Distance Education degree not eligible for LLB


Court :
High Court of Kerala

Brief :
Justice K. Vinod Chandran has held that that the graduate degree obtained through the distance education mode, can not be considered as an eligible qualification for admission to three year LL.B course.

Citation :

                      IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

 

                                             PRESENT:-

 

                   THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE K.VINOD CHANDRAN

 

           THURSDAY, THE 27TH DAY OF MARCH 2014/6TH CHAITHRA, 1936

 

                               W.P.(C).No.113 of 2014 (L)

                               ---------------------------------------------

PETITIONER(S):-

--------------------------

 

           BRIDGIT MEGHA. P.S., AGED 21 YEARS, D/O.SANTOSH DAVID,

           RESIDING AT PADUA VILLA,

           CHURCH ROAD, CHERUVIKKAL, SREEKARIYAM,

           THIRUVANANTHAPURAM - 695 017.

 

            BY ADVS.SRI.V.AJAKUMAR

                         SRI.T.M.CHANDRAN

                         SRI.SIDHARTH A.MENON

                         SRI.S.SUJITH.

 

RESPONDENT(S):-

---------------------------

 

        1. THE COMMISSIONER OF ENTRANCE EXAMINATIONS,

           OFFICE OF THE CEE, HOUSING BOARD BUILDING, SANTHINAGAR,

           PIN - 695 001.

 

        2. THE PRINCIPAL,

           GOVERNMENT LAW COLLEGE, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, PIN - 695 033.

 

        3. UNIVERSITY OF KERALA,

           REPRESENTED BY THE REGISTRAR,

           OFFICE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF KERALA, PALAYAM,

           VIKAS BHAVANP.O., THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, PIN - 695 033.

 

        4. STATE OF KERALA,

           REPRESENTED BY THE SECRETARY,

           COLLEGIATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, SECRETARIAT,

           THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, PIN - 695 001.

 

         R1, R2 & R4 BY GOVERNMENT PLEADER SRI.NOUSHAD THOTTATHIL.

         R3 BY STANDING COUNSEL SRI.GEORGE POONTHOTTAM.

 

 

             THIS WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) HAVING BEEN FINALLY HEARD ON

19-03-2014, ALONG WITH WP(C).NO.114/2014, THE COURT ON 27-03-2014

DELIVERED THE FOLLOWING:-

WP(C).No.113 of 2014 (L)

-----------------------------------

 

                                            APPENDIX

 

PETITIONER(S)' EXHIBITS:-

--------------------------------------

 

EXT.P1:            COPY OF THE ALLOTMENT/ADMISSION MEMO DATED 17/10/2013.

EXT.P2:            COPY OF THE CERTIFICATE ISSUED BY MADRAS UNIVERSITY.

EXT.P3:            COPY OF THE PROSPECTUS.

EXT.P4:            COPY OF THE ELIGIBILITY CERTIFICATE.

EXT.P5:            COPY OF THE LETTER ISSUED BY THE 2ND RESPONDENT ALONG

                   WITH THE COPY OF THE CIRCULAR.

EXT.P5(a):         COPY OF THE CIRCULAR DATED 13/06/2013.

EXT.P6:            COPY OF THE UGC CIRCULAR F.NO.UGC/DEB/2013

                   DATED 14/10/2013.

EXT.P7:            COPY OF THE INTERIM ORDER PASSED BY THE

                   HON'BLE LOK AYUKTA DATED 24/10/2013.

 

RESPONDENT(S)' EXHIBITS:-

-----------------------------------------

 

EXT.R3(a)          TRUE COPY OF THE SAID MEMO NO.Ac.C/26316/2012

                   DATED 11.4.2013.

 

 

vku/-                                      ( true copy )

 

 

                            K. Vinod Chandran, J

              ----------------------------------------------------------

              W.P.(C).Nos.113 of 2014-L & 114 of 2014-L

              -----------------------------------------------------------

                 Dated this the 27th day of March, 2014

 

                                  JUDGMENT

 

            Identical question is raised in both the writ petitions;

 

whether the graduate degree obtained by the petitioners, being

 

Bachelor of Business Administration offered by the Madras University

 

through its Distance Education Programme, could be considered as

 

an eligible qualification for admission to the Government Law College,

 

Thiruvananthapuram, affiliated to the University of Kerala, the 3rd

 

respondent; to its Three Year LL.B Course.

 

            2. Both the petitioners appeared in the Common Entrance

 

Examination conducted by the 1st respondent, the Commissioner for

 

Entrance Examinations, as per the "Prospectus for Admission to

 

Three Year LL.B. Course, Kerala 2013-14", produced as Exhibit P3.

