No interviews for non-minority students, admissions on basis of CUET, HC tells St Stephen’s
The special rights of the minority institutions cannot be extended to their non-minority students, the Delhi high court said on Monday, while directing St Stephen’s College to admit non-Christian undergraduate students on the basis of the Delhi University’s (DU’s) common university entrance test (CUET), clarifying no interviews will be conducted for them
The special rights of the minority institutions cannot be extended to their non-minority students, the Delhi high court said on Monday, while directing St Stephen’s College to admit non-Christian undergraduate students on the basis of the Delhi University’s (DU’s) common university entrance test (CUET), clarifying no interviews will be conducted for them.
Asking St Stephen’s to withdraw its prospectus and issue a fresh one with the amended provisions, the court said that while the 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.
In its judgment, a bench of chief justice Satish Chandra Sharma and justice Subramonium Prasad said that no sufficient explanation has been given by St Stephen’s as to how the taking away of its right to conduct interviews for its non-minority candidates will deprive its fundamental right under Article 30(1) when it still retains its right to prefer its minority community and conduct interviews for its minority population.
The court said that Article 30(1) accorded to a minority institution is not absolute, and the State has the right to formulate regulations concerning the administration of a minority institution, as that of St Stephen’s, to the extent that it is for the interest of the minority community and is in a bid to prevent mal-administration of the minority institution.
“Aided minority educational institutions that are affiliated with a University must follow the norms and procedure of the said University. Protection under Article 30(1) can be extended to the extent that it allows a minority institution to sub-classify the reservation accorded to the minority community,” the court said in a 95-page judgment.
“The petitioner college is therefore directed to follow the admission policy for the year 2022-23 as formulated by DU to this extent. Further, in accordance with the subsequent communication of May 25, the college must withdraw its admission prospectus and issue a public notice declaring the amended admission procedure,” the court said.
The court, however, set aside a communication by DU to St Stephen’s, asking for a single merit list for admission of candidates belonging to the Christian community regardless of any denominations/sub-sects/sub-categories within the Christian community, stating, “The protection under Article 30 (1) can be extended to the extent that it allows a minority institution to sub classify the reservation accorded to the minority community”.
It said that any exercise undertaken by the State that would “whittle down the protection that is granted to a minority community can only be said to be detrimental to the community as a whole and, therefore, cannot be sustained”.
“The contention of senior advocate Kapil Sibal (for St Stephen’s) that any interference in the right of admission to the minority candidates would seriously impede the ‘freedom of choice’ granted to the various minority institutions under Article 30 which would, in the opinion of this Court, include the right to give preference/reservation to members of the religious denomination who have founded and are administering the educational institution for the purpose of admission, is, therefore, accepted,” the court said.
Disagreeing with the submissions of additional solicitor general (ASG) Chetan Sharma for DU that a single merit list for the candidates belonging to the Christian community, regardless of any denominations/sub-sects/sub-categories within the Christian minority community, must be given, the court said that any such protection would fall foul of the judicial pronouncements on the instant subject, will not be within the four corners of reasonableness and would not be furthering the right of the minority community itself as it would alter the right of a minority institution under Article 30(1).
After the judgment, DU vice chancellor Yogesh Singh on Monday said the university had won the case and hence, St Stephen’s will be required to admit non-minority students through CUET only.
“Our stand has been accepted by the court today. Admission to general seats will take place completely on the basis of CUET alone,” said Singh.
He added that if the matter were to reach the Supreme Court, the university will proceed as per the developments. “We are very hopeful and there shouldn’t be any problem,” said Singh.
DU and St Stephen’s have been at loggerheads over the 2022-23 admission policy since April. While DU’s new admission policy does away with the interview component and mandates only the CUET score for admissions to 50% unreserved seats (general seats), St Stephen’s insists on giving 15% weightage to interviews for all (Christian and general) admissions.
The college has challenged the university’s letter asking it to withdraw its prospectus for the undergraduate courses for the academic year 2022-23, while its admission policy has been challenged by law student Konika Poddar through advocate Akash Vajpai.
DU had supported Poddar’s petition and said that the college cannot admit students on its whims and fancies.
As per the prevailing policy, 50% of seats in minority colleges are reserved for students belonging to the community which runs the institution. St Stephen’s is the only college in DU that conducts interviews for admitting students.
In April, the college issued a circular stating that it will provide admissions based on the 85:15 (CUET: interview) formula for all seat categories, triggering the ongoing tussle with the university. Subsequently, DU wrote to St Stephen’s, informing the minority institution that it will declare “null and void” all admissions made by it in violation of the CUET guidelines.
Refusing to do away with the interview process for all candidates, St Stephen’s pointed out in May that the Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in 1992 had stated that “St Stephen’s, as a Christian minority institution, has its own admission procedures approved by the highest court in the land and guaranteed by the Constitution of India”.
DU stated that the introduction of the CUET, a standardised common entrance test, has changed the circumstances under which the college previously conducted interviews for all students in all categories. DU said the 1992 Supreme Court judgment was passed in the context of admissions conducted through qualifying examination marks of “different institutions of different standards” and did not have relevance with the introduction of CUET.
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