Delhi University Unduly Harsh In Denying Student Admission for Typographical Error: Delhi HC
23rd April 2021, the Delhi High Court in Adil Sajeer Ansari vs University of Delhi & Anr —CWP no. 5392 of 2020 — passed an order directing the respondent to the petitioner — an MBA aspirant who was denied admission for sending eligibility documents to the wrong e-mail address for the academic year 2021-22.
The petitioner, upon clearing the Common Admission Test (CAT), applied to the MBA (IB) course at Delhi School of Economics, the University of Delhi for the academic year 2020-21 and was provisionally selected in the OBC category; the details of which were conveyed to the petitioner through an email dated August 2, 2020. The directions in the email stated that the petitioner was required to send scanned copies of the eligibility documents on or before August 4, 2020, between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM following which a payment link would be generated.
Complying with the email, the petitioner submitted the documents but failed to receive the payment link. To draw attention to this, he immediately raised a query and realised that he had emailed the documents to an incorrect email id. Realising his mistake, he immediately sent the documents to the correct email address on August 4, 2020, at 09:15 PM (past the 4 PM deadline). At 09:19 PM, he additionally tendered an apology sharing the screenshot of the email sent to the wrong address.
The respondent-university, considering this error, submitted the matter to a Sub-Committee that rejected the petitioner’s request in a decision dated August 7, 2020. The petitioner then made representations to the Dean of the Department, the MBA Admissions Office and Dean of Students Welfare with no relief.
Aggrieved by their lack of response, the petitioner filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court seeking a directive for the respondent university to grant him admission to the MBA (IB) course.
The respondent contended that power to make regulations was vested in the concerned faculty by virtue of being an “authority” of the University under the Delhi University Act, 1922.
The Court, in response, said:
“…every instruction or direction issued by an “authority” must be examined on its own terms. There is nothing on record to support the conclusion that the deadline prescribed in the communication dated 02.08.2020 was in the nature of a “regulation”, by which the University was compelled to reject the petitioner’s representations.”
The Court further stressed that reference to a committee implied discretion on the part of the University and therefore “the decision was not one of policy simpliciter, but of application of policy to a particular factual situation”.
It also highlighted that the university had not begun the processing of applications between 4:00 PM and 9:19 PM on August 4, 2020, and that the petitioner “corrected his mistake before the admissions process had progressed at all.”
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Prateek Jalan expressed that the respondent was “unduly harsh” in rejecting the petitioner’s request and stated:
“The petitioner’s conduct, other than the admitted typographical error in submission of the documents has been diligent and responsive. Despite the lack of necessary facilities owing to COVID-19 restrictions and festivals in the concerned district in Uttar Pradesh, he persevered to submit his documents within time.”
Relying on the 1991 judgment of the Supreme Court in Poddar Steel Corporation vs. Ganesh Engineering Works and Ors., whereby it was held that minor or ancillary deviations from tender conditions by bidders can be condoned; the Court noted that if:
“commercial organizations can be permitted such latitude, surely a young student at the cusp of life is entitled to the same benefit.”
In conclusion, the Delhi High Court allowed the writ petition and set aside the Sub-Committee’s decision dated August 7, 2020. Further, in light of the vacant seat in the OBC category as per the interim order dated August 18, 2020, the court directed the respondent university to “grant admission to the petitioner for the concerned course for the academic year 2021-22”.
Ankitha Subramanya | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL