The legal maxim actus curiae neminem gravabit, meaning no one should suffer any prejudice because of the act of the court, has to get sustenance from the facts, held the Supreme Court bench of justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, on March 21.
In Neeraj Kumar Sainy and Ors. v State of U.P. & Ors., the appellants invoked this maxim, to challenge the non-filling of seats in medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh last year, following the Supreme Court’s judgment in Mridul Dhar (Minor) and another v. Union of India and others, delivered in 2005.
In this judgment, stress was laid on adherence to the time schedule and the categorical command that there should not be midstream admissions. It was also held that carrying forward unfilled seats of one academic year to another academic year was not permissible.
The appellants contended that the delay in holding counseling was due to the orders passed by or delay in the Supreme Court, which should not prejudice them. They also submitted that the Information Brochure of the examination body provided for holding three rounds of counseling and then mop-up round. They pointed out that in their case only one round of counseling had taken place.
They further pointed out that 71 seats were lying vacant in the State Government colleges and non-filling of these seats would lead to waste of government investment, its resources and their full potential would not be utilized; therefore, they sought holding of further counseling in public interest.
Appearing for the appellants, senior counsel, Indu Malhotra, also argued for parity, as the Supreme Court had directed the University of Delhi and the States of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana to conduct one more round of counseling for vacant seats.
The appellants argued that the time schedule for admissions could not be followed because of the directions of the Supreme Court issued on May 12, 2016, which became final on August 16, 2016, and for which no fault could be found with them.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected these submissions, saying the appellants failed to move the Supreme Court when a similar case (Dinesh Singh Chauhan) was pending last year. Despite knowing this, they maintained a sphinx like silence, the bench observed. Admission to post-graduate courses for the academic session 2016-17 in Uttar Pradesh stood concluded by the Supreme Court as per the decision in Dinesh Singh Chauhan.
Reproducing the case-law on the applicability of the legal maxim cited by the appellants, the Supreme Court pointed out that it cannot operate in a vacuum.
The Court observed:
“As is manifest, after the admissions were over as per the directions of this court, the appellants, who seemed to have resigned to their fate, woke up to have control over the events forgetting that the law does not assist the non-vigilant. One cannot indulge in luxury of lethargy, possibly nurturing the feeling that forgetting is a virtue, and thereafter, when the time has slipped through, for it waits for none, wake up and take shelter under the maxim “actus curiae neminem gravabit”. It is completely unacceptable.”
Holding that law does not countenance any chaos and abhors anarchy, the bench dismissed the appeal against the judgment of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court in this case.
Read the Judgment here.