Delhi HC Refuses To Set Aside The Cut-Offs Set By St Stephen's College for Quota Seats [Read Judgment]
Delhi High Court dismissed a PIL that challenged the procedure followed by St Stephens College in conducting admissions for seats reserved for certain categories and setting an unreasonably high cut-off for the same. The court also refused to issue a mandamus to the College, to call candidates, against any quota or course, for participation in the written test and interview, in excess of the number of candidates already called by it.
The present petition was filed by Ms Nandita Narain, who's an Assistant Professor in the respondent College. The petitioner contended that against the quota reserved for various categories of applicant-students, the College, this year, has called for the written test and interview, students far less in number than those who were required to be called. Consequently, the cut-off for admission against these categories of students, was artificially raised, and fewer students were able to apply, resulting in seats remaining unfilled. It was also argued that seats which were essentially meant to be reserved for special categories, such as Christian and Non-Christian persons with disabilities (PwD), Scheduled Tribes, etc., were diverted to the General Category Christians (COTH). This, the petitioner submitted, was a flagrant violation of the Admission Guidelines that the College is expected to abide by.
The College, on the other hand, contended that there was no illegality in the admission procedure which was followed. The cut-off is set by a 'cut-off generating software' and not arbitrarily. It was also argued that the Admission Guidelines also permitted the College to, in cases where the number of candidates, in specified "reserved categories", for any particular course, were found to be less than the requisite number, fill in the balance from the COTH quota candidates. Despite the fact that the Admission Guidelines give discretionary power to the Principal for setting the cut-off, cut-offs for the impugned courses were decided, not by the Principal acting individually, but by a committee comprising the Principal, the Heads of the concerned Departments, the Tutor for Admissions and the Associate Tutor for Admissions, who were all senior faculty members.
The Division Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Shanker were satisfied with the submissions made by the College. They held that fixation of cut-offs, for admission of students to educational institution, unless governed and not merely guided by some
binding statutory or quasi-statutory directive, is essentially a matter for the institution to decide. Since, there's no law mandating fixation of cut-offs in any particular manner, the courts have to be cautious in making any intervention. Such an intervention can only be made when exercise of fixing cut-offs violates the law, or suffers from arbitrariness or caprice, or entrenches on the right of the citizen to education.
The court also reiterated the jurisprudence laid down in Associated Provincial Picture Houses, Ltd. v. Wednesbury Corporation, (1947) 2 ALL ER 680 which states that where an academic institution admit students according to an Admission Policy framed by the institution itself, the manner in which the Policy is to be worked is also, essentially, a matter for the institution to determine
and decide for itself. So long as the actions of the institution are not found to be coloured by patent arbitrariness or mala fides, and are not clearly violative of any binding statutory or other prescription, or proscription, interference, by a writ court, is not warranted.