(1) The Petitioner in this writ petition challenges, the order of the respondent No. 2, University of Delhi, in refusing to allow the petitioner to take the examination of M.A. (P) held in April 1979 This petition was filed on 6th April 1979 and pending the disposal of the petition the petitioner was allowed to appear for the M.A. (P) History examination commencing on 7th April 1979. She has since taken the examination but her result has been withheld to await the decision in the present writ petition.
(2) The petitioner passed her B. A. (Hons.) History examination in 11978 from Delhi University. She was a. student in Indraprastha College women. She secured 354 marks out of 800 marks equivalent to 44.25 per cent. For admission to the Post Graduate course candidates desirous of seeking admission to M.A. must fulfill the requisite condition of having passed with prescribed percentage as detailed in the appendix I of the Bulletin of Information. At page 9 of the Bulletin Note 1 provides that rounding of a fraction of marks turn purposes of admission to any course is not permissible and note 2 provides that candidate not fulfillling the eligibility requirements shall not be registered and no request for relaxation in the minimum eligibility requirements shall be entertained.
(3) Admission to M. A. History in Delhi University course requirement is B. A. (Hons.) in History from Delhi University. Those candidates who get 50 per cent marks or above in the main subject are entitled to automatic admission while candidates who get 45 per cent or more but less than 50 per cent marks that is category (B) will have to take admission test of the department of history from which the consolidated merit list will be prepared and admission will be strictly according to merit. These instructions are found on pages 22-23 in the Bulletin of information for 1978-79. thereforee if the Rules are to be strictly followed the petitioner was not eligible to seek admission to M. A. History course because she was short by 6 marks. She nevertheless applied for registration and sent her application. In the said application she correctly mentioned her marks as 354/800 and the division and percentage mentioned was Iii and 45 per cent appro.(approximate). Notwithstanding that on apparent reading of her application the petitioner did not fulfill the eligibility requirement. She applied for registration to appear in the entrance examination and she was issued a registration slip No. 3271 on 6th July 1978 by the University of Delhi, respondent No. 2. permitting her to take the entrance examination which she took on 28th July. 1978. She was declared successful in the entrance examination and was placed second in order of merit in the second list of successful candidates. The petitioner was given an admission slip and obtained admission in the Indraprastha College for Women, respondent No. 3. It is alleged in the petition that thereafter she attended the classes regularly as well as tutorial classes of M.A. in the year 1978-79 and paid her college fee regularly up to April 1979. This part of her allegation has not been disputed in the counter affidavits. On 2nd April, 1979 the petitioner went to the college to collect her roll number and the admission ticket but was told that the same had not been received. The petitioner alleges that she filled her form with fee of Rs. 32 and submitted the same to the college authorities which forwarded the same to the Controller of Examination. This is not disputed by the respondents. The examination was to commence from 7th April. 1979. On April 4, 1979 the petitioner went to the college to collect her admission ticket but found that the same had not come from the university. She thereafter obtained a letter dated 4th April. 1979 from the Principal of the college addressed to the Controller of Examination requesting him that the college had not received the admission ticket of the petitioner for the examination MA. previous History and requesting that this may be handed over to her personally. It is the case of the petitioner that she went to university on 4th April, 1979, she was informed that her admission had been cancelled as far back as October 1978 and that this was the first time that she came to know of it. She thereupon made a representation to the Vice- Chancellor on 6th April, 1979 requesting the issue of admission ticket in which she mentioned that she had been attending classes all through and that it was only on 4th April, 1979 that she came to know that her admission to M.A. had been cancelled in October, 1978 and asking that she may be allowed to appear in the examination without prejudice to the decision that may be taken subsequently by the University. This application was forwarded and recommended by the Principal of the college for sympathetic consideration. The university however, did not permit her to take the examination and that is why she came to this court and obtained an order or. 6th April, 1979 allowing her to take the examination provisionally.
(4) Counter affidavit has been filed by the university as well as the college.
