The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday (01st September) directed the Panjab University, Chandigarh to reconsider its decision to scrap the UGLAW entrance examination for the 5-year law course as expressed in its circular dated 11th August 2020.
The Division Bench of Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Avneesh Jhingan was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the decision of the Respondent/ Panjab University, Chandigarh to scrap the UGLAW entrance test for admission to the B.A./B.Com. LL.B. (Hons.) 5 years' integrated course for the academic year 2020-21.
It may be noted that initially, the University proposed to hold the entrance exam for the 5-year law course and the date initially fixed for the purpose kept getting cancelled and re-fixed on account of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
However, on 11th August 2020, a circular was issued by the University announcing that it has "scrapped the UGLAW entrance test", considering the Covid-19 situation.
The said circular also sets out a fresh schedule for the admission process which inter alia states that a tentative merit list would be displayed on the website of the University by the evening of 22nd September 2020 and after inviting objections thereto the provisional list would be displayed by the evening of 29th September 2020.
Since the Entrance Test has been scrapped by the University, the admission of students would be essentially based on the marks obtained in the 10+2 examination.
Arguments put forth in the Petitions
The submission of the Petitioners (who have applied for the 5-year law course) was that the excuse of Covid-19 for scrapping the entrance test is not valid when in fact, the University is holding entrance exams for other courses including the three-year law course for the same academic session.
They further submitted that the 12th standard marks as a sole criterion for determining the suitability of a candidate for admission to the 5-year law course would not be either a reasonable or a reliable one. It renders the admission process arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Reference was made to the recent orders of the Supreme Court declining to postpone or scrap the holding of entrance exams for courses elsewhere in the country.
It may be noted that when CWP-12832-2020 was taken up for hearing on Monday (31st August 2020) a submission was made by Mr. Deepak Vashishth, the counsel for the Petitioner, that the University was, in fact, going ahead with holding the entrance examination for the three-year law course and therefore, there was no reason for it to scrap the entrance examination for the 5-year law course.
The Counsel for the University confirmed on Tuesday (01st September) that the University would indeed hold the entrance exam for the three-year law course.
He further contended that as far as the 5-year law course was concerned, since the results of 10+2 exam have been declared, the University felt that it could dispense with the holding of an entrance exam and make admissions on the basis of marks obtained in the 10+2 examination.
The Court found merit in the contention of the Petitioners that the avowed reason as stated in the circular dated 11th August 2020 viz., the 'Covid-19 situation' does not hold good when in fact the University is holding the entrance exam for the three-year law course.
The Court remarked,
"Given the fact that there is generally little scope of inclusion of law-based subjects in the syllabus for the 10+2 classes, it is not possible to make a comparative assessment of the suitability of candidates for admission to the 5- year law course solely on the basis of marks obtained in the 10+2 exam." (emphasis supplied)
The Court further observed,
"It requires to be noted that the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) for admission to the national law schools for the current academic session has not been scrapped. The UGC's stand in regard to holding of entrance tests for admission to various courses also requires to be taken note of."
In the circumstances, the Court disposed of these petitions with a direction to the University "to reconsider its decision to scrap the UGLAW entrance examination for the 5-year law course as expressed in its circular dated 11th August 2020 and take a fresh decision in that regard not later than 15th September 2020 keeping in view the observations of this Court in the present order and the grounds raised in these petitions." (emphasis supplied)
The said decision will have to be uploaded on the website of the University immediately after it is taken. Till such time, the University has been directed not to proceed with making admissions to the B.A./B.Com. LL.B. (Hons.) 5 years' integrated law course on the basis of the Circular dated 11th August 2020 as well as guidelines uploaded on the website of the University on 25th August, 2020.
Case Title: Saurav Rao and Ors. v. Panjab University through its Registrar, Sector 14, Chandigarh and Ors. WITH Navya Raj Petitioner v. Panjab University, Chandigarh and Ors.
Case No.: CWP-12832-2020 WITH CWP-13272-2020
Quorum: Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice Avneesh Jhingan
Appearance: Advocates Deepak Vashishth and Vikas Chatrath (for the Petitioners); Advocate Arun Bakshi (for the Respondents); Advocate Preeti Dalal (for Respondent No. 3 in CWP-12832-2020).
Click Here To Download Order