Delhi High Court upholds Delhi University student’s right to academic progress based on regulatory anomaly

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: A petition was filed by the petitioner, a student pursuing a B.A. (Hons.) English course at Kalindi College, Delhi University, challenging the refusal of the university authorities to allow her to appear for the second-semester examination due to her failure to pay the examination fees for the first semester, despite fulfilling all other academic requirements and actively participating in subsequent semesters. C Hari Shankar, J., ruled in favor of the petitioner, granting her petition and allowing her to proceed with her academic pursuits unhindered. The Court further directed Delhi University (DU) to immediately declare the results of the petitioner’s second-semester examination. Furthermore, the petitioner was granted permission to continue her B.A. (Hons.) English course at Kalindi College and was permitted to attempt her third-semester examination concurrently with her first-semester examination, provided she fulfills all necessary requirements, including the payment of fees for both semesters. Additionally, the DU was instructed to issue the petitioner the required admit cards to facilitate her participation in the examinations.

The case involved a petitioner enrolled in a B.A. (Hons.) course at Kalindi College for Women, Delhi University (DU). The petitioner faced issues with fee payment and subsequent admission to exams, leading to a dispute over her academic progression and entitlement to appear for exams. The petitioner enrolled in October 2022 but faced problems with fee payment for the first-semester exam in February 2023. Despite not undertaking the first-semester exam, the petitioner was assured by authorities that she could take it with the third-semester exam. The petitioner attended second-semester classes and paid fees for the second-semester exam, which she took in October 2023. The university didn’t release the results for the second-semester exam. The petitioner wasn’t allowed to fill in the exam form for the third-semester exam.

The petitioner filed a writ petition seeking a writ of mandamus for the declaration of her second-semester result, permission to attend the third-semester exam, and continuation of her studies without losing academic progress. The college countered, stating that according to Clause 41 of the NEP-UGCF 2002 guidelines, a student who hadn’t submitted the exam form for a semester couldn’t be promoted. They claimed the petitioner hadn’t attended second-semester classes and was therefore not entitled to relief. The petitioner argued that the guidelines didn’t apply to her situation as they were issued after her grievance arose. She claimed to have attended second-semester classes, submitted assignments, and received an admit card duly verified by the college principal, allowing her to sit for the exam.

The Court carefully analyzed the Notifications dated 7-09-2011 and 3-01-2012 issued by the University of Delhi (DU) and concluded that they did not apply to the petitioner’s situation. It found that the petitioner was eligible to undertake the first-semester examination but failed to do so due to a failure in fee payment, which did not affect her eligibility. The Court examined legal precedents cited by both parties and noted that none of them precisely matched the factual scenario of the case. It emphasized that the petitioner was eligible for the examination, distinguishing cases where candidates were ineligible. The Court found Clause 4 of the NEP-UCGF Guidelines, 2022, to be unenforceable and impossible to comply with fully, rendering it inapplicable to the petitioner’s case. The Court considered the petitioner’s attendance, performance, and progression through the semesters. It highlighted the injustice of making her start the course again from scratch due to a failure in fee payment.

The Court remarked that “The DU cannot disclaim itself of all responsibility in this regard. I cannot countenance an argument from the DU that they allowed the petitioner to attend the second-semester classes, apply for the second-semester examinations, obtain an admit card, and undertake the examinations, all the while remaining oblivious to her progress. In any event, in the absence of any statutory or administrative covenant prohibiting her from entering the second semester in these circumstances, she cannot be asked, towards the end of her third semester, to re-attend the first semester classes and start from scratch, effectively reducing, to a nullity, three semesters of study undertaken by her, merely because she did not pay the fees and could, not, therefore, attempt her first semester papers.

Thus, the Court concluded that Clause 4 of the NEP-UCGF-2022 Guidelines was considered by the court, despite its acknowledged anomaly. The clause allows a student who has missed or failed the first-semester examination to advance to the second semester, provided they pay the admission fees and apply for both the first and second-semester examinations. The Court noted that the petitioner fulfilled all requirements except for paying the first-semester examination fees. However, the Court emphasized that denying the petitioner’s progression in her studies solely due to the failure in fee payment would be unjust and inequitable. Therefore, the Court held that the petitioner should not be required to start her B.A. (Hons.) course from the beginning due to this single issue, especially considering her satisfactory performance in attendance and studies in subsequent semesters.

[Vanshika v. Delhi University, 2024 SCC OnLine Del 1084, decided on 19-02-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Prafulla, Advocate for petitioner

Mr. Mohinder J.S. Rupal and Mr. Hardik Rupal, Advocates for respondent

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