"When the language of a provision is definite and unambiguous and its intention is clear, it is not permissible either to mend or bend it even if such recasting is in accord with good reason and conscience. In such circumstances, court's only duty is to strike it down", reiterated the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday in context of the doctrine of reading down.
Justices Rajeev Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu were hearing a writ petition for reading down condition 7(3)(g) as contained in the Prospectus for Session July, 2020 issued by respondent – PGIMER, Chandigarh, for admission to
DM/M.Ch. Courses, which reads, " No request for change of category applied for shall be entertained after the submission of the application". The grievance of the petitioner was that despite there being no other eligible candidate available till date, the candidature of the petitioner, who applied under the `General Category', is not being considered under the `Sponsored Category'. It was urged that in case, the respondent institution accepts the candidature of the petitioner then not only the petitioner would secure admission in the super specialty course of M.Ch. (Plastic Surgery) but the vacant seat will also get utilized and would not be left vacant.
"Thus, it is clear that the petitioner had applied under the `General Category' for which there was only one seat. The petitioner secured second position", noted the division bench. The judgment records that the examination for admission to the M.Ch. Plastic surgery course was held on 21.06.2020. The result was declared on 26.05.2020. On 30.06.2020 the institute vide notice dated 30.06.2020 uploaded a tentative list of selected candidates wherein petitioner was shown at Waiting list No.1 in the Direct Category. The petitioner was given the NOC/Sponsorship Certificate on 08.07.2020.
"Clearly as per condition 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus the request for change of category from `General ' to `Sponsored' could not be entertained at a stage when even the result have been declared in view of Clause 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus", reflected the bench.
The bench appreciated that it has been consistently held in different Full Bench decisions of this Court that the prospectus has a force of law and is to be strictly followed.
"This being the settled legal position the respondent- institution is right in strictly adhering to condition 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus and not entertaining the request of the petitioner for change of category after the last date of application and granting him admission against the vacant seat in the sponsored category", ruled the bench.
The contention that provision 7(3)(g) be read down to the extent that in case no eligible candidate is available under the `Sponsored Category', then eligible candidate, if available, under `General Category' be considered and granted admission to the course of Master of Surgery (M.Ch.) (Plastic Surgery) on fulfilling the requisite eligibility conditions also was found to be not tenable.
"It has been settled by Hon'ble Supreme Court in various decisions that the doctrine of reading down or of recasting the statute can be applied in limited situations. One , for saving a statute from being struck down on account of its unconstitutionality in a situation where two interpretations are possible—one rendering it constitutional and the other making it unconstitutional. In that case the former should be preferred. The second situation is where the provisions of the statute are vague and ambiguous and it is possible to gather the intentions of the legislature from the object of the statute, the context in which the provision occurs and the purpose for which it is made", reiterated the bench.
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