Sikkim HC Strikes Down University Provision Disregarding Re-evaluated Marks, Directs University to Award Student Gold Medal
High Court of Sikkim in Neha Sharma Vs Sikkim University & Ors1– W.P. (C) No. 36 of 2019 – declared the last sentence of Clause 10 of the Regulations on Conduct of Examinations of the Sikkim University disregarding re-evaluated marks, to be ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution of India and directed the respondent university to award the petitioner with a gold medal for having secured the highest marks as per the re-evaluation results in M.A. Sociology in 2017.
The Bench consisting of Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai and Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan held:
“…the impugned provision does not seem to be in consonance with the scheme of evaluation, re-evaluation and re-scrutiny, improvement of provisions, publication of results, rectification of results and award of degree/medal as contemplated by the Regulations. Reading Clause 6 and Clause 10 of the Regulations sans the impugned provision thereof, together, it is clear that the re-evaluated marks are the final score for purposes of award of medals. In that view of the matter, the impugned provision is ultra vires the rest of the provision of Clause 10 of the Regulations as well. The impugned provision makes the object of Clause 6 and Clause 10 of the Regulations they seek to achieve, ineffective”
The petitioner, a M.A. Sociology student, had appeared for her 3rd Semester Exam in the subject ‘social movements in India’ in December 2016. She scored 69 out of 100 marks and her Sessional Grade Point Average (SGPA) after the 3rd semester was 7.75. Dissatisfied with the marks, she applied for a re-evaluation. In the meanwhile, before the re-evaluation result was declared, she had to appear for her final semester of her M.A. course in June 2017, where her SCGPA was 7.93. However, when she received the grade card, she noticed the SGPA for the III semester was reflected as 8.00 instead of 7.75. After enquiring from the Sikkim University, she learnt that this increase from 7.75 to 8.00 for the 3rd semester was due to re-evaluation and her marks had improved from 69 to 73 out of 100.
On 15.10.2019, the respondent university announced fifth convocation for bestowal of degrees and awards of medals for the batch of 2017, 2018 and 2019 to be held in the first week of November 2019 and that the gold medal in the Master of Arts in Sociology for the batch of 2017 was to be awarded to respondent no.4 whose CGPA was only 7.56. After the petitioner learnt that the gold medal was going to be accorded to someone with lesser marks than her, she contacted the authorities. But she was informed about the last sentence of Clause 10 of the Regulation and the medal was awarded to respondent No. 4.
The last sentence of Clause 10 of the regulation states that-
The top two scorers in terms of absolute score shall be awarded Gold and Silver medals respectively subject to the condition that such score, if below 60%, shall not be considered for medal. The scores obtained after re-evaluation or improvement examination shall also not be considered for medal
Aggrieved, the petitioner contended this clause. She averred that Clause 10 is unreasonable, arbitrary, and violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India. The difference created between evaluation and re-evaluation by Clause 10 of the regulation does not stand the test of fairness or reasonableness required under Article 14. Moreover, Clause 10 is in conflict with Clause 6 of the regulation, which provides for re-evaluation and re-scrutiny. The petitioner pointed out that the regulation failed to consider that result of a candidate becomes final only after re-evaluation. Thus, she preferred a writ to quash the impugned provision and a further direction from the respondent university regarding award of the medal.
The respondents defended their action by stating that Sikkim University is a Central University established in the year 2007 by the Sikkim University Act, 2006. Under Section 31 of the Act, they are empowered to make statutes, ordinances for conditions of award of fellowships, scholarships, studentships, medals and prizes. It was in the exercise of Section 31 that the above regulation was made and was approved by the Executive Council of the University. The respondent university contended that under Clause 10, scores obtained after re-evaluation or improvement examination shall not be considered for medals.
Perusing the case, the Bench remarked:
“The respondents no.1, 2 and 3 defend their action stating that they had the power to make the Regulations under Section 31 of the Act. The petitioner, however, doesn’t challenge their power to make the Regulations. The petitioner submits that the impugned provision is unconstitutional. Examining the impugned provision, it is manifest that it is discriminatory. The impugned provision creates an impermissible classification between those students who sought re-evaluation and students who did not.”
The Bench added:
“The student can seek re-evaluation only because the Regulations permitted her/him to do so. Having thus allowed a student to seek re-evaluation of her/his script by a provision of the Regulations itself, not to have the re-evaluated marks considered for award of a medal, either gold or silver, would amount to punishing the student for seeking re-evaluation even when it is permitted by Clause 6 of the Regulations. It, therefore, directly impinges upon the sacrosanct provision of equality secured by Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
Concluding the Court held the impugned provision should be struck down and redressed the injustice faced by the petitioner by directing the respondent to bestow the petitioner with a gold medal on account of having secured the highest marks in M.A. Sociology.
Nidhi Nair | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL