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NEET-UG: Meghalaya HC Conditionally Affirms Single Judge Order Granting Relief To Candidate Who Missed Counselling Due To Spam Email

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
26 March 2022 4:46 AM GMT
NEET-UG: Meghalaya HC Conditionally Affirms Single Judge Order Granting Relief To Candidate Who Missed Counselling Due To Spam Email
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In an interesting development, a Division Bench of the Meghalaya High Court, comprising of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh, has conditionally affirmed the decision of the Single Judge, who had provided relief to a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) candidate, whose initial e-counselling invitation mail was delivered in her 'spam...

In an interesting development, a Division Bench of the Meghalaya High Court, comprising of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh, has conditionally affirmed the decision of the Single Judge, who had provided relief to a National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) candidate, whose initial e-counselling invitation mail was delivered in her 'spam box'. It observed,

"In this case, when it was fairly obvious that if the writ petitioner had merely attended the e-counselling, she would have obtained the seat, and there is no reason to believe that the writ petitioner would have deliberately acted to her detriment, the window that opened up fortuitously permitted the exercise of the discretion by the writ court."

Facts of the Case:

The Single Judge Bench took note of the fact that the writ petitioner (Respondent herein) was not aware that she had been forwarded the link for e-counselling as the same did not appear in the regular inbox of her e-mail. However, after the initial round of e-counselling, the writ petitioner discovered that the link sent by the institution, i.e., NEIGRIHMS (the Appellant herein) through mail was received in her spam folder, instead of showing up in the inbox.

The petitioner did not participate in the initial counselling and was marked as 'absent'. After such initial e-counselling, 14 out of the 18 seats reserved for the relevant category to which the writ petitioner belongs were filled up and a notice was issued for further e-counselling to be held on March 7, 2022 for the remaining four seats in the category.

On 9 March 2022, the writ petitioner approached the Court. On 14 March 2022, when the matter was taken up by the Single Judge, the writ petitioner filed an affidavit stating therein that the fourth of the remaining four candidates did not report for the e-counselling as he had already secured admission elsewhere.

Upon being satisfied that the writ petitioner had been prevented by sufficient cause from tendering her candidature at the initial e-counselling, the Single Judge Bench directed that the appellants herein shall facilitate counselling for the writ petitioner within a week from the date of the order, upon notice to the writ petitioner. The appellants were also directed to take into consideration the merit of the writ petitioner and complete the process of selection for the fourth seat expeditiously. The said order was impugned here in this writ appeal.

Contentions:

The foremost ground shown by the appellants is that there is no dispute that the appellants had forwarded the information in time to the writ petitioner and it is the petitioner who has admitted that the mail sent by the appellants had gone to her spam mail folder. The appellants submitted that the writ petitioner ought to have been vigilant as she could have got the information otherwise from the first appellant's website as to the date of initial e-counselling.

The appellants further argued that when the candidate was careless and had missed the bus, other candidates in whom a right may have vested to participate in the process of obtaining a seat, could not have been prejudiced.

Decision of the Court:

The Court observed that ordinarily, when there is no mistake on the part of an authority to do a thing that was required to be done, the indulgence shown to the writ petitioner as in the instant case may not have been warranted. However, under the circumstances, the last of the four remaining candidates did not opt for the final seat in the reserved category at NEIGRIHMS.

It added that though there is no doubt that the wait-listed candidates would, thereupon, be offered a chance to apply for and obtain such seat. However, in such scenario no right vested in the wait-listed candidates. In the peculiar facts of the case, the writ court exercised its discretion to allow the writ petitioner to be offered an opportunity to participate in a further process of counselling, particularly since no right had vested in any other.

The Court further held that grounds urged by the appellants that a right had vested in the wait-listed candidates, does not hold much water. A right inheres in a wait-listed candidate for his candidature to be considered, upon the original list not being filled up or one or more from the original list opting out.

The Court pointed out that in an 'intra-court appeal', the degree of interference with the discretion exercised is quite limited than when appellate authority is exercised over orders emanating from the district judiciary. Accordingly, it held,

"There was an element of discretion available to the writ court, considering the peculiar facts of this case; and, though the fundamental principle that ought to have guided the writ court was that upon a default being committed by a candidate, whatever be the circumstances, the consequences of the default must rest with the candidate, since the last placed candidate among the remaining four in this case, quite fortuitously, did not accept the seat, a window opened up for the writ petitioner which has been offered by the writ court in exercise of its discretion. In the circumstances in which the discretion has been exercised, it cannot be said to be perverse."

Consequently, it concluded that though it does not appear that any right vested in any waitlisted candidate has been prejudiced as a result of the impugned order; however, if any of them lodges a challenge and succeeds, the consequences have to be borne by the writ petitioner. To such extent, the writ petitioner's admission, if at all, will be provisional for a period of six months from date.

Case Title: North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institution of Health and Medical Sciences & Anr. v. Bisakha Goenka

Case No.: WA No. 7 of 2022

Judgment Dated: 25 March 2022

Coram: Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh

Judgment Authored by: Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee

Counsel for the Appellant: Dr. N. Mozika, Sr. Adv. with Ms. S. Rumthao, Adv.

Counsel for the Respondent/Writ Petitioner: Mr. H.L. Shangreiso, Sr. Adv. with Ms. P. Biswakarma, Adv.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Meg) 10

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment


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