Punjab and Haryana HC Penalizes Panjab University & UILS for Malicious Actions Against Meritorious Law Student
23rd February 2021 the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Ishita Uppal v. Panjab University Chandigarh and Ors. — CWP 20275 of 2019 (O&M) — imposed a fine of Rs. 1 Lakh for harassing a meritorious EWS law student with malicious actions sparring over 2 and half years.
The petitioner-student, an EWS category student and 2014-2015 batch 12th Grade topper in the UT of Chandigarh secured admission to a 5-year BA.LLB course at the University Institute of Legal studies (UILS) of the Punjab University, Chandigarh. She was awarded a grant of scholarship per her EWS category and meritorious academic performance. The scholarship was discontinued in the 4th year of the course and communicated through two letters. Within a few days, this was followed by the petitioner-student removal from the department rolls by the Director, UILS, leading to the cancellation of her internship program in the 9th semester.
In 2018, the petitioner-student, owing to illness and doctor’s advice of complete bed rest in her 6th semester, the medical certificate of which was duly sent to the UILS Office missed her French III examination.
As per Guideline 9 of “Handbook of Information,” the petitioner would deposit her fees and the respondents would refund it under the free-ship scholarship awarded to her. However, she was denied a refund to her 3rd-year fees by the respondents stating failure to produce Detailed Marks Card (DMC) of the 6th semester — wherein she had missed an exam owing to her medical condition.
Further on, the petitioner-student was removed from the list of candidates deputed for an Internship Program in 2019 she was already undergoing. The petitioner’s representation against this move was rejected by the Director, UILS under the grounds that she was not on the rolls of the department and on the non-payment of fees for the 8th and 9th semesters.
Aggrieved, the petitioner-student filed a writ petition for quashing of the impugned letters and for directing the respondents to restore her free-ship scholarship, and also to pass an interim stay on the termination of her internship program.
The contention raised on behalf of the respondent was that the free-ship granted to the petitioner was only a concession of fee and not an EWS Scholarship. This benefit was allowed to her given her academic performance but cancelled as she could not clear her 6th-semester examination. As regards the Internship Program, it was permissible to only the students who are on the rolls of the Institute and since the petitioner’s name was absent, she was not entitled to the program. Her name was struck off due to non-payment of fees for the 8th semester and her failure to take admission for the 9th semester.
The petitioner-student argued that:
- discontinuance of the benefits of free-ship under clause (vi) Guideline 9 of the Handbook and considering her as a compartment candidate for the 6th semester was downright illegal and in violation of Article 14 and 21 of the constitution.
- removal of her name from the internship program in the 9th semester was a malicious act to destroy her career
- all actions of the respondents violated principles of natural justice and she was not allowed to be heard before the passing of the order by the Vice-Chancellor and the Board of Control of UILS.
The High Court studying Clause (vi) of Guideline 9 and the legality of the action of respondents, first considered the whole extract of the said guidelines. The Court pointed out how the respondents were well aware of the petitioner’s illness but that she was forced to run from pillar to post for one whole year due to the non-forwarding of her medical certificate to the concerned office by the clerk.
The court opined:
“It seems that respondents are having just only one motive i.e. to treat the petitioner as a compartment/ re-appear candidate just to deprive her for claiming the benefit of freeship/ EWS scholarship under the garb of clause (vi) of guideline 9. It is curious to notice that respondents are not sure as to whether the case of petitioner is falling in the category of re-appear or compartment, but they have vaguely mentioned both i.e. compartment/ re-appear.”
The Court added:
The petitioner is having good talent, but she has been forced to suffer great trauma on account of the wholly unacceptable approach adopted by the respondents. She is being harassed by the respondents for the last two and half years; thus, obviously, her study has also been affected. Consequently, there is no hesitation to observe that the actions of the respondents have not only caused great prejudice to the petitioner but also resulted into miscarriage of justice.
In conclusion, the Court allowed the writ petition, quashed the impugned letters, and directed the respondents to restore and release the entire benefit of freeship/EWS scholarship to the petitioner without any further delay and ordered the declaration of the final result of the petitioner forthwith.
The Court also entitled the petitioner for costs of Rs. 1 Lakh.
Angel Nair | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL