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Condition Barring Student Who Joined IIT From Appearing In JEE(Advanced) Valid; Aimed At Preserving Valuable Public Resource Of IIT Seats : Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
30 Sep 2021 8:34 AM GMT
Condition Barring Student Who Joined IIT From Appearing In JEE(Advanced) Valid; Aimed At Preserving Valuable Public Resource Of IIT Seats : Supreme Court
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The Court said that the classification of IITs and non-IIT institutions is warranted.

The Supreme Court has upheld the condition for Joint Entrance Examination which bars a student who has already joined an Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) from appearing in JEE(Advanced) Exam(Indian Institute of Technology Kharaghpur and others versus Soutrik Sarangi)A bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M.Trivedi set aside a judgment of the Calcutta High...

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The Supreme Court has upheld the condition for Joint Entrance Examination which bars a student who has already joined an Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) from appearing in JEE(Advanced) Exam(Indian Institute of Technology Kharaghpur and others versus Soutrik Sarangi)

A bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M.Trivedi set aside a judgment of the Calcutta High Court which had quashed the said condition as arbitrary and discriminatory.

Allowing the appeal filed by the IITs against the High Court judgment, the Supreme Court held the said condition (Criterion 5 of Information Brochure of JEE(Advanced) 2020) as valid.

The High Court had taken the view that barring an IIT student from appearing in JEE(Advanced) while there  is no such bar on a student who has joined a non-IIT was arbitrary and amounted to hostile discrimination.

Disagreeing with this view, the Supreme Court observed that the bar was imposed for valid and justifiable reasons. The Court also added that in academic matters, greater deference has to be given to the views of the domain experts, and judicial interference should be minimal. The Supreme Court said that the said criteria was "aimed at preserving a valuable public resource, seats at IIT". Further, the Court added that the "classification of IITs, on the one hand and non-IIT institutions on the other hand is warranted".

"Securing a seat in any one of the 23 IITs stands on a different footing than securing a seat in non-IIT institution", the Court said in the judgment.

Background Details

The petition before the High Court was filed by a student named Soutrik Sarangi aggrieved with his rejection of application for JEE(Advanced) 2021 on the ground that he had already taken admission in IIT-Kharaghpur for __ in 2020.

The single judge of the High Court allowed Soutrik's petition holding that to prevent a IIT student from appearing for JEE(Advanced) was illogical. The single judge also noted that while a student who withdrew from IIT admission was permitted to appear for JEE(Advanced), a student who has secured admission is barred. This, according to the single judge, amounted to "hostile discrimination" and "arbitrariness".

Challenging the single judge verdict, IIT directly approached the Supreme Court, without availing the option of letters patent appeal before the division bench.

The Supreme Court overruled the preliminary objection regarding the direct appeal of the IIT.

"The ordinary rule of necessity that litigants should approach and avail of appellate remedies exhausting them before approaching this Court is a rule of convenience and not an immutable practice", the Court said. It added that the jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution was flexible and sufficiently wide to correct glaring errors.

Criterion devised after widespread consultations

Explaining the rationale behind Criterion 5, the IIT stated that the withdrawal option was so designed as to achieve two primary objectives, firstly, avoidance of wastage or blockage of seats and consequently to enable  students to improve their performance in the subsequent year and if eligible, to participate again. It was stated that in the event the candidate did not exercise an withdrawal option, he would be precluded for the subsequent year. This is for the reason that had the candidate withdrawn from the course, that seat would have been available for admission the previous year to another candidate.

The IIT also submitted that this Crietrion was in force for the past 5 years and the candidate was well aware of it while participating in the entrance.

Accepting the explanations of the IIT, the Supreme Court observed that the criteria was devised after "extensive consultations" between IITs and other officials of the Union Government as well as the CBSE.

Judicial review in academic matters limited

The judgment authored by Justice Ravindra Bhat noted that the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that in matters such as devising admissions criteria or other issues engaging academic institutions, the courts' scrutiny in judicial review has to be careful and circumspect. Unless shown to be plainly arbitrary or discriminatory, the court would defer to the wisdom of administrators in academic institutions.

"Given this general reluctance of courts to substitute the views of academic and expert bodies, the approach of the High Court in proceeding straightaway to characterize the rationale given by the IIT in fashioning the Criteria No. 5 cannot be supported", the judgment stated.

Classification between IITs and non-IITs warranted.

Expressing disapproval of the High Court's view that the criterion amounted to hostile discrimination between IITs and non-IITs, the Supreme Court observed :

"If one considers the fact that JEE (Advanced) is governed by rules framed under the Act, and regulations, the further detail that it permitted non-IIT candidates who were admitted in a previous year (but did not pursue their coursenor withdrew the option in a previous year) is logical. Such non-IIT institutions are not governed by the Act and regulations framed under it or even for that matter JoSAA Business Rules. Furthermore, in the opinion of this Court, securing a seat in any one of the 23 IITs stands on a different footing than securing a seat in non-IIT institution. This is not to in any manner undermine the worth or academic curricula or ranking of such non-IIT institutions. The classification of IITs, on the one hand and non-IIT institutions on the other hand is warranted. This Court does not wish to emphasise this aspect further except to say that the classification is justified both statutorily and in terms of Parliamentary declaration that the Act was conceived as one meant to set-up institutions of excellence having national status".

The Court held Criterion 5 to be valid, aimed at conserving a valuable public resource, i.e. seats in IITs.

Holding so, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court judgment and dismissed the writ petition filed by the student.

Case Details

Case Title : Indian Institute of Technology Kharaghpur and others versus Soutrik Sarangi and others

Citation : LL 2021 SC 521

Coram : Justices Uday Umesh Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi

Appearances : Advocate Sonal Jain for appellant;Advocate S.K. Bhattacharya for respondent

Click here to read/download the judgment

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