Read Order: Jaskaran Singh Matharu v. Panjab University and Others  

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, February 25, 2022: While dealing with a writ petition by a student pursuing law at Rayat College of Law and desirous of seeking migration to UILS, Panjab University, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that migration can not be claimed as a matter of right. 

On the role of the Court in the academic matter, the Bench of Justice Sudhir Mittal opined that it is settled that courts should be slow in interfering in academic matters as they do not possess the necessary expertise. 

The Court was approached by the petitioner, a student of Rayat Law College pursuing a 5-year B.Com. L.L.B. (Hons.) Course. In 2021, Panjab University invited applications for migration to the 3rd, 5th and 7th semesters of B.A./B.Com. L.L.B. (Hons.) 5 years integrated course. The petitioner was desirous of migrating to UILS, Panjab University so he submitted his application. Later on, all applicants were asked to submit copies of their DMCs/results of the previous semesters. Based on their previous results, a merit list for the 3rd semester of UILS was drawn up in which the petitioner was at the top. 

However, a day prior to the counselling, Panjab University issued another notice postponing the migration and finally by another notice all earlier notices regarding migration to UILS during the Session 2021-2022 were withdrawn. Thus, the present writ petition was filed by the petitioner. 

In its reply, Panjab University submitted that it received a representation from students of UILS complaining of inflation of marks by Rayat College of Law. After considerable deliberations conducted at various levels, it was recommended that migration for the academic Session 2021-2022 can be done after moderation and from the next academic session, migration be done on the basis of an entrance test. A recommendation was also made to cancel the examination centre of Rayat College. These recommendations were approved vide a noting issued in January 2022. Thus, the action of withdrawing the notices for migration was argued to be justified as marks obtained by students of Rayat College were highly inflated.

The Bench observed at the outset that Courts should be slow to interfere in academic matters as they do not possess the necessary expertise and that migration cannot be claimed as a matter of right. However, in this case, the Court opined that applications for migration were invited and the process was underway when the notices inviting applications were withdrawn. 

Thus, the Court felt it necessary to examine whether the decision to withdraw was arbitrary or irrational and thus, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. This examination was in light of the fact that the University being a State within Article 12 of the Constitution of India, was required to act reasonably and without arbitrariness. 

The Court further observed that the deliberations of the Committee set up by the University for examining the complaint of inflation of marks received from the students finally resolved that migration in the academic Session 2021-2022 be done after moderation and that the examination centre at Rayat College be cancelled. The Court was also informed that in fact the examination centre was cancelled. The Court further noted that the recommendations made in the Committee meeting was approved by the Vice-Chancellor and yet, the impugned notice was issued. 

“Coming from an institution dedicated to teaching and learning the action can not be condoned. The decision is patently arbitrary and deserves to be quashed”, Justice Mittal asserted. 

Further, regarding the submission of the University that moderation is a time-consuming process and sufficient time is not available for the same, the Court opined that even if (assumingly) it were true, the record indicates that there was also a recommendation for holding a screening test. Merely saying that holding a screening test is not provided by the rules can not absolve the University from its duty to act fairly and rationally, the Court added. 

Moreover, the Court observed that the matter regarding the inflation of marks by Rayat College was first considered by the University and at that stage itself applications for migration were invited. Thus, the Court stated that if the matter was as serious as was sought to be conveyed, then instead of asking applicants to submit their result sheets, a quick decision on part of the university would have given it sufficient time to carry out moderation. Further, the Court noted that it was only after the release of the merit list that the impugned notice was issued. 

“The lackadaisical attitude of the University fuelled the expectations of the applicants and withdrawal of the entire process at the last moment was patently unfair”, the Court adjudged. 

Thus, allowing the petition, the University was directed to complete the process of migration although the 3rd-semester examination of the UILS was conducted while classes for the 4th semester did not commence yet. Also, the Court gave liberty to the University to hold a screening test for the applicants to determine their inter se merit. So far as students of B.Com. L.L.B. were concerned, the Court opined that there could not be a hitch in their migration as admittedly all the eligible students in the merit list are from Rayat College. 

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