A.N. Verma, J.
1. These two petitions are being disposed of by a common judgment as the controversy involved therein is the same. The petitioners claim that they were validly admitted by the Tilakdhari Post Graduate College. Jaunpur to the B.Sc. (Agriculture) Part I course for the academic session 1982-83, but they were illegally refused by the Gorakhpur University, to which the said College was affiliated, permission to appear at the B.Sc. (Agriculture) Part I Examination, beginning from April 9, 1983. Writ Petition No. 4380 of 1983 was filed on April 7, 1983 and under an interim order of this Court, the petitioners of that petition were provisionally permitted to appear at the said examination. The petitioners of Writ Petition No. 11116 of 1983, on the other hand, appeared at the said examination on the strength of an injunction order issued in a suit filed by them for a mandatory injunction commanding the University and the College to allow the petitioners to appear at the said examination.
2. Writ Petition No. 4380 of 1983 was initially filed by 172 petitioners but subsequently an application was moved whereby 134 petitioners got the petition dismissed as not pressed. The remaining 38 petitioners have, however, pressed this petition on merits. The other petition, namely, Writ Petition No. 11116 of 1983 has been filed by 18 petitioners in September 1983 after they got their suit dismissed as withdrawn.
3. When this petition came up for hearing, we directed the University to inform the Court as to how many out of these petitioners had passed the examination at which they were permitted to appear under orders of stay granted by this Court and the injunction issued by the Civil Court. In pursuance of that direction,the Gorakhpur University filed a supplementary affidavit stating that in the batch of petitioners of Writ Petition No. 4380 of 1983 only one petitioner out of 38 passed the examination. The rest have failed. In the other petition No. 11116 of 1983 out of 18 only 3 have passed, the remaining having failed.
4. The relevant facts as we have been able to cull out from the various affidavits and the original record produced by the University pertaining to the admissions made by this College for the B.Sc. (Agriculture) Part I Course are that one Dr. P.K. Singh was the permanent principal of the College. He was placed under suspension from August 16, 1982 to August 26, 1982. During his absence Sri R.N. Singh officiated as the principal up to September 3, 1982. On August 25, 1982 Sri R.N. Singh finalized the list of admission of 180 candidates with the help of the Admissions Committee of the College with Sri N.K. Singh as its convenor. In pursuance of this list, admissions were made between August 30, 1982 and September 9, 1982. Dr. P.K. Singh rejoined on September 4, 1982. He appears to have prepared another list of 169 students for admission to the aforesaid Course. Subsequently, he admitted some more students as a result of which the number of the students admitted by him rose to 180. The petitioners of Writ Petition No. 4380 of 1983 are those who were admitted by Sri R.N. Singh, while the petitioners of Writ Petition No. 11116 of 1983 are from the list of 180 students admitted by Dr. P.K. Singh. The petitioners assert that in pursuance of the admissions made by the two principals they deposited admission fee as well as other fees and they regularly attended both the practical and theory classes. They further assert that they had also duly deposited the examination fee which the College, in its turn, remitted to the University in December, 1982.
5. Admissions to various courses of studies in the University and affiliated College are regulated by Section 28 of the U. P. State Universities Act. Under that provision the Admissions Committee of the University lays down the norms foradmission and issues directions as respects the criteria or methods of admissions to the various affiliated colleges in the matter of admission, The Admissions Committee of the Gorakhpur University had under this provision fixed the number of seats for the B.Sc. (Agriculture) Part I Examination for this College at 180 and had also sent to the College the criteria and the norms for admissions.
6. In December the University received a complaint to the effect that the permanent Principal as well as the officiating Principal of this College had, during their respective terms in office, admitted 180 students each, i.e. a total of 360 students and that gross irregularities had been committed in the matter of admissions. Consequently, a show cause notice was issued to the Manager of the College by the University to send his report by December 31, 1982. The Manager sent his reply on December 29, 1982. Thereafter certain queries were made by the University from the Manager as well as the two principals of the College. On receipt of the comments of the principals and the manager, the Vice-Chancellor appointed an Enquiry Committee consisting of Dr. D.P. Misra, then Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and the Deputy Registrar (Affiliation) of the University. This Committee inspected the records of the College on March 8, 10 and 17, 1983. Thereafter the Committee submitted its report according to which it transpired that both the principals had admitted students without regard to the criteria and the norms laid down by the Admissions Committee of the University under Section 28 of the U. P. State Universities Act. It further transpired that 360 students had been admitted, whereas the sanctioned limit was 180 students.
