Transparent and merit-based admission process will encourage students to work hard, says Delhi HC

While observing that malpractices and backdoor entry into admissions in professional courses are not unknown, the Delhi High Court Wednesday said that a “transparent and merit-based admission process” will encourage students to work “hard and realise their potential in their academic pursuits”.

The HC in its 144-page judgment further said that the selection of students should always be based on their “academic aptitude and other qualifications”, rather than “extraneous factors such as personal connections, wealth or social status or other resources of getting limited information of admission notice”.

A single judge bench of Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav made the observation in a common order pertaining to a batch of pleas moved by various private institutions affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University challenging the validity of three circulars issued by the Delhi Government and the university in September and October last year. The pleas also sought an interpretation of applicable admission rules in the matter of admitting students under the management quota seats.

The Bench said that institutions are not “entitled to charge higher fees” from the students admitted through the 10 per cent management quota seats than the fee being charged from 90 per cent of students.

The court observed that a transparent and merit-based admission process also “ensures that the brightest and most talented students are given the opportunity to study in educational institutions which ultimately promotes excellence”.

In the first circular, the Delhi Government’s Directorate of Education issued directions to the Vice Chancellor of the university with respect to the admissions against 10 per cent management seats in private institutions affiliated with the varsity.

Through the second circular, the university issued directions regarding online registration for management quota admissions on its portal and the display of the merit list. Through the third circular, the university issued the schedule for online registration for management quota admissions for BTech.

The circulars were challenged on the ground of violation of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India and that they were issued without any jurisdiction and authority of law. The article states that all citizens have the right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

The High Court examined whether the circulars imposed any restriction on the institutions’ fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution in admitting students against the 10 per cent management quota seats in accordance with the Delhi Professional Colleges or Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation Fee, Regulation of Admission, Fixation of Non-Exploitative Fee and Other Measures to Ensure Equity and Excellence) Act, 2007.

While holding that the circulars were valid, the HC said, “The regulation of admission in a fair, transparent and non-exploitative manner is the heart and soul of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Neither the private institutions nor anyone else would have any grievance with respect to maintaining fairness and transparency and ensuring non-exploitative procedures for admission. If the university displays the information relating to the branch-wise and college-wise seats of management quota, by no stretch of imagination the same can be said to be any restriction on the rights of the private institutions to admit students against the 10% management quota”.

The court noted that the petitioner institutions had not argued “that admissions are guided by the paying capacity of the candidates” and further that they are under an “obligation to maintain merit and transparency under the proviso to Section 13” of the 2007 Act.

“The said circulars nowhere prescribe any other criteria for judging the merit than the one prescribed under applicable rules or regulations. The circulars, nowhere take away the right to admit the students up to sanctioned intake capacity or compel the private institutions to compromise with merit or excellence,” the HC held.

While dismissing certain pleas, the high court, however, partly allowed one of the pleas moved by 57 students who were already admitted against the 10 per cent management quota seats by Maharaja Suraj Mal Institute of Technology but their admission was not ratified. “The admissions of the petitioners are regularised. However, the management quota seats for the academic session 2023-2024 of MSIT stand reduced to Nil,” the HC said.