In a huge relief for Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students who had taken admission in its PhD course in 2016, the Delhi High Court, last week, quashed circulars issued in 2017 making it mandatory for them to possess an M.Phil degree to pursue PhD course. These circulars had a retrospective effect on students who had been admitted for the academic session 2016-17 as well.
The Petitions before the Court had been filed by 18 such students, who had challenged the circulars as being issued in "utter disregard and in gross violation" of the terms of the admission bulletin for the academic session 2016-17.
The Petitioners had pointed out that the impugned Circulars were based on the UGC Regulations of 2016 which came into effect only in May last year and that the admission process had already begun in February, 2016. They had submitted that they were admitted to the Ph.D program as per the eligibility criteria provided under the UGC Regulations of 2009, which was in force at that time.
The Petitioners had further claimed that they are eligible under the 2016 regulations as well, which stipulate possession of a Masters degree as a minimum eligibility. They had alleged that this had not been taken into consideration by the University, which had applied the Rule applicable to 'integrated courses' instead.
"...the Respondent University malafidely and arbitrarily deprived the Petitioners from continuing their M.Phil/ PhD (Master in Philosophy/ Doctorate in Philosophy) courses (admitted in academic session 2016-2017) and illegally made it a conditions precedent for the Petitioners, to have M. Phil degree, for seeking admission in Ph. D; in utter disregard and in gross violation of the terms of the admissions bulletin (academic session 2016-2017) issued by the Respondent University; and eligibility provided therein," they had contended.
The Petitioners had then demanded a direction to the University to permit them to continue with their M. Phil/ Ph. D. programs, as all of them have already opted out of M.Phil programs and some of them have even submitted their synopsis for the Ph. D.
Accepting such contentions, Justice Rekha Palli ruled in favor of the Petitioners, opining, "I am of the considered opinion that keeping in view the admitted facts which clearly show that the prospectus for the admission was issued by respondent no.1 in February, 2016 itself i.e. much before the Regulations of 2016 were issued or notified, the present petition is liable to succeed. I find merit in the submission of the learned counsel for the parties that once the admission process had started, the eligibility conditions and other conditions stated in the prospectus cannot be altered to the determent the students, who apply pursuant to the said prospectus."
The Court, therefore, quashed the impugned circulars and directed JNU to process the cases of the Petitioners as per the UGC Regulations of 2009 and in accordance with the prospectus issued in February, 2016.