14 Oct 2022 2:57 PM GMT
Justice K.M. Joseph on Friday recused himself from examining whether St. Stephen's College in Delhi was permitted to conduct interviews for non-Christian students notwithstanding the revised admission policy of the University of Delhi requiring constituent colleges to admit students to undergraduate courses on the basis of the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) scores alone. This...
Justice K.M. Joseph on Friday recused himself from examining whether St. Stephen's College in Delhi was permitted to conduct interviews for non-Christian students notwithstanding the revised admission policy of the University of Delhi requiring constituent colleges to admit students to undergraduate courses on the basis of the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) scores alone. This comes on the heels of the recusal of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul earlier this week. Justice Kaul refused to sit in judgement over this issue on the ground that he was an alumnus of St. Stephen's College.
The college's counsel, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal pointed out before both Justices Kaul and Joseph, on the two separate occasions, that Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal, despite being a former student of St. Stephen's, had not only heard but also authored the judgement in T.M.A. Pai Foundation case, which was a watershed moment in the evolution of the Article 30 jurisprudence.
Justice Joseph clarified that his decision to recuse himself was not because of his religion, but stemmed from an apprehension that the briefs he accepted as an advocate would be prejudicial to the case –
"I was just telling my brother Justice that as a lawyer, I appeared for many minority institutes and something close to the subject-matter…whether you would have a problem with my hearing. It is not because I belong to the minority community. But as a lawyer, I…"
A counsel interjected –
"As a lawyer, we appear in so many matters. Today, we say one thing, just the next day, we will make a diametrically opposite argument."
However, Justice Joseph noted that the implications were greater after being elevated to a Court as a Judge. He said –
"It is different when you come over to this side."
The Solicitor-General, Tushar Mehta conceded –
"That is entirely Your Lordship's conscience. This cannot be a matter of argument."
Justice Joseph eventually said –
"Let it go. List it before a Bench of which I am not a part."
The order of the Court was orally pronounced by Justice Hrishikesh Roy. Justice Roy dictated –
"The matter be listed before a Bench without one of us. The Registry will obtain necessary orders from the Hon'ble Chief Justice for listing the matter before an appropriate Bench."
Earlier, the Solicitor-General had also assured that the University of Delhi would not take any precipitative action on admissions till the apex court heard the matter. He informed the Court on Friday –
"I had given some assurance. That obviously continues."
The Bench, comprising Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, was considering an appeal preferred by special leave against a Delhi HighCourt order restraining St. Stephens College from conducting interviews for non-Christian applicants. The college has been insisting on following an 85:15 formula for such candidates, with 85 per cent weightage given to the result of the entrance examination and 15 per cent to its own interview. The college has cited its status as a minority institution to defend this policy, claiming that it could take autonomous decisions with respect to admissions.
This was the second time the matter was adjourned after a member of the Bench recused.
St. Stephen's College v. University of Delhi & Anr. Etc. [SLP (C) No. 17295-17296/2022]
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