(5) Most of the facts are not in dispute. That the petitioner was strictly speaking not eligible for admission as per regulations of the university is not in dispute because she did not have 45 per cent marks. If thereforee she had been refused admission when she applied for registration to appear in the entrance examination or soon thereafter we doubt whether the petitioner could have made any grievance. The present situation however has arisen because the petitioner continued to attend the classes, paid her fee, continued as a student of the college and participated in other activities as student and it was only in April, 1979 when the examination was to take place that she was denied admission to sit in the examination. It is silence and inaction on the part of the respondent that makes the petitioner invoke the rule of equitable estoppel to urge that after such a long time the respondents are barred from denying her the right to continue her studies on the ground that as per regulations she could not have got admission. The return shows that the application filed by the petitioner gave facts correctly and did not in any way mis-represent the situation. It is also clear from the return that on 26-8-1978 the Assistant Registrar of the university wrote to the principal of the college informing her that the petitioner did not fulfill the minimum requirement and she was not eligible for admission and directing the principal to cancel the admission of the petitioner. Another letter to the same effect was written on 25-10-1978 by the Assistant Registrar seeking information whether the admission of the petitioner has been cancelled and if not immediate action should be taken. That these letters were exchanged between the college and the university is not in dispute. It is also not in dispute that the university did not send copies of these letters to the petitioner nor did it in any way seek to inform the petitioner about its having cancelled her admission. The petitioner's case is that it is only on 4-4-1979 that she came to know for the first time that her admission to the M. A. class had been cancelled. In the counter affidavit filed by the College the allegation is denied and it is stated that she was verbally informed about her cancellation of admission in September/October, 1978. In support of this Mr. Kishore, the learned counsel for the respondent referred to the copy of the statement of the particulars of students admitted to M.A. previous history sent by the college to the university sometimes in November, 1978, v, herein the name of the petitioner docs not figure. The obvious suggestion of Mr. Kishore is that her name did not figure in the list because the petitioner had been informed at about the same time that her admission to M.A. had been cancelled. It is of significance to note that no affidavit of a person who is said to have Grally informed the petitioner has been filed; the affidavit of the Principal of the college does not even claim that the had herself informed the petitioner, orally or otherwise. There is however a positive denial by the petitioner that she ever came to know about it prior to April, 1979. There is also no acknowledgement from the petitioner showing that she knew prior to April, 1979 that her admission to M. A. class has been cancelled. It is also not denied that the petitioner continued to pay her fee regularly, attend classes both tutorial and seminar in the university and in the college. Evidently the fees paid by her were received by the college and it is not disputed by Mr. Kishore that the entries to that effect would be found in the Registers of the College. If does seem strange that if the petitioner was told that her admission had been cancelled she would have continued or could have continued paying her fee subsequent to October, 1978. Evidently there has been remissness though may be inadvertently by the college authorities in so far as the petitioner was continued to be shown on the rolls of the college even when the college had received a specific direction from the University to cancel her admission in August or October, 1978 That the college continued to treat the petitioner as a regularly admitted student is confirmed by the fact that she was given a letter on 4-4-1979 by the college addressed to the Controller of examination requesting him to give her the roll number for the M. A. previous history examination. Similarly her representation made to the Vice Chanceller on 6-4-1979 which specifically mentioned that she had been attending the classes, tutorials and avail of all the benefits of a university student and it was only 4-4-1979 that she came to know that her admission had been cancelled sometime in Octoher, 1978, was forwaded and recommended for sympathetic consideration by the principal of the college on the same date. Evidently at that point the; college authorities accepted the position that earlier to 4-4-1979 the petitioner was never told that her admission to M. A. previous had been cancelled. We must thereforee proceed on the basis that though the petitioner was ineligible for admission in the first instance and though the university had so written to the college the petitioner never came to know of this earlier to a few days before the start of examination in April 1979. The question arises whether in such a situation she could invoke the principal of equitable estopple. Mr. Bansal who appeared turn the University and. Mr. Kishore who appeared for the college strongly contended that as the university regulations provided obtaining 45 per cent of marks for eligibility the petitioner can not claim any benefit even it she was allowed to take entrance examination as there can be no estoppel against a statute. Now Ordinance Xc permits the academic council to grant exemption from the operation of any of the ordinances governing admission of students............... This ordinance is couched in the widest terms. This really thereforee means that if admission is given in violation of any of the ordinance governing the admission of the students the existence of ordinance Xc makes the admission of the students contrary to ordinance or rules not ultravires