Relief to BAMS Students, SC holds College Management Guilty of Misconduct for granting admission to Students not complying with online procedure
New Delhi: In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has reiterated a previous verdict clarifying that the admission of the students cannot be disapproved only on the ground that they didn't follow the online procedure provided that they are otherwise qualified and eligible. This comes after a bunch of students approached the Apex Court after their admission was nullified by the Kerala High Court on the basis of the fact that they didn't submit their applications online.
However, the top court has also clarified that the decision to permit students to continue their course does not absolve the Management of their wilful misconduct in permitting the appellants to attend classes even after the judgment of the High Court dismissing the writ petition filed by the Principal of the College.
Holding the management responsible for permitting the students attend classes even after dismissal of their application before the High Court, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices L.Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat observed, "The Management of the College is directed to pay costs of Rs. 10 Lakhs for its wilful act in disobedience of the judgment of the High Court. Managements of Colleges acting contrary to law and later projecting students to claim equities is deplorable. The Management is warned to be careful in the future. The cost shall be deposited in the Registry of this Court within a period of four weeks from today which shall be transferred to the Supreme Court Bar Association."
The issue goes back to 2018 when the petitioner medical colleges issued a prospectus for admission to the BAMS course for the Academic year 2018-2019. One of the conditions mentioned in the prospectus was the candidates should apply online for admission to the BAMS course in the NRI/management quota.
After the completion of the centralized admission process, the management of the medical college issued an advertisement to fill up the vacant seats in NRI/management quota. Although the appellant students got admitted to the course, they didn't submit their applications online.
Following this, the students started attending their classes. However, on 09.10.2019, The Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee for Medical Education in Kerala, disapproved the admission of those students n the ground that were not pursuant to the applications made online.
Challenging the order of the Committee, the principal of the college filed a writ petition, and in the meantime through a High Court order, the students were permitted to appear in the examinations for the 1st year.
However, on 12.01.2020, the Committee still didn't accept the request of the appellants to approve their admissions. So, the Principal of the medical college approached the High Court of Kerala. However, the petition was dismissed on 03.03.2020 and the order of the Committee was upheld.
After this, a Special Leave Petition was filed before the Supreme Court by the medical college challenging the High Court. Meanwhile, the students were permitted to attend their 2nd year 3rd year classes.
The appellants contended that there is no statutory provision which makes it compulsory for admissions to be made only on the basis of on-line applications. They further argued that there was a genuine difficulty on the part of the students in not being able to make on-line applications as the server was not functioning.
They also pointed out that they were NEET qualified candidates having no disqualification on their part to get admitted to the course. Further, there was no other candidate who is more meritorious than the appellants who were not given admission for the Academic Year 2018-2019 in BAMS course.
On the other hand, the Government of Kerala and the University of Health Sciences argued that the prospectus that was issued for admissions for the Academic Year 2018-2019 clearly mentioned that admission to NRI quota can be only on the basis of online application.
Arguing that the stress upon the online application is given to maintain the transparency in the admission process, the Government further pointed out that the management of the medical college failed to prove before the High Court that their server was not functioning during the process of admission for the Academic Year 2018-2019.
The decision taken by the competent authority not to approve their admission is in accordance with law which does not warrant any interference by this Court, the Government argued.
After listening to all these contentions, the Supreme Court bench noted that there was no doubt that the appellants were NEET qualified candidates and there was no other candidate more meritorious than the appellants and who were deprived of their admission in the said course.
The bench also observed that the procedure that was contemplated for filling up the NRI seats through online counseling was not followed by the management and their reason for non-compliance with the procedure was that the server was down. However the reason was not accepted by the High Court.
In this context, the bench noted, "More importantly, the Management should not have permitted the appellants to attend classes after the judgment of the High Court, especially, when there is no order passed by this Court staying the said judgment."
Noting that the appellants approached the Supreme Court only in December 2020 and the management allowed them to attend classes without their initial admission being approved by competent authority, the bench observed, "The appellants should have approached this Court immediately after the judgment of the High Court, which they did not. The Appellants are at fault in not taking immediate steps to challenge the Judgment of the High Court. Moreover, the students should not have attended classes after the High Court refused to approve their admissions."
However, reiterating an earlier judgment where the Apex Court had held that the students cannot be disapproved only on the ground that there was no online registration provided they are otherwise qualified and eligible, the Court mentioned, "we deem it fit and proper to allow the students to complete the course as they have already been permitted to attend classes for third year BAMS also."
Holding the management guilty of their willful misconduct, the bench further clarified, "The decision to permit the students to continue their course does not absolve the Management of their wilful misconduct in permitting the appellants to attend classes even after the judgment of the High Court dismissing the writ petition filed by the Principal of the College. The Management of the College is responsible for permitting the Appellants to attend classes even after the dismissal of the Writ Petition and it is liable to be penalized."
Thus, asking the management to deposit Rs 10 lakh in the Court Registry within four weeks, the bench noted, "Managements of Colleges acting contrary to law and later projecting students to claim equities is deplorable. The Management is warned to be careful in the future."
The penalty amount shall be transferred to the Supreme Court Bar Association, and shall be "utilized by the Association to assist the needy Advocates affected by the pandemic," further mentioned the Court order.
To view the original judgment, click on the link below.