7. On receipt of this report, the Principal of the College, namely. Dr. P.K. Singh was asked to prepare a fresh list of 180 students strictly in accordance with the norms laid down by the Admissions Committee of the University and to allow only these students to appear at the ensuing examination sheduled for April 1983. Pursuant to that Dr. P.K. Singh consequently prepared a fresh list of 180 students in accordance with the directionsof the Admissions Committee. This list included the names of 63 students who had already been admitted by Sri R.N. Singh. Of the earlier list of Dr. P.K. Singh, the names of 117 persons came to be included also in the final list prepared by Dr. P.K. Singh. The remaining students whose names found place in the list of Dr. P.K. Singh and Sri R.N. Singh prepared earlier thus stood excluded from the final list. The petitioners are among these excluded students.
8. The sole contention urged in support of those petitions was that the University was estopped from disallowing the petitioners from appearing at the examination in pursuance of the admissions granted to them by the two principals prior to the preparation of the final list by Dr. P.K. Singh. It was submitted that the petitioners having been permitted to deposit monthly fees as well as the examination fees and having been further allowed to prosecute their studies in pursuance of the admissions granted to them by the two principals, they could not be told off at the end of session that their admissions being invalid, they could not be permitted by the University to appear at the examination. This contention was founded solely on the plea of estoppel which, the petitioners contended, was fully applicable to the situation.
9. Having heard learned counsel for the parties, at considerable length, and having given the matter our anxious consideration, we are unable to agree.
10. As mentioned above, admissions to the various courses of studies in affiliated colleges are regulated by express statutory provisions enacted in that behalf under Sub-section (4) of Section 28 of the U. P. State Universities Act. Section 28 of the said Act, on which the submissions of the learned counsel have mainly centred, states : --.
'28. Admissions Committee. --. (1) Thereshall be an Admissions Committee of the University, the constitution of which shall be such as may be provided for in the Ordinances.
(2) The Admissions Committee shallhave the power to-appoint such number of sub-committees as it thinks fit.
(3) Subject to the superintendence of the Academic Council and to the provisions of Sub-section (5), the Admissions Committee shall lay down the principles or norms governing the policy of admission to various courses, of studies in the University and may also nominate a person or a sub-committee as the admitting authority in respect of any course of study in an institute or a constituent college maintained by the University.
(4) Subject to the provisions of subsection (5) the committee may issue any direction as respects criteria or methods of admissions (including the number of students to be admitted) to constituent colleges maintained by the State Government and affiliated or associated colleges, and such directions shall be binding on such colleges.
(5) Admissions to medical and engineering colleges (and to courses of instruction for degrees in education including the number of students to be admitted) shall be regulated by such orders as the State Government may, by notification in the Gazette, make in that behalf.
(6) No student admitted to any college in contravention of the provisions of this section shall be permitted to take up any examination conducted by the University, and the Vice-chancellor shall have the power to cancel any admission made in such contravention.'
The language of Sub-section (4) of Section 28 is unambiguous and it clearly points to the conclusion that the affiliated colleges are bound by the directions issued by the Admissions Committee of the University. The colleges are enjoined by necessary implication not to admit any student in disregard/breach of any directions issued by the Admissions Committee as respects the criteria or methods prescribed for admissions including the number of students to be admitted. They are not free agents in the matter of admissions in view of the express statutory provisions quoted above. This has been made further explicit by Sub-section (6) of Section 28 the language of which is express and peremptory. It says that no students admitted in contravention of the provisions of this section shall bepermitted to take up any examination conducted by the University. It further provides that the Vice-Chancellor shall have the power to cancel any examination made in such contravention.
11. The purpose and the legislative intent behind such a stringent provision is not far to seek. It is to ensure that the admissions should be made strictly in order of merit and not on any extraneous considerations which might persuade the colleges to admit students to the exclusion of and in preference to the more meriterious ones. In other words, the idea seems to be that there should be no room for any arbitrariness in the matter of admissions to the courses of higher studies.
12. The position in the present case is that the admissions which were initially made by Dr. P.K. Singh and Sri R.N. Singh were found upon an enquiry instituted by the University to have been made in breach/disregard of the criteria prescribed by the Admissions Committee of the University. The number of students admitted by the two principals also exceeded the prescribed limit of 180. That being so, the University was well within its right in virtue of Sub-section (6) of Section 28 not to permit the petitioners to take up the examination, their admissions having been made in contravention of the criteria prescribed by the Admissions Committee of the University.
13. It is well settled that there can be no estoppel against law particularly where the legislative mandate is so clear and emphatic, namely, that no one admitted in contravention of the provisions of Section 28 shall be permitted to appear at the examination. We are fortified on this aspect by a Division Bench decision of this Court is the case of Sukhpal Singh Sharma v. Vice Chancellor, Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur reported in 1982 UPLBEC 603 in which a similar argument to the one canvassed before us based on the plea of estoppel was repelled and it was observed thus:--.
'It is settled and needs no elaboration that there can be no estoppel against law.If, therefore, the Sakaldiha Collage acted illegally and against the directions of the Gprakhpur University, which has been demonstrated above, the Gorakhpur University cannot be compelled by a direction to declare the result of the petitioners by treating their admission as lawful'.
14. Yet another decision which, to our mind, considerably reinforces the view that we are inclined to take, namely Sushil Kumar Srivastav v. Principal, I.T.I. Faizabad is reported in 1982 UPLBEC 509. In that case also, the argument advanced was that the petitioners having been admitted and allowed to pursue their studies for some time after being selected by a Selection Committee and further the petitioners having deposited fees, their admission could not, afterwards, be cancelled as the respondents were barred by estoppel from preventing the petitioners from prosecuting their studies further. The argument was repelled by the Bench and it was held that as the admissions of the petitioners were illegal and contrary to the prescribed rules, the principles of estoppel were not attracted as 'no representation or promise made by an officer can preclude the Government from enforcing a statutory or legal prescription. The doctrine of estoppel cannot be availed of to permit and condone a breach of the law. It cannot be gainsaid that as the Government has the power to admit students in the Institute for imparting training in specified subjects, it can lay down conditions under which it would allow admissions'. With respect, we are in entire agreement with this statementof law.
15. Further, in the present case, we find that at no point of time did the University which is the final authority in regard to the admissions and grant of permission to the students to appear at the examinations held by it, directly or by any act or omission or even by implication made any representation to the petitioners or led them to act to their detriment believing any such supposed representation so as to attract the principle of estoppel. Whatever was done in the present case was the result entirely of admissions granted by the two principals to the petitioners indisregard/breach of the criteria laid down by the University.
16. Neither did the University acquiesce in the admission of the petitioners in the remotest sense. As noted above, immediately on receiving the complaints in December 1962, regarding the wholesale improper admissions made by the two principals, the University swung into action. After calling for explanations from the Manager and the two principals, the University appointed a Committee of Inquiry to examine the matter in depth and, on the conclusion of the enquiry, it directed the principal Dr. P.K. Singh to prepare a fresh list strictly in accordance with the norms and, on that being done, it issued admit cards to 180 students whose names found place in the final list.
