

The prospectus of PGIMER issued for July, 2022 session, under the head ‘eligibility of foreign nationals‘, states that “admission of foreign national category will be available in July session only”. The Court finds merit in the contention that mere mentioning of eligibility criteria for admission as a foreign national in its prospectus does not mean that PGIMER advertised seats for foreign nationals

Regarding the discrepancy in the eligibility criteria provided for foreign national students in PGIMER’s prospectus, the Court noted that such an error cannot be taken to have created a right in favour of the Petitioner to seek admission against the seat allotted for sponsored students.

The Court observed that private institutions are empowered to formulate their own policies/ schemes governing reservation of seats for foreign national/ NRI students. It cannot be refuted that it is for PGIMER to ultimately decide the allocation of seats. The documents brought on record establish that PGIMER provides reservation of seats for foreign nationals only for the July batch, and not for the January batch.

The Court opined that the prospectus of PGIMER would be the dominant factor in matters of admission to various courses in the said institute. PGIMER is well within its powers to lay down the policy of providing reservation to foreign nationals only in batches commencing from July, and not from January. In that light, it must also be noted that while laying down the general scheme of INI-SS, the prospectus issued by AIIMS categorically provides that the terms and conditions, including matters concerning seat allocation, for admission into any of the participating institutes (such as PGIMER) – will be governed by the rules and regulations of the respective institution.

Thus, the Court further observed that the ambiguity in the prospectus published by AIIMS is not a compelling ground to direct PGIMER to abide by the stipulations laid down by AIIMS, which are at variance with their policy. PGIMER is the appropriate authority to determine the number of seats to be reserved under the ‘foreign national’ category

Reliance was placed on Nilay Gupta v. Chairman NEET PG Medical and Dental Admission/Counselling Board 2020, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 819 wherein it was observed that creation of a quota/ category for foreign nationals is neither sacrosanct nor inviolable. Therefore, it cannot be said that Petitioner has an inherent right to seek admission in the institute. It was an administrative decision to provide admission to foreign students only in the July batch, and the same cannot be tampered with by this Court.

The Court thus held “Undeniably, there has been a mistake by the Respondents in declaring Petitioner as a selected candidate, “however, this does not empower the Court to create a seat for the Petitioner when evidently, none exists and there is no provision for the same in the scheme of examination decided by Respondents.”

[Vishnu Todi v. AIIMS, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 1810, decided on 30-05-2022]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr Nitin K. Gupta and Ms Ritika Gautam, Advocates, for the Petitioners;

Mr. Sudarshan Rajan, Mr. Ramesh Rawat, Mr. Hitain Bajaj and Mr. Vijay Kr. Sharma, Advocates, for the PGIMER;

Mr. Dushyant Parashar and Manu Parashar, Advocates, for the AIIMS.

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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