The Delhi University Wednesday contended in the Delhi High Court that St. Stephen’s College cannot be allowed to bring in subjectivity bias and discrimination by conducting interviews for students of non-minority communities. However, the college maintained that it was following the same procedure for admission of all students by giving 85 per cent weightage to CUET and 15 per cent to interview.
The submissions by Delhi University and St. Stephen’s College were made in separate affidavits filed in a PIL by a law student who has sought direction to the college to take admission on its ’unreserved seats’ in undergraduate courses only based on marks received by students in the common university entrance test (CUET), as mandated by the varsity. Another petition was filed by the college challenging the university’s letter asking it to withdraw its prospectus for the undergraduate courses for the academic year 2022-23, giving 85 per cent weightage to CUET and 15 per cent weightage to college interview for its unreserved seats.
On Wednesday, the matter came up for hearing before a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad which listed the pleas for further hearing on July 15 after being informed that Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee, who represents UGC, was down with COVID-19. The varsity, in its affidavit, 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.
The instances of maladministration in the interview process of the college as mentioned in the article by the ex-principal of the college itself is an eye-opener and the college cannot be allowed to bring in subjectivity bias and discrimination through the conduct of interviews for students belonging to the non-minority communities, it said. The university supported the PIL filed by law student Konika Poddar and said the reliefs sought by the petitioner are appropriate and warranted and therefore, the plea may be allowed.
However, the PIL was opposed by the college which maintained that the admission process adopted by it is purely based on merit. 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 said in the affidavit. It said the right of the college to select students for admission to the college as per its own procedure was upheld by the Supreme Court and the college was permitted to adopt interviews as one of the criteria for admission to undergraduate courses for both general category and minority category.
Regarding the PIL, the college said the petitioner has no locus standi as she is a law student pursuing a 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 college alleged that the PIL was filed collusively by the petitioner at the behest of the varsity.
The court had earlier refused to stay for now the university’s letter asking the college to withdraw its prospectus for the undergraduate courses for the academic year 2022-23, giving 85 per cent weightage to CUET and 15 per cent weightage to college interview for its unreserved seats. As per the PIL filed by the law student, on April 5, the varsity issued its admission policy for the academic year 2022-23, and on its last page of the Bulletin of Information, it specifically mentioned that admission to the unreserved seats in its minority colleges will be done only on the basis of marks obtained in CUET while on reserved seats minority colleges can give 15 per cent weightage to the interview and 85 per cent weightage to the CUET score at the time of admission.
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, it has said.
It has said the college has issued its prospectus for the undergraduate courses for the academic year 2022-23 which states that it will adopt the CUET as the eligibility criteria with 85 per cent weightage for CUET and the college’s interview for shortlisted candidates with a weightage of 15 per cent for its unreserved seats which is clearly contrary to the admission policy of the university.
It has said according to some media reports, the Registrar of the university again wrote a letter to the college and warned them that if the prospectus issued by the college is not withdrawn and if it conducts any admission based on its admission policy, the varsity will not accept those admissions and they will be treated as null and void.