2 March 2023 10:30 AM GMT
Observing that a child may be sent away from hometown to pursue education, the Bombay High Court recently quashed the cancellation of admission of five 11-year-old students in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), District Ratnagiri. The students' families are from Kolhapur District but they sought admission in JNV, Ratnagiri.A division bench of Justice GS Patel and Justice Dr. Neela Kedar...
Observing that a child may be sent away from hometown to pursue education, the Bombay High Court recently quashed the cancellation of admission of five 11-year-old students in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), District Ratnagiri. The students' families are from Kolhapur District but they sought admission in JNV, Ratnagiri.
A division bench of Justice GS Patel and Justice Dr. Neela Kedar Gokhale directed the school to grant admission to all petitioners in Class VII for the academic year 2022-23 observing -
"Merely reciting that the parents stay in Kolhapur district is insufficient. There is no law that a child may not be sent away from his home town for the purposes of Education."
The court further observed that once admission to Class VI, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya is granted, it cannot be cancelled on the basis that the student did not complete one whole year of study in Class V as the admission was delayed due to COVID.
“Shortly stated: once admission is granted, it cannot be cancelled on the basis that one year has not been completed (because the year began late)”, said the court.
The students (petitioners) studied in Class V in a school in Ratnagiri. In August 2020, they applied for the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Screening Test 2021 for admission to Class VI. The exam was scheduled on March 30, 2021, but got postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic. It was finally held on August 11, 2021.
The petitioners qualified the test and were granted admission. However, on November 26, 2021, their admissions were cancelled on the following grounds via identical orders –
Hence the present writ petition.
The prospectus of JNVST, 2021 provides that the student appearing for the test should have completed one whole academic year in standard V in any school.
In Anushka Sambhaji Patil v. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, the Bombay High Court held that students who have passed Class V and qualified the entrance exam cannot be considered ineligible just because they did not study in Class V for the whole academic session.
The High Court had recognized that the admissions in Class III to V commenced a few months after the start of the academic year 2020-21 due to the COVID pandemic which led to students of those standards not studying for the “whole academic year”
Since the facts of the Anushka Patil case are identical to the present case, its ratio decidendi is also applicable, the court held.
“It would have been a reason for a threshold rejection of the Petitioners’ applications in August 2020, denying each of them a right even to participate in JNVST–2021. Far from any such denial, the Petitioners seem to have been led down the garden path: allowed to participate, appear for the examination or screening test, qualify, have their names on the merit list, be issued mark sheets and even granted admission”, the court observed rejecting the first reason.
The court rejected the other three reasons stating that they cannot be grounds for cancellation of admission. “If that was a pre-requisite, it had to precede admission. It could not be a ‘discovery’ made post-admission”.
In an affidavit, the Principal of JNV, Ratnagiri stated that the admissions are given only in Class VI and Class IX and not in between. Thus, as the petitioners didn't secure admission in Class VI, they cannot be admitted to Class VII. Further are not from the same district as the school.
The court noted that the admission to standard VI was delayed as the entrance exam itself was delayed due to pandemic. Hence, petitioners weren’t attempting to get admission "in between", the court held.
The court noted that the reason for cancellation wasn’t that the students are from Kolhapur and not Ratnagiri. This ground was taken for the first time only in the Principal’s affidavit. The court reiterated that administrative action cannot be supported by subsequent reason invoked only once it is challenged.
Further, why the admission was given in the first place if the petitioners were ineligible has not been explained, the court observed.
The affidavit also stated that there was delay by the petitioners as the Anushka Patil judgment was passed in April 2022 but the petitioners approached the court in August 2022.
The court rejected this contention and stated that this is not the kind of delay that would warrant dismissal of the petition.
Further, the court noted that there are vacant seats even now and nobody has been adversely affected by the admission granted to the five petitioners. Nobody will benefit from the cancellation of those seats either, the court said.
“We are also unable to understand in a case like this whether the objective of Respondents is to assist students in getting an education, particularly in stressful and unprecedented time such as Covid or to blindly adopt some hyper-technical approach to deny education to those entitled in law to it. We must ask the questions as to what purpose is being serve by this action and whether the object of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Scheme is in fact being fulfilled”, the court observed.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 10553 of 2022
Case Title – Pritam Vijay Anuse and Ors. v. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti and Ors.
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment