Delhi High Court | In a petition filed by the candidate (‘petitioner') having graduated in a B.Sc. (H) Biological Science from the University of Delhi applied for admission in M.Sc. Botany course under the Merit Admission Category as OBC (Non-Creamy Layer) candidate for the academic year 2022-2023 in the University of Delhi. She is hereby challenging the rejection of her candidature for admission on grounds of non-eligibility, despite having scored 88.96% (9.365 CGPA) in B.Sc. (H) Biological Science, whereas the candidates selected for admission are having much lesser percentage, Vikas Mahajan, J., held that the petitioner cannot take advantage of, or refuge under, the error that has crept in the Admission Form available on the website, as the petitioner does not fulfill the criteria mentioned in the Bulletin of Information and it is this which will prevail over the former.
The petitioner's version is that on enquiry being made from the admission branch of University of Delhi (‘respondent 1'), she came to know that she is not eligible for merit or percentage-based admission in the M.Sc. Botany Course in terms of the prospectus released by the university, because she does not possess the eligibility qualification of B.Sc. (Hons.) Botany.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner has been misled by the online application form for admission to M.Sc. Botany (‘PG Admission Form') filled by her wherein for the Merit-Based Category, the eligibility criteria also include B.Sc. (Hons.) Biological Science.
The Court noted that the eligibility criteria for admission to M.Sc. Botany course under the Merit Admission Category, as mentioned in the Bulletin of Information 2022, is B.Sc. (Hons.) Botany from the University of Delhi. However, the petitioner does not satisfy the criteria as she possesses the degree of B.Sc. (Hons.) Biological Science and not B.Sc. (Hons.) Botany. Thus, the petitioner was only eligible under the Entrance Exam Category, but she did not take the examination under this category, rather in the Merit-Based category.
Interestingly, the eligibility criteria for admission to M.Sc. Botany under Merit Category as mentioned in the Bulletin of Information 2022 is at variance with the one mentioned in the PG Admission Form available on the website, which was in the knowledge of the petitioner before-hand.
The Court remarked that the petitioner did not even seek clarification from the respondent university as to which eligibility criteria will apply, the one given in the Bulletin of Information or that mentioned in the PG Admission Form, therefore, now after being unsuccessful in the selection process, the petitioner cannot turn around and challenge the criteria of admission given in the Bulletin of Information.
The Court recorded that it is beyond any cavil that the eligibility criteria as mentioned in the Bulletin of Information 2022 shall govern the admission to M.Sc. Botany course under the Merit Category. The petitioner cannot take advantage of, or refuge under, the error that has crept into the Admission Form available on the website. Such a mistake on the part of the University would not clothe the petitioner with any legal right.
The Court also noted that the doctrine of estoppel cannot be applied against public authorities when their mistaken advice or representation is found to be in breach of a Statute, thus, it cannot be directed to the respondent-university to commit a breach of its Bulletin of Information.
The Court observed that the Bulletin of Information has the force of law, and there is no estoppel against law. Therefore, the doctrine of ‘legitimate expectation' and ‘estoppel' cannot be pressed against the respondent-university when the mistake in the PG Admission Form is ex-facie contrary to the eligibility criteria mentioned in the Bulletin of Information.
Thus, the Court directed the University of Delhi to take immediate corrective measures in identifying and removing all such material from its website which mentions the eligibility criteria for admission to any course, contrary to the one stipulated in the Bulletin of Information or the statutory Rules, Regulations, and Ordinances of the University, for such contradictory and misleading criteria not only creates confusion in the minds of the candidates but also leads to unwarranted litigation.
[Sonam Rawal v University of Delhi, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 375, decided on 24-01-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
Mr. Manoj Kumar Gaur, Advocate for petitioner
Mr. Mohinder JS Rupal, Adv. for University of Delhi
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.