Gujarat High Court: Hardship Caused to Petitioner Cannot Be a Ground for Invoking Writ Jurisdiction and Court Must Refrain From Interfering in Education Matters

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Excerpt:

The petition was instituted under Article 226 of the Constitution of India challenging the order of Respondent authority in conducting overlapping online examination with an offline examination of B.Sc Course of Gujarat University on the same date and the same time slot.

Aggrieved by such order, Petitioners in Special Civil Application No. 13058 of 2020 and Special Civil Application No. 12248 of 2020(both petitions are similar in nature) directed the Court to issue writ/direction/order for administering the action of respondent authority and consequently, declare such order as illegal and unconstitutional under Article 14 of Constitution. The Petitioner also prayed before this court to instruct Respondent no.3 to conduct online entrance examination for Group I to M.Sc for those who are left out due to such overlapping and then further finalised admission process to the M. Sc. Forensic Biotechnology course in the case of Priyanka Premchand Sharma D/O Premchand Sharma v. State of Gujarat.

Brief Facts:

The Petitioner, a final year student of B.Sc who was prepared for giving examination being conducted by the University and was scheduled on 13.07.2020, simultaneously the Petitioner also applied for the entrance examination of M. Sc. Forensic Science conducted by Respondent no.4,  Gujarat Forensic Science University. Further, Gujarat University provided the option to its students to appear in sixth-semester examination in either online or offline mode to which the petitioner opted for offline mode. The examination for the sixth semester would commence from 12.09.2020 at 3 to 5 pm and simultaneously Petitioner received time table of revised date and time slot of entrance examination on 16.09.2020 by Respondent no.4, University when Petitioner was giving sixth-semester examination to be scheduled on 18.09.20 at 3 to 5 pm. 

The examination of sixth-semester examination of B.Sc conducted by Gujarat University between 3:00 to 5:00 pm and entrance examination by Respondent no.4 was also being conducted on the same date, so the Petitioner requested the admission department of Respondent no.4 to do the needful via email dated 18.09.2020. Despite constant requests made before respondent no.4 that was the Gujarat Forensic Science University to shift the date for conducting online entrance examination for the postgraduate course of M.Sc Forensic Biotechnology due to offline examination of the final semester of B.Sc., the University neglected such consideration and thereby proceeded with the admission process of M.Sc.

Petitioner’s Arguments:

The counsel pleaded before the Court that there is a legitimate expectation of the student that the scheduled time table of the examination was final and cannot be changed in any circumstances and here in the present case, Petitioner was neither given any prior notice of alteration nor opportunity to be heard which is detrimental to the petitioner as same is a violation of the principle of natural justice. Furthermore, Respondent no.4, was not empowered to change the time slot from morning to evening unilaterally which was beneficial only for few students while 113 final year students of B.Sc of Gujarat University could not appear for the entrance examination, therefore Respondent authority actions were false, arbitrary and unreasonable. It was further submitted that the action of Respondent no.4 in changing the time schedule of the entrance examination to gather other students violated the principle of fair play. 

The counsel aggrieved grave accusation upon Respondent that Respondent had prior knowledge about grievances of the student that in altering the time scheduled would entail them incapable to appear in examination but it was changed to give benefit to other class of students and also despite such awareness, they proceeded not only for conducting the examination but also for the admission process. Thus, exercising overriding powers vested for common good but otherwise used by Respondents in unjust, unfair and mala fide manner as it might affect the future career of all students who failed to appear for the examination. Therefore, Respondent no.4 must be directed to conduct a fresh entrance examination and set aside the admission process to serve the end of justice.   

Moreover, the action of Respondent authority is without the authority of law wherein one set of people are allowed to appear for the entrance examination while others eligible students are left out by altering the time schedule of the examination. It was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and right to education. Therefore, such order being in conflict with the fundamental rights of students deserves to be corrected.  

Respondent’s Arguments:

The counsel for Respondent no. 4 submitted before the Court that the present petition is not maintainable as the petitioner was aware of the fact of conducting of entrance examination and there is no legal right in favour of students for fixing the time table schedule of any University. Further, petitioners cannot be accepted as the admission process has already been initiated. There was no mala fide intention to select a particular set of students for an altered time schedule of the entrance examination. The matter is of academic nature and therefore the court should be burdened for issuing the writ, direction or order for such students alongside there is no specific averment made which infer mala fide intention of the University. The hardship of the petitioners cannot be a firm ground to invoke extraordinary jurisdiction and the same cannot also be allowed to appear in the entrance examination and consequently, the court must refrain from issuing a writ wherein the admission process has already been started. 

The counsel for Respondent no.2 submitted before the court that the student has no statutory right for objection to the relaxation of mandatory conditions alongside autonomous institutions is required to follow rules and regulation laid down by it, failure to which would lead to charges of nepotism and favouritism. Further, Respondent no.2 was not arbitrary in making condition precedent of showing certificate of appearing in the examination along with practicals prior to 26 June 1992 because the programme would commence from 30 June 1992. Respondent no. 2 also made an advertisement that all candidates who have obtained a Bachelor’s degree are eligible for getting admission. However, this condition was also extended to candidates who can complete their examination prior to 29 June 1992. 

The counsel supported his arguments with reference to the case State of UP v. D. K. Singh, A. I. R. 1987 SC 190, the Apex Court held that admission to postgraduate courses in a medical college is held once in a year and not twice. The authority did not act arbitrarily and unreasonable in not digesting from the path of practices which has been followed from time immemorial. When the academic year would commence and the end is the sole discretion of educational institutions and not the Court. The Court cannot be the competent authority for scheduling time tables of the University for the convenience of some students.     

Court’s Observation:

The Court observed the fact whether the enduring jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226 of Constitution with respect to present order to give direction, order or writ to give effect to autonomous institutions for being lenient in condition and give admission to IIM Post Graduate Programme in Management by relaxing eligibility criteria due to harsh treatment to the Petitioners. Provided that the cut off date brought some hardship to some students but it would be the far view for considering relaxation. Furthermore, it cannot be said that Respondent no.2 in fixing the date of examination was arbitrary and mala fide because hardship could not be a reasonable ground for claiming relaxation in conditions of conducting an examination and also mere presumption in favour of Petitioner that he/she could have qualified the examination and obtain admission to the course of postgraduate if the last date for appearing in the examination is shifted from 29 June 1992 to 15 July 1992 is unreasonable and irrational. In addition to this, Respondent no.2 was correct in his approach to make the condition mandatory which was required to be fulfilled before granting admission to the Post Graduate course. Therefore, Respondent no.2 was not only incorrect in refusing to allow anyone who does not obtain bachelor degree to be admitted for the said course but also maintained nature, purpose and consequences of relaxation on its educational programme. 

Court’s Decision:

The Court was of the opinion that overlapping of date and time slot for conducting entrance examination by Respondent no.4 was unfortunate and thereby respondent university was at no fault in finalising the date of examination without mala fide intention to exclude other students who are appearing for the final semester of B.Sc in Gujarat University. Further, it is material to observe that out of 749 students, 636 appeared for the examination which led to the commencement of admission process. Conducting fresh examination for the sake of two petitioners was unrealistic and unworthy. The fundamental right to education is the primary right against state authority but such postgraduate courses do not qualify above right.

Non-appearance of the Petitioner in entrance examination availed no fault on part of Respondent no.4, University since a large number of students did appear in an altered time schedule for the examination and hence no writ can be instituted at such instance by this court under Article 226 of the Constitution. Further, the court would attempt to refrain from interfering in education matters unless there is apparent mala fide intention or arbitrary order on part of the competent authority. The present petition was dismissed.

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