Act, but only an irregular act. Vide University of Delhi V. Ashok Kumar Chopra and another : AIR1968Delhi131 with reference to Ordinance Xa which was similarly worded as the present XC. In that case the candidate had obtained admission to B.A. Pass course 1st year. The candidate however had passed S.S.C. Examination from Gujarat (Baroda) which had been recognised by Delhi University, as equivalent to metriculation examination of Delhi University only whereas the qualification for admission to the University was either higher secondary examination of the Board of Higher Secondary Education, Delhi or examination recognised as equivalent to it. The student were nevertheless admitted to the college and even took the examination. It was thereafter that their admission and examination were cancelled. In justification for its action the university relied on the fact that the minimum eligibility qualification was not fulfillled by the students. This was rejected by the court on the ground that the admissions were at the most irregular and not illegal and the doctrine of estoppel would apply to such cases. The court also found that the universitv had the power of approval or rejection, but the university never told the candidates that their admission had been cancelled. The court thereforee quashed the order of the university cancelling the admission of the candidates. We find that there is very little difference in the facts of that case and the facts of the present case. The fact that in that case the candidates were allowed to take examination and the cancellation was done subsequently is not of any material consequence because the petitioner here also attended the classes right from July, 1978 to April, 1979 and it was only a couple of days before the examination was to take place that she was told that her admission had been cancelled. The damage done to the petitioner by the silence or inaction on the part of the respondent is clear from the fact that had the petitioner been told in July, 1978 that she was not going to be admitted she could have chosen either some other career or joined some other university. But the inaction of the university in not informing her and the act of the college in permitting her to remain on the rolls of the college and to continue to function like any other college student deprived her of any chance of seeking admission else- where. One academic year will inevitably been lost if the university was now to be permitted to deny her the right to sit in the examination and that for no fault of the petitioner. This is not a case where the petitioner has played any fraud or misrepresented facts or concealed any material particulars while seeking admission. She had placed full facts before the college and the university. That the marks obtained by her were less than 45 per cent was mentioned clearly and on the forefront of the application. It is that so far as the university is concerned it did take action though not so very quickly but still not so very late when it wrote in August. 1978 to the college asking the principal to cancel the admission of the petitioner. As we said before if this information was given to the petitioner at that time we do not think that she could have complained of cancellation because admittedly she was not eligible for admission. But she was entitled to believe and assume that as the college was continuing to keep her on its rolls, the university had accepted her application and no objection was being raised to the factun that she had got a little less than 45 per cent marks, It must not also be forgotten that in the first instance it was the university itself which had issued registration number and allowed her to take the admission test of the department of history and thus creating a reasonable expectation that not with standing her getting less than 45 per cent marks, she would be admitted if she secured a position in the admission test. But the really serious matter is about ther sllence and in action on the part of the college for which evidently the petitioner cannot be blamed, and cannot be allowed to suffer. Mr. Bansai had with quite some justification made a grievance that the action of the college in not informing the petitioner of the cancellation of her admission when it was specifically told by the university in August, 1978 should not result in the petitioner pleading estoppel agninst the university. He had conjured up an almost night marish picture of the college disregarding the directives of the university about the lack of eligibility of students and allowing them to continue in the college and thereafter the courts upholding these admissions on the plea of estoppel. We do not share this apprehension urged by Mr. Bansal. We have no doubt that if the university informs the college that any particular candidate cannot be admitted because of not fulfillling the eligibility qualification, the college will normally and inevitably carry out the directions of the university and act accordingly. We have also no doubt that if the university felt in any case that the college was deliberately disobeying and disregarding the directions of the university the arms of the university are long enough to take action against the erring college whether by means of disaffiliation or other- wise. While fully appreciating the position of the university in a case like the present, we can not ignore to notice that the admission to the university is done through the colleges. The applications are received through the colleges. Students are to be on roils of colleges and fees are collected by the colleges. There is thus a relationship of principal and agent between the college and the university and the college must be deemed to have acted on behalf of the university. In a more or less similar situation it was held in 1956 Mad 309. that School of Education Board acted on behalf of the university (and we have no manner of doubt that it was only cut of sheer inadvertance) and failed to inform the petitioner that her admission had been cancelled, the university cannot resist the plea of estoppel by passing on the blame to the college. After all the college has been chosen by the university as its own instrument. The counsel for the respondents pleaded that the terms of statute are absolute and do not admit of any relaxation or exemption and that it would work hardship to invoke the principle of estoppel in such a case. This agreement assumed that the eligibility cannot be relaxed. But as already stated, admission inviolation of the eligibilty will be at the most irregular and to such an act the proposition that there can be no estoppel against a statute will have no application. When the University has undertaken the task, it must keep itself equal to it and such an Explanationn of inconvenience and, economy cannot, from the very nature of the case, be an answer, much less an effective answer, for failure to discharge the first and the most elementary duty it owed to the students. Mr. Kishore and Mr. Bansal had also put- forth the plea that because of thousands of students seeking admission, estoppel should not be applied to the university or college making mistakes so as to permit a student who lacks eligibilty to continue the studies. This very argument was rejected almost a decade back in University of Delhi V. Ashok Kumar Chopra and another : AIR1968Delhi131 where the court observed that to accept such a contention will be to encourage and to put a premium on callous indifference on the part of the University officials and to allow them to play havoc with the life and career of thousands of young men and women seeking admission into the portals of the University. We cannot improve on these observations. We may hasten to add that we have no manner of doubt that there was no ulterior motive in not informing the petitioner. It is probably one of those cases of over looking and inadvertent mistake. It was presumably in recognition of this fact that the college principal recommended the case of the petitioner to the University to give her admission card. We feel that the principal took the proper course and acted like a true guardian as she stands in loco parenti to the students and their welfare must be her first concern.
(6) We may note that the Academic Council considered the question of granting relaxation, under Ordinance Xc, to the petitioner. But by its resolution of 3-9-1979 it refused to grant any relaxation. Proceedings of the Academic Council have been brought to our notice and a copy filed. From a reference to the proceedings we find that the principal of the college who had also been invited to attend the meeting of the standing committee accepted that possibly a mistake had been made by the college and thereforee recommended to grant relaxation of minimum eligibility requirement to the extent of 6 marks to the petitioner. The standing committee after faking into account the various circumstances recommended the grant of relaxation to the petitioner. The committee also resolved that in future in such cases of admission in the faculty concerned while informing the Principal of the college concerned about the decision, copy of such letters should also be endorsed to the candidate concerned. Unfortunately this recommendation of the standing committee did not find favor with the Academic Council. There were different views and no consensus could be reached and the matter had to be decided by voting; 8 members voted for the acceptance of the standing committee's recommendation and 27 against it. while 11 abstained. Of course the fact that the Academic Council has not granted relaxation is not a bar to the petitioner getting relief from the court. The question posed is not whether the Academic Council should agree to grant relaxation (that aspect is irrelevant for decision of petition). Rather the claim of the petitioner is based on the plea of equitable estoppel, and we have no doubt that this is well founded.
(7) We may emphasise that it is after a great deal of anxious consideration that we are interfering in this matter because we feel that normally the question of eligibility for the admission to the university are matters which are pre-eminently fit to be decided by the university authorities. Normally this court would be very reluctant to interfere in these matters because we have no doubt that the academic discipline will be preserved best by all concerned including the Executive and even the courts excepting in the rarest of cases whereas in the present not to interfere will perpetuate injustice and cause irreparable in- jury to a young student, leading to bitterness); abstaining from encroaching upon the autonomy and internal discipline within the portals of university and academic institutions after all they are temples of learning. We feel somewhat assured at our inteference when we find that the standing committee of the Academic Council and the principal of the college were of the view that in the circumstances of the case and considering all the circumstances, this was a case where relaxation should be given by the Academic Council. We regret that this matter had to be voted upon and the Academic Council felt unable to grant relaxation. We very much wish that the Academic Council had exercised its power in granting relaxation in which case this court would have been spared the not so very pleasant task of quashing the order of the university. We also notice that the petitioner in the admission test had obtained second place in the second list, apparently indicating that she was a serious student and it was not a case where had the Academic Council exercised its power in favor of relaxation, it would have permitted an underserving candidate to get admission. Be that as it may, the Academic Council did not so exercise its power. We have thereforee no option but to give our decision on merits.
(8) We would thereforee allow the Writ Petition and quash the order of the respondent University cancelling the admission of the petitioner to the M. A. class. The petitioner was allowed to take the examination under orders of this court. We would also issue a directioner to the M. A. class. The petitioner was allowed to take the the petitioner to have been admitted to the M. A. (Previous) properly and deal with her case on that footing. There will be no order as to costs.