The Delhi High Court on Monday ordered St. Stephen’s College to issue a fresh prospectus giving 100% weightage to Common University Entrance Test (CUET) score for admission to students from the non-minority category applying to undergraduate courses.
St. Stephen’s College has been at loggerheads with Delhi University over its admission criteria for undergraduate courses, with either party refusing to back off. The college, asserting its minority institution character, has accorded 85% weightage to CUET scores and 15% to interviews for all candidates, a stand strongly opposed by DU, which wants interviews to be conducted only for the reserved category students.
On Monday, a Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad directed St. Stephen’s College to do away with the process of conducting interviews for non-minority students and to follow the admission policy formulated by Delhi University.
The Bench observed, “The conduct of an interview over and above the CUET has the potential of introducing subjectivity and bias into the admission process, thereby eroding the very purpose for which CUET is being brought into play.”
No change for minority seats
The court, however, rejected the argument raised by Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for University Grants Commission (UGC), that even for seats reserved for the minority community, the selection must be made solely from the merit list.
“It is for the institution to decide what would be best for the minority community, and for that purpose conducting an interview, which has been held to be free and transparent by the apex court in St. Stephen’s College vs. University of Delhi, cannot be said to be contrary to the interest of the minority institution,” the court added.
It also ruled that DU was well within its right to formulate policies regulating the rights of St. Stephen’s College, which is an aided educational institution, to admit students if it was of the opinion that such admission policies may potentially lead to maladministration and lower the standard of excellence of the institution.
Additionally, the High Court ordered that Delhi University cannot insist St. Stephen’s College have a single merit list for the candidates belonging to the Christian community, regardless of any denominations/sub-sects/sub-categories within the community.
St. Stephen’s College had moved the High Court seeking a stay on Delhi University’s communication asking it to withdraw its prospectus for undergraduate courses for the academic year 2022-23. A second petition was also filed by law student Konika Poddar, through advocate Akash Vajpai, seeking direction to the college to admit undergraduate students on its unreserved seats based only on marks scored in CUET.
In its 95-page-judgment, the High Court observed, “Article 30(1) is not absolute and the State has the right to formulate regulations concerning the administration of a minority institution to the extent that it is for the furtherance of the interest of the minority community and is in a bid to prevent maladministration of the minority institution.”
Article 30(1) confers on minority institutions the right to establish and administer institutions of their choice.
St. Stephen’s College, in its plea, had said, “The management must be permitted to mould the institution as it thinks fit and in accordance with its ideas of how the interest of the community in general and the institution in particular will be best served.”
The college had contended that it has been conducting interviews of non-minority students for the last 40 years.
On May 24, the Vice-Chancellor of DU sent a letter to the Principal of St. Stephen’s College asking him to withdraw the admission prospectus from the website of the college and to select general category candidates purely based on their CUET marks.
Institution of excellence
The college said it is an institution of excellence, consistently ranking in the top 5 institutes in the country over the past 40 years, and has maintained its high standards despite the admission of students who are ostensibly “less meritorious” as part of the minority quota.
“The right granted to minorities under Article 30 is absolute and that freedom of choice includes the right to give preference to students from the religious denomination or sect within the minority community as part of their freedom of choice,” it had said before the High Court.
The college said the decision of the university will deprive all minority institutions of their autonomy, which is the essence of Article 30 of the Constitution.
The university, on the other hand, had asked St. Stephen’s College to withdraw its prospectus for the 2022-23 session and issue a public notice declaring revised admission procedures in consonance with the new admission policy of the university.
The university has insisted that aided minority educational institutions cannot admit students under the unreserved category as per its own whims and fancies.