The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reserved its order on pleas concerning issues about the admission procedure at St Stephen’s College for its ‘unreserved seats’ in undergraduate courses. A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad concluded hearing submission by the parties on the petitions by a law student and St Stephen’s College.
Law student Konika Poddar, in her public interest litigation, sought a direction to St Stephen’s College to take admission on its ‘unreserved seats’ only based on marks received by students in the common university entrance test (CUET). St Stephen’s College, on the other hand, challenged Delhi University (DU)’s letter asking it to withdraw its prospectus which gave 85 per cent weightage to the common university entrance test (CUET) and 15 per cent weightage to college interview for admission to its unreserved seats in UG courses.
The high court had earlier refused to stay for now the university’s letter on withdrawal of the college prospectus for the academic year 2022-23. In response to the litigation, DU has contended that St. Stephen’s College cannot be allowed to bring in subjectivity bias and discrimination by conducting interviews with students of non-minority communities. The claim was denied by the college on the ground that it follows the same procedure for admission of all students.
The university supported the PIL and said the reliefs sought by that petitioner are appropriate and warranted and therefore, the plea may be allowed. In its affidavit, DU also said the law is well settled that aided minority educational institutions cannot admit students under the ‘unreserved category’ as per its own whims and fancies.
St Stephen’s College has maintained that the admission process adopted by it is purely based on merit and its right to select students for admission as per its own procedure was upheld by the Supreme Court when it was permitted to adopt interviews as one of the criteria for admission to undergraduate courses for both general category and minority category. The college follows the very same procedure for admission for both minority and non-minority students. 85 per cent marks are allotted for CUET and 15 per cent marks for the interview. The interview is to be conducted by a committee consisting of the Principal, Head of the Department, and a member of the Supreme Council of the college who is also a member of the Governing Body of the college. “The procedure followed by the college is consistent with minority rights granted by the Constitution of India to minority institutions and is used to promote world-class education in India through St. Stephen’s College. There was no misuse or maladministration of the interview at any point of time and so allegations to the contrary are hereby denied, the college has said in the affidavit.
Regarding the PIL, the college has said the petitioner has no locus standi as she is a law student pursuing first year LLB course in the varsity and the college is not offering any course in law, so in no way she is concerned with the admission procedure adopted by it. The PIL highlighted that the Academic Council in its meeting on March 22, 2022, had accepted the recommendations of its standing committee vis-a-vis CUET as a basis for admission in undergraduate courses from the academic year 2022-23 onwards for all its colleges including its minority colleges like St. Stephen’s College and also there will be separate merit list for the unreserved seats in minority colleges where admission will be done only on the marks of CUET.
On April 20, the college refused to follow the instructions of Delhi University and issued a press release and admission notice stating that the college will conduct interviews for both reserved and unreserved seats and give 15 per cent weightage to interview and 85 per cent weightage to CUET marks at the time of admission in its undergraduate courses, the plea, filed through advocate Akash Vajpai, said. The plea thus sought direction to Delhi University to implement its admission policy for the academic year 2022-23, approved by its Academic and Executive Council, in true letter and spirit vis-a-vis unreserved seats of minority colleges in undergraduate courses.