Classification between Distant and Traditional Learning Unreasonable: Delhi HC quashes AIIMS Eligibility Criteria for MSc Nursing Admissions
New Delhi: Disagreeing with the discrimination between regular and distance medium of learning made by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Delhi High Court recently quashed the AIIMS eligibility criteria for admission to M.Sc. Nursing courses.As per the new rule implemented by AIIMS, candidates having degrees obtained through distance mode of learning cannot seek admission...
New Delhi: Disagreeing with the discrimination between regular and distance medium of learning made by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Delhi High Court recently quashed the AIIMS eligibility criteria for admission to M.Sc. Nursing courses.
As per the new rule implemented by AIIMS, candidates having degrees obtained through distance mode of learning cannot seek admission for M.Sc. nursing.
However, referring to the fact that AIIMS could not show how distance mode of learning is inferior to the traditional way, the Delhi HC bench comprising of Justice Sanjeev Narual held that AIIMS has "unreasonably and arbitrarily" excluded candidates on the basis of their mode of learning.
"AIIMS has failed to place any material on record disclosing a rational or scientific basis for such disqualification and no justification exists for considering one as inferior to the other," clarified the bench.
Quashing the condition that barred students with distant learning degrees from applying for M.Sc Nursing, the court mentioned in the order, "The impugned condition in the impugned notice and prospectus is arbitrary insofar as it prevents eligible candidates from pursuing higher studies by making an unreasonable classification between persons obtaining the same degree through traditional teaching mode and distant learning, and are thus, quashed."
The High Court was considering a plea by some nursing officers employed at AIIMS. After acquiring the requisite qualification prescribed under the Indian Nursing Council Act, 1947 (INC Act), they registered themselves in the Nurses and Midwives Register of the State Nursing Council.
In an attempt to improve and upgrade their formal education, they completed their B.Sc. (Post Basic) degree from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) via distant learning medium.
Therefore, they wanted to enhance their professional career further and wished to pursue M.Sc. (Nursing) course at AIIMS. However, on April 29, 2022, AIIMS issued a fresh notification excluding those who pursued their education via distant learning programmes.
"Candidates possessing Bachelors Degree through Distant Learning Course shall not be eligible for all M.Sc. Courses i.e. M. Biotechnology / M.Sc. Nursing/ M. Sc Medical Anatomy, Medical Biochemistry, Biophysics, Medical Physiology, Medical Pharmacology, Reproductive Biology and Clinical Embryology, Nuclear Medicine Technology, Cardiovascular Imaging and Endovascular Technologies," mentioned the notice.
Challenging the same, those nursing officers approached the Delhi High Court and filed the plea. The counsel for the petitioners argued that the concerned notice derecognized degrees offered by IGNOU, which was granted permission to run B.Sc Nursing course by the Indian Nursing Council. It is also contrary to the directives issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC), argued the petitioners' counsel.
On the other hand, AIIMS informed the Court that it has not disputed the recognition of degrees provided by IGNOU for higher education, but has merely laid down the criteria to ensure higher standard of education in conformity with the object of establishment of AIIMS.
Referring to Sections 13 and 14 of the AIIMS Act, 1956, the counsel for AIIMS argued that AIIMS is obliged to maintain high standards of medical education in India and therefore, it is empowered to prescribe courses and curricula for both under - graduate and post-graduate studies.
The AIIMS Counsel further contended that degrees obtained through distant learning mode cannot be equated with those obtained through the formal system of education, since the course requires rigours of hands-on physical training, and the same cannot be substituted by a degree obtained through online mode regardless of the fact that such degrees are recognised for the purpose of employment by AIIMS.
It was further submitted that even though UGC and INC have prescribed the minimum essential qualification for admission into the Course, AIIMS is governed by the provisions of the AIIMS Act, and therefore, it has the authority to decide its own eligibility criteria – which may be at variance with those set up by other statutory bodies – to ensure excellence in the medical field.
The disqualification so created by the impugned notice, cannot be struck down merely because some candidates may be put to disadvantage by reason of not fulfilling the criteria, further submitted the counsel for AIIMS.
However, the bench disagreed with AIIMS as it noted that the Institute could not place any material on record to disclose a "rational or scientific basis" for such disqualification and therefore, holding online mode inferior to traditional mode of teaching cannot be justified.
"It is open for AIIMS to prescribe eligibility criteria and setting the bar for admission in courses so long as the restriction is not discriminatory and has a rational nexus with the aim to be achieved however, AIIMS cannot dislodge the uniformity in standards set by the INC – which is acting under a central legislation; and nullify/curtail recognition of IGNOU B.Sc (Post Basic) degree in the process of determining admission criteria. It cannot be overlooked that INC is the apex body regulating the imparting of technical education to nurses across the country," noted the Court.
Slamming AIIMS for the discrimination, the bench observed,
"The Court is also unable to appreciate the basis on which AIIMS decided to exclude a certain class of eligible candidates based solely on the of mode of learning when the INC, being the regulatory body for the profession, itself has granted recognition thereto."
"One fails to understand how a qualification that is recognised for employment by AIIMS itself in the nursing cadre, has been rejected for pursuing an academic course citing lack of practical training. AIIMS seeks to create a distinction between academic pursuit of technical education and employment opportunities, when the same are interrelated. Granting recognition to one but not the other violates the principle of equality in as much as the same institute deems the same qualification to be sufficient for employment, but not for further specialisation courses which are mostly undertaken by candidates out of own choice, to further their professional skills," further read the judgment.
Therefore, quashing the eligibility criteria, HC noted,
"The action of disqualifying candidates possessing Bachelor's Degrees through distant learning from seeking admission in the Course fails to meet the test of reasonableness and as such, is liable to be quashed."
"AIIMS has failed to successfully demonstrate the basis for distinguishing Bachelor's Degree obtained through distant learning. The impugned condition in the impugned notice and prospectus is arbitrary insofar as it prevents eligible candidates from pursuing higher studies by making an unreasonable classification between persons obtaining the same degree through traditional teaching mode and distant learning, and are thus, quashed. Vide order dated 23rd May, 2022, an interim relief was granted to Petitioners No. 1 to 3 allowing them to appear for the entrance exam for admission in the Course. In a subsequent order dated 05th July, 2022, AIIMS undertook to withhold the results of Petitioners No. 1 to 3 and reserve three seats, in case the Petitioners clear the said entrance exam. Accordingly, AIIMS is now directed to declare the results of Petitioners No. 1 to 3 in accordance with its rules framed in this regard. In case the Petitioners are found to be successful, they shall be considered for admission as per merit in the said Course," read the order.
To read the Court order, click on the link below.
Barsha completed her Master's in English from the University of Burdwan, West Bengal in 2018. Having a knack for Journalism she joined Medical Dialogues back in 2020. She mainly covers news about medico legal cases, NMC/DCI updates, medical education issues including the latest updates about medical and dental colleges in India. She can be contacted at email@example.com.