 

The graduate course carried on by the petitioners was successfully

 

completed and the same has been recognized as equivalent by the

 

Mahatma Gandhi University, as is evident from Exhibit P4. The cause

 

of action for the writ petitions arose when the 2nd respondent, the

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014         - 2 -

 

 

 

Principal of the College, refused to admit the petitioners for want of an

 

Eligibility Certificate from the 3rd respondent-University. The Eligibility

 

Certificate required, was to be issued by the respondent-University,

 

certifying that such degree offered by the Madras University is

 

equivalent to the BBA of the 3rd respondent, so as to enable the

 

student to enroll for higher studies in the 3rd respondent-University.

 

             3. The prospectus issued by the 1st respondent provides

 

by Clause 6(ii) that the candidate seeking admission to the course

 

should be a graduate in any faculty of any University in Kerala or of

 

any other Universities, recognized by any of the Universities in Kerala

 

as equivalent thereto. It is the contention of the learned counsel for

 

the petitioners that the graduate qualification of the petitioners having

 

been recognized by the Mahatma Gandhi University, they were

 

entitled to appear for and get allotment of the seat in the Common

 

Entrance Examination for admission to the Three Year LL.B. Course

 

2013-14.

 

             4. The petitioners were also permitted to be admitted to

 

the Three Year LL.B. course by an interim order dated 02.01.2014.

 

The petitioners rely on Thomas M.Koshy v. Commissioner for

 

Entrance Examination [2013 (2) KLT 770], which considered the

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014       - 3 -

 

 

 

prospectus of the earlier years, wherein the stipulation was the

 

production of Eligibility Certificate from the University concerned.

 

This Court held that the same can only be a 'draftsman's error' and it

 

was observed that it was for the Commissioner for Entrance

 

Examinations to make proper corrections in the prospectus to the

 

appropriate extent, lest the anomaly should prevail. It was in the

 

context of this judgment, it is argued, that the prospectus has now

 

been changed to Eligibility Certificate from a University in Kerala in

 

Clause 16(viii) of the prospectus under the heading "documents to be

 

produced at the time of admission". The petitioners seek for a

 

declaration that, in view of the Eligibility Certificate regarding their

 

graduate degree granted by the Mahatma Gandhi University, they are

 

entitled to be admitted to the Three Year LL.B. course carried on by

 

the University of Kerala also, going by the clear terms in Exhibit P3

 

prospectus.

 

            5. The learned counsel for the University, however, asserts

 

their supremacy in prescribing eligibility conditions to be enrolled for

 

higher studies in their University. The Academic Council of the 3rd

 

respondent-University has such powers, of deciding the eligibility of a

 

course carried on by any University outside the State of Kerala and it

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014        - 4 -

 

 

 

cannot depend on the decision of an Academic Council of another

 

University within Kerala and it will not lie in the mouth of the 1st

 

respondent to prescribe or alter the conditions of eligibility.

 

            6. The Entrance Examination is conducted for admission

 

to the four Government Law Colleges and one private Self-financing

 

Law College, the latter presumably by agreement entered into by the

 

State with the private management, as a measure to ensure that merit

 

is not diluted. The Government Law Colleges, obviously are, directly

 

under the State and though the State has the power to regulate

 

admissions, to their colleges and those colleges under the private

 

managements which have entered into agreements with the State,

 

that cannot lead to any dilution of standards prescribed by the

 

respondent-University. The respondent-University maintains that

 

unless and until a qualifying degree has been recognized by the

 

respondent-University, no person can carry on any course offered by

 

it. The learned Standing Counsel also relies on a Division Bench

 

decision of this Court, reported in Varghese v. Director of Medical

 

Education [1987 (2) KLT 673], to contend that the prospectus cannot

 

override the University Statutes and administrative instructions, will

 

not cure, ineligibility as per the University Statutes.

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014      - 5 -

 

 

 

            7. Before looking at the legal issue, this Court has to look

 

at the various clauses in the prospectus. The academic eligibility for

 

admission, as has been indicated under Clause 6(ii), is a graduate

 

degree recognised by any of the Universities in Kerala. The Eligibility

 

Certificate, included in the documents to be produced at the time of

 

admission, was also, the Eligibility Certificate from a University in

 

Kerala. It is to be noticed that the Government Law Colleges at

 

Thiruvananthapuram,      Ernakulam, Thrissur     and   Kozhikode     are

 

respectively under three Universities in Kerala. The one at

 

Thiruvananthapuram under the University of Kerala, those at

 

Ernakulam and Thrissur under the Mahatma Gandhi University and

 

the one at Kozhikode under the Calicut University. It is to be

 

immediately noticed in this context that the petitioners, if they were

 

fortuitously allotted to the two Government Colleges under the

 

Mahatma Gandhi University or the private self-financing college, also

 

under the very same University; then they would have been entitled to

 

continue the Three Year LL.B. course. On completion of such course,

 

the immediate end result of enrolment to the Bar Council of Kerala

 

would also follow and they would be treated as equivalent to the LL.B

 

graduates all over the State, nay country.

