10 Oct 2022 12:59 PM GMT
The hearing of the petition filed by St.Stephen's College in the Supreme Court challenging the admission criteria laid down by the Delhi University got adjourned on Monday after Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, the presiding judge of the bench, recused on the ground that he was an alumnus of the college. The bench was considering a Special Leave Petition filed by the College against aDelhi...
The hearing of the petition filed by St.Stephen's College in the Supreme Court challenging the admission criteria laid down by the Delhi University got adjourned on Monday after Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, the presiding judge of the bench, recused on the ground that he was an alumnus of the college.
The bench was considering a Special Leave Petition filed by the College against aDelhi High Court order passed on September 12 which directed that St Stephens College cannot conduct interview for non-minority category students and that the admission should be as per the CUET score alone.
When Justice Kaul expressed the intention of recuse, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of the college, pointed out that Chief Justice Kirpal did not recuse from hearing the TMA Pai case relating to minority educational rights, though he was an alumnus of the college.
Justice Kaul replied that the times are different now.
"The environment has been vitiated to an extent where it becomes difficult for us. It makes no difference to me as to what I will rule or how I will rule. But what can be done?. It's an issue of constitutional interpretation. It's not something which can be settled. A call will have to be taken on how it is to be read', Justice Kaul said.
"One of us Judges is an alumnus of the College. Given the current environment, it will be difficult for this court to take up the matter", the Bench's order said.
Sibal, instructed by Advocate Romy Chacko, also said that the University, at 5pm today, will decide on the admission process.
"At 5 pm, University will grant the candidates to be admitted. What will we do?", he urged while adding that the Court should instruct the University to not take any precipitative steps. "Then Your Lordships must tell them that they should not do it. Otherwise, it's not our fault."
"Hold your hand till Monday, we will tell them", the Bench said.
Justice Abhay Oka, also part of the Bench, added that since there's a recusal, the University itself must make that statement. 'Don't create a difficult situation for the Court".
The court then dictated the ordered as follows : "Counsel for the petitioner submits that there will be aggravating circumstances by tomorrow itself, we expect the parties to hold their hands till the matter is heard. Matter to be placed before the Hon. Chief Justice."
"I will ensure that it reaches the Chief Justice today itself. I will sign the order copy during lunch break", Justice Kaul reassured the parties.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who had rushed to the court from another court, told the Bench that the University of Delhi would not take any precipitative action till the Top Court hears the matter.
Following that, the bench modified the order stating as follows :
"In view of the fact that learned counsel for the petitioner submits that there may be aggravating circumstances by tomorrow itself, learned Solicitor General states that no precipitative action would be taken till the matters come up for hearing"
During the hearing, the Bench threw light on the key constitutional issue to be considered in the matter : "It's a niche constitutional point. Whether in a minority institution, can you have different norms for people arising from the minority community and non-minority community. Is the benefit available to an institution or (unclear) …Don't make me say more."
The Delhi High Court, while partly allowed two petitions, one filed by St Stephens college and another PIL filed by Konika Poddar, a law student at DU, directed St Stephens college to withdraw its admission prospectus and issue a fresh public notice declaring the amended admission procedure.
The High Court, in its order, observed that the fundamental right under Article 30(1) of Constitution of India accorded to minority institution cannot be extended to non-minority members.
The plea filed by Poddar had challenged the decision of St. Stephen's College to conduct an interview round for admissions to general category for the academic year 2022-23, despite Delhi University's policy doing away with the same.
The Court was of the view that while St Stephens College retains its authority to conduct interviews in addition to the CUET for the admission of students belonging to the minority community, it cannot devise a policy that forces the non-minority community to undergo an interview as well.
At the same time, the Court allowed St.Stephens' plea to quash the University Communication which insisted on a single merit list for admission of candidates belonging to Christian community regardless of any denominations/ sub-sects / sub categories within the Christian community.
Case Title: St. Stephens College Versus University Of Delhi And Anr. | Slp(C) No. 17295-17296/2022 Xiv
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