TAMIL NADU

Students fear litigation may prolong

CHENNAI, AUG. 1 With the Chief Justice, B. Subhashan Reddy, back in Chennai after the inauguration of the Madras High Court Bench in Madurai, students and parents are looking forward to the verdict in cases relating to admission to professional courses, expected tomorrow.

The Bench, comprising the Chief Justice and Justice Prabha Sridevan, is seized of two critical issues, which could influence the admission process in medical and engineering colleges. One case relates to the "improvement marks" through which students improve on their performance in a supplementary examination and seek admission the following year and the other pertains to "22 disputed questions" in the Tamil Nadu Professional Courses Entrance Examination (TNPCEE).

Admission to nearly 500 medical seats are likely to be influenced by the ruling in the "improvement marks case", in which the Bench gave some indication with regard to the "seniority" issue. Mr. Justice Reddy also hinted that the authorities must be prepared for fresh counselling to ensure that the admissions are fair, transparent and based entirely on merit. The Bench does not want any legal issue to affect the future of the students.

Similarly, marking in the "disputed questions" for which more than one answer may be construed as right could have a direct bearing on ranking. Anna University has already gone through the exercise of re-marking questions and was about to commence counselling to engineering colleges. It remains to be seen if that will be the final rank list or whether the Bench will have something different to say.

Whatever the judgment be tomorrow, the students and their parents are anxious to get the admissions process in motion. But both these cases will affect the process only for admissions through the Single Window System (SWS). There are other cases relating to admission to private, self-financing colleges. Notably, the Government has gone on appeal against a single judge's ruling that the consortium of private colleges can go ahead with admissions based on the Common Entrance Test and without a counselling system or SWS.

The fear gripping students, who may not secure an admission of their choice through the Anna University's SWS, is that the litigation may prolong. The consortium appears determined not to conduct SWS, if it can be averted. Depending on the High Court verdict, it could even take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Authorities confident

It is already August and the counselling is yet to begin. While university authorities are confident that they can initiate the process before the end of the week, it may take up to a month to complete counselling in all centres. This will account for about 42,000 seats in engineering colleges. Another 30,000 seats are up for grabs under the "management quota" of private institutions and the process will first have to be cleared by the court and the actual admission list of each college must be approved by the Permanent Committee.

Excess seats

Parents argue that there are more seats than applicants and the whole process of litigation could have been avoided through a consensus approach among all parties. "We are told there may be 16,000 to 18,000 seats going abegging this year after the admissions are completed. What are we fighting over now," asks a senior executive in a nationalised bank, who wants to know where his son will study. "He took the examination in March and we are now in August," he rues.

His other fear relates to the issue of lapsed seats and how they can be filled. The feeling is there could be a fresh bout of litigation over this thorny question. There are hundreds if not thousands of parents who have paid the fees to private colleges but are not sure about admission. The winners this year are deemed universities, which have reportedly secured a 10 to 20 per cent increase in admissions because of this protracted legal battle. And their classes have commenced.

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