A Division Bench of Delhi High Court recently upheld an order passed by a single Judge invalidating exclusion of certain categories from the quota set apart for wards of soldiers and defense personnel who suffered in combat, or were disabled during active service.
The Bench comprising Justice S. Ravinder Bhat and Justice Sunil Gaur was hearing a batch of Petitions challenging an order passed by a single Judge, wherein the Delhi University and the Kendriya Sainik Board were directed to grant admission to one Ms. Zoya Gill.
Ms. Gill had complained of arbitrariness in the matter of selection and admission to the quota. The quota was introduced in furtherance of a circular issued by the Board in May, 1992, whereby defense personnel who were disabled in action and were “boarded out” were recommended priority, in a quota, or reservation of seats in medical and dental colleges. This meant that in case the injured personnel was allowed to continue in service, his or her ward would not enjoy the facility of reservation. The Defence Ministry had then, in 1994, sought to standardize admissions under the quota in all central universities and other institutions for wards of defense personnel and had listed down seven priority categories.
However, certain changes were made in the policy this year, inserting the phrase “boarded out” in priority II (wards of serving personnel and ex-Servicemen disabled in action) and priority IV (wards of defence personnel disabled in peace time with disability attributable to military service) in CW category for admission to all under-graduate courses of DU. Moreover, DU had also chosen to exclude two categories. Due to introduction of these changes, Ms. Gill could not avail of the benefit of the policy, as her father was not boarded out and was continued in service despite him having been rendered disabled while on duty.
Ruling in favor of Ms. Gill, the Court opined that exclusion of two categories cannot be permitted as the Board had prescribed a uniform scheme which ought not to have been disturbed. “This uniform scheme constitutes, in short a package, the elements in which should be left undisturbed. Any other interpretation can result in chaos for the policy itself, because one University may choose to retain reservation for wards of only one priority, whereas another may choose to extend it to five. Some may avoid reservations to gallantry awardees’ wards altogether. Each such exclusion may be justified on grounds of exercise of power; yet allowing individual variations would mean that the all India character of the benefit, enjoyed by the defense services, with uniform benefits to its personnel and their dependents would be destroyed,” the Bench observed.
It further explained that such omission might also deliver distorted results, as in the case at hand. The Court refused to accept DU’s assertion on its right to categorize, observing, “…the mere assertion of the right to categorize, without any good reasons to exclude one or the other category strikes at the integrity of the entire scheme… the autonomy to further deal with or restrict the categories, for the purpose of enjoying benefit, or imposing (or relieving) conditions, cannot, per se be upheld, unless a strong reason for departure is made, after due consultation with the concerned Union Defense Ministry authorities or the Board. In this case, there is no reason given for restricting the categories to only four.”
Thereafter, upholding the order of the single Judge, the Bench issued the following directions for future guidance:
“(a) The Delhi University shall strictly ensure that the Board’s guidelines are embodied in its admission guidelines/instructions/ brochures unequivocally.
(b)Those guidelines (of the Board) - as to the number of priorities, quantum of reservations and other preconditions and terms (such as those relating to “boarding out”) shall be adhered to by the University. Any deviation should be after previous consultation with and concurrence of the Board.
(c) Any changes necessitated on account of changes in the Board’s policy or guidelines shall be clearly notified, in any ongoing admission process- in a corrigendum to be properly published granting proper time to candidates to opt- or file applications afresh.
(d)Such changes or corrigenda should ordinarily be published or notified in the same manner as in the case of the original instructions/admission guidelines.”