Delhi High Court: In a petition challenging the seat allotted to the candidate in the program B.A. (Hons) Geography in Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi which was cancelled on the ground of ‘non-fulfilment of the subject mapping criteria’, the single Judge Bench of Vikas Mahajan, J., while exercising its civil writ jurisdiction held that seat allotted to the petitioner was arbitrarily and erroneously cancelled by the University of Delhi in breach of the terms and conditions stipulated in the Bulletin of Information for no fault of the petitioner, and further stated that the petitioner was a deserving and meritorious student who had made to the merit list in Round I of the counselling and accordingly directed the University of Delhi to admit the petitioner in the next academic year i.e. 2023-24 for the Program of B.A. (Hons.) Geography in the Kirori Mal College.
In the matter at hand, the National Testing Agency was entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the Common University Entrance Test [CUET (UG)-2022] for all the Central Universities for the academic session 2022-2023. The public notice provided for the eligibility criteria which stated the common minimum eligibility of having passed class XII or its equivalent examination from a single recognized board. It further laid down the Program Specific Eligibility which was needed to be met by the candidates.
The Petitioner had opted for two languages i.e., English and Hindi as per the requirement to opt for only one as per Program Specific Eligibility for B.A. (Hons) Geography. The petitioner had further opted for three subjects viz., Geography / Geology, History and Political Science as against the requirement of opting for two subjects as mentioned in the Program Specific Eligibility Criteria.
After receiving the notice issued by the Court, the University of Delhi had filed a short affidavit contending that the petitioner had opted to appear in history paper in CUET (UG)-2022 which was not studied by him in Class XII.
The Court noted that the clause 3 of eligibility criteria mentioned in the Bulletin of Information mandated the petitioner to appear in only those subjects in which he had passed in class XII, however, clause 4 carved out an exception and provided that in case the subject studied at Class XII was not mentioned in the CUET, the candidate must appear in the subject that was similar or closely related to the subject that he had studied in Class XII.
The Court stated that the stand of the University of Delhi to the effect that the petitioner has opted to appear in the History paper, which was not studied by him in Class XII, therefore, the petitioner is not eligible for BA Hons courses was a stand taken only in terms of clause 3 of the ‘Important Points’. Intriguingly, it had not clarified its stand in terms of clause 4 of the ‘Important Points’ and was conspicuously silent as to whether the subject ‘English Literature’ studied by the petitioner in Class XII was closely related to the subject ‘History’ in which the petitioner opted to appear.
The Court stated that the specific case of the petitioner was that from the list of 27 Domain Specific Subjects he could find only the subject ‘History’ which was nearest to ‘English Literature’ which was not disputed by the University of Delhi in its short counter affidavit.
The Court was of the view that it had been repeatedly held by the Courts that matters of education must be left to the educationists thus, it was not for this Court to enter into an area of experts and decide whether the subject ‘History’ was closely related to ‘English’. However, regard had to be given to the fact that the University of Delhi had not taken any stand in that behalf and had maintained stoic silence despite a specific assertion by the petitioner in his petition. Further, there being discretion available to the petitioner under the Bulletin of Information to choose any subject which was closely related to ‘English Literature’, no fault can be found in the petitioner opting for ‘History’ in lieu of the subject of ‘English Literature’ studied by him in Class XII.
With the said rationale, the University of Delhi’s decision to cancel the seat allotted to the petitioner was liable to be set aside.
The Court however was conscious of the settled position of law that the time schedule for admission in educational institutions had to be adhered to. The Bench referred to the decision of the division bench in the case of Meenakshi v. All India Institute of Medical Sciences, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 2715 which had held that there has to be a finality to admissions.
The Court stated that the delay on part of the petitioner in approaching the Court had led to the conclusion of admission process, possibly, even before the filing of the writ petition. Resultantly, the candidates who were lower in merit would have gotten admission in B.A. (Hons.) Geography and their admissions and consequent rights to continue after the conclusion of admission process, stood crystalised, therefore, such admitted candidates could not be displaced. Therefore, no exceptional circumstances existed in warranting issuance of directions to admit the petitioner in the academic year 2022-23.
The Court, therefore, stated that the seat allotted to the petitioner was arbitrarily and erroneously cancelled by the University of Delhi in breach of the terms and conditions stipulated in the Bulletin of Information for no fault of the petitioner, and further considering that the petitioner was a deserving and meritorious student who had made it to the merit list in Round I of the counselling, the University of Delhi was directed to admit the petitioner in the next academic year i.e. 2023-24 for the Program of B.A. (Hons.) Geography in the same institute.
[Ravindra Bishnoi v National Testing Agency, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 1420, decided on 06-03-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner- Advocate A. Velan, Advocate Nishant Bishnoi, Advocate N. Kaur and Advocate Aditya Raj Singh;
For the Respondent- Standing Counsel Sanjay Kumar Khanna, Advocate Mohinder J.S Rupal and Advocate Shaifali Jain.