17. Learned counsel for the petitioners, however, placed strong reliance on a decision of the Delhi High Court in the case of University of Delhi v. Ashok Kumar Chopra reported in AIR 1968 Delhi 131 in support of the contention that the principals' acts were binding on the University as they were acting as agents of the latter. We are unable to agree. In our opinion, in the first place, the principals were not acting as agents of the University, having regard to the scheme of the U. P. State University Act. Secondly, the scope of authority of the principals was strictly limited by the express statutory provisions, namely, Section 28(4). The principals were not empowered to admit students on their own and in breach of the criteria laid down by the Admissions Committee of the University. As regards the decision cited by the learned counsel in our opinion, far from supporting the contention of the petitioner, it is in accord with the view that we are taking namely, that in view of the provisions of Section 28 there is no scope for application of the principle of estoppel on the facts of the present case. In this case, the Delhi High Court clearly held that if the terms of statute are absolute and do not admit of any relaxation, then anything done contrary to the terms of such Statute will be ultra vires and void and the authorities cannot be estopped from contending that the illegal or void acts conferred no rights on the petitioners. Their Lordships, however, observed that ifthe Statute itself provides for exemption from the conditions or qualifications laid down under the Statute, anything done which does not strictly fulfil the conditions or qualifications would not be ultra vires but merely irregular and, in such circumstances, on the conditions for the application of principles of estoppel being fulfilled, the said doctrine could be pressed in aid. In that case, the University was empowered under the ordinances framed by it to grant exemptions from the operation of any of the ordinances governing the admission of the students. In the instant case, the terms of the Statute are absolute admitting of no relaxation. The legislative enactment in the Delhi case and the case in hand are materially different in their scope and language. Consequently, the decision cited is of no assistance.
18. Learned counsel next submitted that the University is authorised under section 28 to fix the number of students to be admitted to a course of study, which includes the power to extend that number where the exigencies of the situation may demand that. That being so, it was urged relying on a decision of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the case of Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh v. Sanjay Gulati, reported in AIR 1983 SC 580, that this Court should issue appropriate directions to the University to extend the number of 180 fixed by it so as to accommodate the petitioners in view of the fact that nearly two years have elapsed since the beginning of the session in question, namely, 1982-83.
19. We have given the above contention serious thought but we are unable to accept the contention. In the first place, while there may be power in the University to extend the number fixed by it, we cannot compel the University to increase the strength in every case where such a situation as the one in hand may arise, in the exercise of our powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Secondly, even in the case of Punjab Engineering College (supra) his Lordship the Chief Justice Chandrachud speaking for the Court sounded a note of caution and observed as follows (at p. 582) :
'Laws are meant to be obeyed, not flouted. Some day, not distant, if admissions are quashed for the reason that they were made wrongly, it will have to be directed that the names of the students who are wrongly admitted should be removed from the rolls of the institution.'
In that case, however, their Lordships directed the increase in the limit fixed by the authorities on the ground that a note of warning may be sounded before adopting the course of quashing admissions illegally granted. Their Lordships had, however not laid down any inflexible rule of universal application that in each case wherever the Court finds that the admissions were wrongly granted to the petitioners it must issue a writ of mandamus directing the authorities to increase the number of students. Still further it appears to us that the Punjab Engineering College which admitted the students was acting as an accredited agent of the State which is not the case here. It may also be noted that even in the case of Punjab Engineering College (supra) their Lordships had not directed the authorities to treat the petitioners as validly admitted. What their Lordships did was to issue a direction to the authorities to increase the number of seats and thereafter to throw them open to all the applicants for admission and select only the candidates in order of merit. For all these reasons, we cannot accept the prayer of the petitioners that directions be issued to the University straightway to treat the petitioners as validly admitted by a mere increase in the sanctioned strength.
20. Finally, it must also be borne in mind that it is not a matter confined merely to the petitioners on the one hand and the University on the other, so that equities could be adjusted between them by issuing suitable directions to the authorities. The position is that by the wrongful admission of the petitioners candidates more deserving were unjustly excluded. In view of the mounting pressures of students seeking admissions in specialized disciplines of studies among which Agriculture is undoubtedly one, it has become very important that admissions are granted strictly in order of merit and in accordance with the criteria so as to ensure that students who are moredeserving are not illegally excluded so as to accommodate the less meritorious ones. We cannot lose sight of this aspect in dealing with this case.
21. For the reasons stated above, this petition fails and is dismissed. But, we make no order as to costs.