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014         - 6 -

 

 

 

              8. The prospectus,       under      Clause   15,   speaks    of

 

'Centralised Allotment Process and Online Submission of Options',

 

thus enabling the students to make an option, in accordance with their

 

choice for allotment to either of the collegs stipulated thereunder. The

 

eligibility for registering options under Clause 15.1(e) prescribes that

 

the    eligibility  conditions,   regarding      nativity   and   academic

 

qualifications, of the prospectus should be ensured and that such

 

academic eligibility should be satisfied on the date of admission to the

 

course. It is also stipulated that the Principal/Head of the Institution

 

will be responsible for verification of eligibility conditions as prescribed

 

in the prospectus, at the time of admission and only those candidates

 

who are qualified as prescribed, shall be admitted, irrespective of the

 

fact of allotment. It is also highlighted, by way of a note under Clause

 

15.1,     that   since   different  Universities    are   offering  different

 

subjects/papers for the LL.B Courses, the candidate should ascertain

 

from the colleges regarding the courses and subjects offered by the

 

respective Universities before submitting options.

 

              9. Looking at the entire provisions in the prospectus, a

 

candidate proposing to seek admission to the Three Year LL.B

 

Course would normally be held to understand that the academic

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014       - 7 -

 

 

 

eligibility conditions are only those, stated in the prospectus. The

 

controversy itself would not have arisen if the 1st respondent was

 

careful to include a clause in the prospectus that despite allotment as

 

per the prospectus, the eligibility for admission would depend on the

 

conditions prescribed by each University, upon which necessarily a

 

candidate would have had to enquire about the same, before

 

exercising his option.

 

             10. The Bench decision of this Court cited by the

 

University [Varghese (supra)], declared that the University Statutes

 

are not overridden by the contrary provisions in the prospectus. The

 

said case arose with respect to a dispute between the 1st and 3rd rank

 

holder in an Entrance Examination, to the one seat available, for

 

admission to the Post Graduate Course in Dentistry. While the 1st rank

 

holder was a Graduate in Dental Surgery from the Annamalai

 

University in Tamil Nadu, the 3rd respondent had such degree from the

 

Kerala University. The Selection Committee, decided that the

 

admission of graduates from outside University would depend upon

 

recognition of their degrees by the Kerala University. The 3rd rank

 

holder challenged the admission on the ground that the 1st rank

 

holder's degree was not recognized by the Kerala University.

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014         - 8 -

 

 

 

Subsequently, the degree was recognized by the University, which

 

gave rise to a controversy as to whether the eligibility should be on

 

the date of application or could be later on. This Court is not

 

concerned with that controversy.

 

            11. The prospectus in that case, issued by the

 

Government, prescribed as eligibility; a graduate degree in Dentistry

 

from the Kerala University or any University recognized by the Kerala

 

University    with    not   less     than    one     year    experience  in

 

clinical/teaching/House Surgeoncy. The Kerala University Statues,

 

however, provided that the threshold eligiblity for a candidate having

 

graduate degree from an outside University, recognized by the

 

University of Kerala, would be that; such graduate qualification was

 

acquired two years prior to seeking admission, to the M.D.S. Course.

 

The 1st rank holder in the Entrance Examination admittedly had not

 

completed two years after obtaining his graduate qualification from an

 

outside University. The Division Bench held so:

 

        "When the Academic body like the University prescribes the

 

        conditions for eligibility for admission to a Post graduate

 

        course, it would be wholly "inappropriate for the High Court"

 

        to mitigate the rigour of the rule by any interpretative device.

 

        When, therefore, the person who has to his credit only an

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014        - 9 -

 

 

 

       equivalent Degree or qualification and the University insists

 

       that he becomes eligible only after two years of 'maturity', it

 

       is the mandate of an academic body, the demand of the

 

       University statutes. No person can gain admission to a post

 

       Graduate course in medicine or Dental Science unless he

 

       fulfils the conditions stipulated under the University Act,

 

       Statutes or Regulations".

