• "Courts cannot keep on condoning the mistakes year after year and somewhere the Courts must close the gate and stop interfering in cases of this nature. Any directions issued by this Court results in overburdening the authorities to redo the entire exercise for the mistakes committed by somecandidates. Considering the volume of applications received by the Testing Agency and preparing the rank list, it will not be fair to make the agency undertake the exercise of preparing the rank list all over again."While dismissing a batch of writ petitions filed for change in their community status in the NEETapplications after declaration of the result, a Bench of Justice Anand N. Venkatesh said.
• Taking a strict view against NEET aspirants who wrongly mentioned their communal status as 'General' instead of 'OBC' in the applications, the MadrasHigh Court remarked that Courts cannot keep on condoning the mistakes year after year, and such candidates must be made to own up for their mistakes.
• The case title is S. Sivakumar v. Govt. of India &Ors. W.P. No. 16679 of 2020
• The Judge added, "Such directions will also affect the rights of the other candidates who are participating in the same selection after giving the correct particulars. It is high time that the candidates will have to be made to own up for the mistakes committed by them. It is true that it will have an adverse effect on the aspiration of the candidate, but however somewhere the line has to be drawn by the Courts."
• The Petitioners' case was that while mentioning their communal status, they had identified themselves to fall under the Unreserved (UR) category and it is only when the results were declared and the scorecard was issued, did they realize that they had wrongly mentioned their category as UR, instead of OBC.
• It was stated that an inadvertent mistake committed while submitting the online application while filling up the category, should not be put against the young students, who are aspiring to undergo the medical course and become doctors.
THE COURT'S REMARKS
• Rejecting these claims, the Court said,"In the present case, the mistake committed by the petitioners while filling upthe category by itself cannot be seen as a factor which sealed the fate of the petitioners.The petitioners and other candidates were provided with various opportunities to makecorrections in the particulars that were provided while filling up the online Application Form, including their category.Right from January 2020 up to September 2020, at least during eight occasions candidates were informed to make correctionsif there are any mistakes in their applications submitted by them through online. It is not known as to why the petitionersthat such opportunities given by the Testing Agency through online mode, was not known to them, is totally unacceptable to this Court."
• It sternly remarked, "Submitting the application through online mode has now become a norm and the students of the present generation are getting well acquainted with thisnew norm."
• The pleas were opposed by the National testing Agency, which submitted that the question of correcting thePetitioners' community cannot be entertained as it is their fault for not filling the application properly,notwithstanding the clear instructions given in the Information Bulletin.Apart from that, the authority submitted, the petitioners did not utilize as many 8 opportunities given to correct the online applications form.
• NTA further submitted that nearly 13.67 lakhs candidates had appeared in NEET examination and marksobtained by the Candidates on percentage wise as well as cut off score for counseling and ALL INDIA QUOTA seats were alreadydeclared. Thus, at this stage, it is not possible to make changes in the category of any of the candidates afterperpetration of results as it will result in renumbering of the merit list etc., in respect of various categories of candidates.
• Concurring with these submissions, the Court said, "If the petitioners are permitted to change their category from UR to OBC after the rank list is published, it will definitelyaffect the substantive rights of other candidates who have given the correct information with regard to their category/communal status.If such correction is permitted at this stage, it will open floodgates and it will also result in the authorities redoing the entire exercise by preparing the rank list once again."
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
• Reliance was placed on ARManoj v. NTA, WP No. 16330/2019,whereby a coordinate Bench of the High Court rejected the claim made by the petitioners therein on the ground that the candidateswho do not undertake the corrections in spite of several opportunities given to them, cannot be permitted to knock the doors of this Court after the rank list is published.
• "This Court must maintain some consistency in matters of this nature and more particularlywhen this Court has taken a particular view in the previous academic year, on the very same issue.If this Court keeps changing its views every academic year on the very same issue,it will bring inconsistency and result in utter chaos.The litigants, who approach this Court should be given a clear picture on theview taken in a particular issue and it should not keep vacillating from one Judge to another," Justice Venkatesh remarked.
• Further, he rejected to follow the precedent in B. Darshini v. CBSE &Ors., WP No. 20999/2017,where the High Court condoned the inadvertent mistake committed by the petitioners and permit them to participate in the selection under OBC category.
• The Judge noted that those were cases where the merit list was not issued and the counselling had not taken place when the request was made.Thus, he was of the opinion that those Orders will have no application in the present case since admittedly the merit list has already been published by the National Testing Agency.
• "Insofar as the Order passed in the Writ Appeal is concerned, it related to a completely different selection for Bachelor of Design conducted by National Institute of Fashion Technology. The Division Bench took into consideration the peculiar facts of the case and granted the relief. That does not mean that this Order can be taken as a precedent in every case where such mistakes are committed in filling up the application, forever.It must be borne in mind that a preof the particular case. Even little difference in facts, can make a precedent inapplicable to the facts of a given case," the Court held.