Bombay High Court: In a writ petition filed by a 17-year-old student whose educational career and future allegedly suffered due to Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Education (‘the Board’) and Gargi Junior College debarring him while refusing to issue marksheet for Class 12 Science stream, just because he completed his Class 10 without science subjects, the Division Bench of G.S. Patel* and Neela Gokhale, JJ. granted ad-interim relief to the petitioner and directed the authorities to issue the marksheet and certificate for Class 12 HSC Examination 2023.
The petitioner appeared for class 10 examination from Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (‘ICSE’) Board in 2020-21 and could not immediately get enrolled in a college due to lockdown. Meanwhile, he engaged himself in a technical and science-based pursuit to develop a digital application to track COVID conditions. As per result declared on 24-7-2021, the petitioner scored 92% marks in class 10.
For admission to a college, the petitioner opted for admission into Gargi Junior College due to less distance. While filling the online application form, the petitioner was instructed to indicate only the said College as choice of institute and proceeded with filling the form for 2021-22 Class 11 admission declaring that he had passed in science subject and opted only for one college. He got allotment letter for admission in science stream in the same college in first cap round. He completed class 11, appeared for examination, stood in first class, got admission in Class 12 in 2023, paid fees and also cleared all the internal examinations, viva, etc. He also got the hall ticket for HSC examination for February-March 2023 examination.
On 27-3-2023, he received a letter from the College saying that as per order dated 23-3-2023 issued by the Board, his admission to class 11 and 12 was cancelled because the petitioner had not opted for ‘Science subject’ in Class 10 ICSE examination. The Court noted as a cause of concern the fact that the petitioner’s father applied for a copy of the order dated 23-3-2023, yet to be received by the petitioner. The petitioner was said to be ineligible for appearing in HSC March examination due to absence of his name in the two eligibility lists shared by the Board.
Meanwhile, the petitioner appeared for Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE Main) 2023 examination and scored 97.346 marks. In the entrance examination conducted by Vellore Institute of Technology, he secured 8830 rank among 1.70 lakhs candidates and also, obtained a provisional admission letter. HSC declared the results on 25-5-2023, while the petitioner’s marksheet was not uploaded and he was shown as debarred.
Court’s take on ‘Science Stream’ mandate
When the Board sought backing from applicable regulations, the Court noted that it was for the College and the Board to ensure that the petitioner was duly informed of the ineligibility before getting admission. The Court reprimanded and said that “if the Board cannot control the conduct of its accredited educational institutions, then the consequences of such fault cannot be visited on students.”
The Court regarded the petitioner’s above average performance in Class 11 & 12 and highly competitive entrance examinations, and the duration for which he has been allowed to study Science as a weighty factor, since the instant case was not the one wherein the petitioner just entered Class 11 willing to pursue Science. The Court also criticised the statement where the petitioner was told that “he is incapable of studying Science because he did not do Science three years ago in the 10th standard.”
The Court also doubted the regulation in question allegedly passed in 1977 under Maharashtra Secondary and Higher Secondary Boards Act 1965, which requires a candidate to secure more than 40% marks in Science subjects to be eligible for admission in Class 11 in Science stream. The Court regarded ICSE equivalent to SSC examination in this regard. The Court pointed out that the petitioner’s Class 10 certificate issued by ICSE listing subjects as English, Hindi, History (along with Civics and Geography), Mathematics, Commercial Studies and Physical Education was shown to the College based on which, admission process was followed.
The Court sought explanation on ‘other comparable subjects’ which includes ‘physiology and hygiene’, saying that “it is unclear to us why “hygiene” is science, but “physical education” is not”.
The Court questioned the practice denying admission to science stream for Class 10 students who do not take science and expressed that choice of subjects at SCC/ICSE schools is made at Class 8 or 9 level and found the same unreasonable to expect the decision of a 14-year-old to be determinative of his entire future.
The Court also mentioned the National Education Policy, which proposes to do away with the ‘old trifecta of Science-Arts-Commerce’ while emphasizing on identifying and nurturing potential and providing flexible learning options and questioned the Board’s inflexible approach. The Court further questioned “What is the purpose of the Board, to assist students and provide and encourage education opportunities or to discover new ways to stymie them?”
The Court, when asked to assume the regulations in question to be read like a statute, opined that in that case, all principles of interpretation of statutes and all aids to interpretation including the principles of ejusdem generis or noscitur a sociis will have to be considered. Testing the balance of convenience, it was noted that while the College supports petitioner’s eligibility for admission in science stream, greater prejudice is likely to be caused to the petitioner if interim relief is denied.
The Court granted ad-interim relief in favour of the petitioner directing the authorities to issue a marksheet and certificate for Class 12 HSC Examination 2023.
[Krish Rajendra Chordiya v. State of Maharashtra, 2023 SCC OnLine Bom 1157, decided on 7-6-2023]
Judgment by: Justice G.S. Patel
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Senior Advocate YS Jahagirdar, Advocate Suresh M. Sabrad, Advocate Sharvari Kanetkar, Advocate Pratik Sabrad, Advocate Amey Sawant and Advocate Gracy S.;
For Respondents: A.G.P A.A. Purav, Advocate Kiran Gandhi, Advocate Rooshna Sayyed.