 

The Division Bench in coming to such a finding, relied on a decision of

 

the Hon'ble Supreme Court in D.N.Chanchala v. State of Mysore

 

[AIR 1971 SC 1762], which held so:

 

       "The medical colleges in question are not university colleges

 

       but have been set up and are being maintained by the State

 

       Government from out of public funds. Since they are affiliated

 

       to one or the other of the three universities, the Government

 

       cannot frame rules or act inconsistently with the ordinances or

 

       the regulations of the universities laying down standards of

 

       eligibility" [para 16].

 

It is to be noticed that the learned Single Judge, who dealt with

 

Thomas M.Koshy (supra) was not apprised of the Division Bench

 

Judgment or the Supreme Court judgment.

 

             12. Thomas M.Koshy dealt with a similar controversy as

 

in the instant case, but the roles of the respective Universities were

 

reversed. The petitioner therein was agraduate from Sambalpur

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014           - 10 -

 

 

 

University, having obtained the graduate degree in a two year duration

 

course. This degree was recognized by the Kerala University; but the

 

candidate was allotted to a college under the Mahatma Gandhi

 

University, which University declined admission for reason of there

 

being no recognition of the Academic Council of that University. The

 

learned Single Judge had, in fact, elaborately examined the

 

provisions of the prospectus and also noticed the circumstance of a

 

candidate alloted to a college under one University being declined of

 

admission for reason of his graduate qualification not having been

 

recognized by that University, while a similar candidate, who has

 

identical qualification, would be accepted by another University within

 

the State. It was in this context that the learned Single Judge held so

 

in paragraph 17:-

 

               "17. The usage of the 'definite article' in Clause 17(viii)

 

       as to the Eligibility Certificate to be obtained, referring to "the

 

       University concerned", can only be the 'draft man's error'

 

       and it should be read and understood so as to mean that the

 

       'Eligibility Certificate' can be obtained from any of the

 

       Universities in Kerala. It is for the first respondent to make

 

       proper correction in the prospectus to the appropriate extent,

 

       lest the anomaly should prevail, leading to unnecessary

 

       litigations".

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014       - 11 -

 

 

 

             13. It is the case of the petitioners that this had prompted

 

the first respondent to have changed the stipulation in the prospectus,

 

to Eligibility Certificate of a University in Kerala. One has to

 

pointedly notice the observation of the Division Bench extracted

 

herein above that the rigour prescribed by the statutes cannot be

 

mitigated by the High Court by an interpretative device.

 

             14. With due respect, I concede inability to persuade

 

myself to accept the dictum laid down in Thomas M.Koshy (supra)

 

and also the change in the prospectus suggested. What was intended

 

earlier was that the academic eligibility would depend upon the

 

prescription by the respective Universities. What was required in the

 

earlier years, was an Eligibility Certificate from the University, which

 

words though anomalous, was supposed to indicate the primacy of

 

the respective University Statutes, over the provisions of the

 

prospectus, declared by the Division Bench of this Court as also the

 

Hon'ble Supreme Court.

 

             15. The Commissioner for Entrance Examination had even

 

specified in the prospectus, that the syllabi of the course conducted

 

by the respective colleges would have to be ascertained by each

 

candidate before exercising option. In my view, it would have been

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014     - 12 -

 

 

 

appropriate to have included a specification that the eligibility of a

 

graduate degree from an outside University, should be ensured from

 

the respective Universities. The option then would be exercised only

 

on that basis. It is evident that the judgment in Thomas M.Koshy

 

(supra) was rendered without noticing the Division Bench decision of

 

this Court in Varghese (supra) and that of the Supreme Court in

 

D.N.Chanchala (supra). Going by the binding judgments of a Division

 

Bench of this Court and the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the prospectus

 

cannot override the University Statutes or the Regulations brought in,

 

under the Statute. As far as the BBA Degree of Madras University,

 

through distance education, the same has been declined equivalence

 

by the 3rd respondent-University on the application by another student

 

[Exhibit R3(a)]. Hence, the denial of the Principal to admit the

 

petitioners to the Three Year LL.B course is in accordance with the

 

regulations of the 3rd respondent-University; which action cannot be

 

faulted. Now the question is as to whether the petitioners, who were

 

provisionally admitted, could be continued.

 

            16. The Supreme Court has in a number of decisions,

 

considered the question of eligibility and the principles of equity, in

 

directing continuance in a course even when the candidate does not

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014          - 13 -

 

 

 

fulfil the eligibility criteria, when such action has been in consequence

 

of a default on the part of the University. In Shri Krishnan v.

 

Kurukshetra University [(1976) 1 SCC 311] the University had

 

issued admission card to a student to appear in Part I Law

 

examination and the admission was challenged only at the time of

 

Part II of the Law examination, that too on a ground that the

 

candidate, who was employed under the Government, had not

 

produced a Consent Certificate from his employer. The Hon'ble

 

Supreme Court found that such a stipulation was not there and also

 

held that it was the duty of the College as also the University to

 

scrutinise the papers as to the threshold requirement and no

 

subsequent cancellation can be made on the ground of non-fulfilment

 

of requirements. Sanatan Gauda v. Berhampur University [(1990) 3

 

SCC 23] was a case in which the candidate was admitted by the Law

 

College and the University and also permitted to appear for pre-Law

 

and Intermediate Law examinations. The College and the University

 

were held to be estopped from refusing to declare the results of the

 

examination on the ground of his ineligibility for admission to the Law

 

course. Guru Nanak Dev University v. Sanjay Kumar Katwal

 

[(2009) 1 SCC 610] was a case in which the appellant-University had

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014      - 14 -

 

 

 

recognized the regular courses and the correspondence courses in

 

M.A. conducted by Annamalai University; but, however, had declined

 

such recognition to M.A. (OUS) Course through Distance Education

 

[Open University System]. It was held so in paragraphs 15 and 16:

 

             15. The first respondent has passed his MA (OUS) from

 

      Annamalai     University    through    distance    education.

 

      Equivalence is a technical academic matter. It cannot be

 

      implied or assumed. Any decision of the academic body of

 

      the university relating to equivalence should be by a specific

 

      order or resolution, duly published. The first respondent has

 

      not been able to produce any document to show that the

 

      appellant University has recognised MA (English) (OUS) of

 

      Annamalai    University   through   distance    education  as

 

      equivalent to MA of appellant University. Thus, it has to be

 

      held that the first respondent does not fulfil the eligibility

 

      criterion of the appellant University for admission to the

 

      three year law course.

 

 

             16. The first respondent made a faint attempt to

 

      contend that the distance education system includes

 

      "correspondence courses" and therefore, recognition of MA

 

      (correspondence course) as equivalent to MA course of the

 

      appellant University would amount to recognition of MA, OUS

 

      (distance education) course, as an equivalent. For this

 

      purpose, he relied upon the definition of "distance education

 

      system" in Section 2(e) of the Indira Gandhi National Open

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014        - 15 -

 

 

 

       University Act, 1985. But there is nothing to show that

 

       Annamalai University has treated correspondence course and

 

       OUS (distance education) course as the same. What is more

 

       important is that the appellant University does not wish to

 

       treat the correspondence course and distance education

 

       course as being the same. That is a matter of policy. Courts

 

       will not interfere with the said policy relating to an academic

 

       matter".

 

 

 

            17. It is to be specifically noticed that in Gurunanak

 

University (supra), despite the above finding, the respondent therein

 

was permitted to continue the course on the peculiar facts of the

 

case. The Hon'ble Supreme Court considered the fact that the student

 

was admitted through a common entrance test and was allowed to

 

write the 1st Semester Examination and the student was not guilty of

 

any suppression or misrepresentation. The petitioner's admission and

 

continuance was due to some confusion in the University itself, as to

 

the recognition of the course. The cancellation of his admission, after

 

the 1st Semester Examination was challenged before the High Court

 

successfully. The Supreme Court was dealing with the appeal after

 

four years when the candidate had completed the course. In that

 

circumstance, it was held to be unfair and unjust to deny the benefit of

WP(C).Nos.113 & 114 of 2014        - 16 -

 

 

 

admission which was initially accepted and recognized by the

 

appellant-University.

 

             18. In the present case, the College and the University

 

had, at the first instance itself declined admission on the question of

 

eligibility. The petitioners had prayed for a provisional order of

 

admission, which was granted by this Court in January, 2014. It is

 

also in such circumstance that this Court heard the matter out of turn

 

and with expediency. No grounds exist on equity. Binding precedents

 

would command this Court to steer away from interfering in an

 

academic matter, where the University has a fair amount of

 

supremacy in deciding on eligibility conditions. On the strength of the

 

binding precedents, it has to be held that the petitioners are

 

unqualified to be admitted to the Three Year LL.B Course of the

 

Kerala University.

 

             Writ petitions are dismissed. No costs.

 

                                                Sd/-

                                           K.Vinod Chandran

                                                Judge.

vku/-

                               ( true copy )

 

 

Vineet Kumar
on 04 April 2014
Published in Others
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