Kaloji Narayana Rao University Of … vs Srikeerti Reddi Pingle on 16 February, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Kaloji Narayana Rao University Of … vs Srikeerti Reddi Pingle on 16 February, 2021

Author: S. Ravindra Bhat

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, S. Ravindra Bhat

                                             1

                                                                        REPORTABLE

                          IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                         (CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION)

                           CIVIL APPEAL NO. 390 OF 2021


KALOJI NARAYANA RAO UNIVERSITY OF
HEALTH SCIENCES                                                 …APPELLANT (S)


                                         VERSUS

SRIKEERTI REDDI PINGLE & ORS.                                      ….RESPONDENT(S)



                                        JUDGEMENT

S. RAVINDRA BHAT, J.

1. With consent of learned counsel for the parties, the appeal was heard finally.

2. The Kaloji Narayana Rao University of Health Sciences (hereafter variously
referred to as “the University” or “the appellant”) appeals a decision of the Telangana
High Court1 in W.P. No.23953/2020 which had allowed a writ petition preferred by
the respondent (hereafter referred to as “the student”). The respondent student had
sought a direction declaring the action of the University in treating her as ineligible
for admission to the MBBS Course for the academic year 2020-21, as illegal. The
facts necessary for decision are few; the student had applied, pursuant to a
notification issued by the University on 30.11.2020 for admission into the
management quota for NRI candidates for the MBBS/BDS course during the ac-

1

Dated 31.12.2020
2

ademic year (AY) 2020-21. The student had applied for admission to the MBBS
course. The University published a list on 12.12.2020 containing the respondent
student’s name, clarifying that she had not furnished proof of study of Biological
Science subject in the qualifying examination (10+2 or equivalent). The respondent
student then secured a letter from the Consulate General of India in New York,
stating that she had successfully completed the 12th grade from one Conrad High
School, West Hartford, Connecticut and that it was equivalent to the Pre-University
(Two Year Course) New Intermediate University and the 12-year Senior Secondary
Board Examination Certificate of India. On 23.12.2020, the University issued a
notification seeking web option for the second round of online counselling for
admission to the MBBS/BDS seats in the management quota for AY 2020-21.

3. The student approached the High Court on 24.12.2020 and besides relying up-
on the certificate/letter issued by Conrad High School, she also relied upon a
certificate issued by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education dated
23.12.2020, which declared the equivalence and informed that the 12 th class/senior
secondary examination of the West Hartford Board of Education, Connecticut USA
was equivalent to the Intermediate Examination conducted by the Telangana State
Board of Intermediate Education. The student applied for an interim order and was
permitted to participate in the counselling process conducted for the remaining seats
without prejudice to the parties’ rights. Thereafter, the University filed an application
for vacation of the interim order, made its position clear and spelt out why according
to it, the respondent student was ineligible.

4. The High Court, by its impugned order, relied upon the certificate of the
Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education, as well as the letter dated
11.12.2020 of Conrad High School, and the certificate of 14.12.2020 issued by the
West Hartford Science Department Supervisor. The High Court declared that she had
completed her 12th grade with Biological Sciences as required by the concerned
regulations framed by the erstwhile MCI – which continued to govern and regulate
admissions to various classes of medical courses. The High Court also held
3

erroneous, the University’s position that there was no proof of her studying
Biological Sciences in the qualifying examination. The Court took note of the
equivalence certificate issued by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Ed-
ucation, and was of the opinion that the University could not, therefore, approve and
add new grounds in respect of the student’s application for admission. It con-
cluded that the University acted arbitrarily in treating the student ineligible.

5. Ms. Madhavi Divan, Additional Solicitor General for India (ASG), relied upon
Regulation 4(1) of the Medical Council of India Regulations on Graduate Medical
Education, 1997, as amended from time to time, particularly on 23.01.2018 (hereafter
called “the MCI Regulations”). The relevant part of the Regulation is extracted
below:

“4. Admission to the Medical Course – Eligibility Criteria:

            XXXXXX                      XXXXXX                      XXXXXX

     4(2)    He/She has passed qualifying examination as under:-

(a) The higher secondary examination or the Indian School Certificate
Examination which is equivalent to 10+2 Higher Secondary Examina-
tion after a period of 12 years study, the last two years of study com-
prising of Physics, Chemistry, Biology/Biotechnology and Mathemat-
ics or any other elective subjects with English at a level not less than
core course of English as prescribed by the National Council of Edu-
cational Research and Training after the introduction of the 10+2+3
years educational structure as recommended by the National Commit-
tee on education;

Note: Where the course content is not as prescribed for 10+2 educa-
tion structure of the National Committee, the candidates will have to
undergo a period of one year pre-professional training before admis-
sion to the Medical colleges;

Or

(b) The intermediate examination in science of an Indian Universi-
ty/Board or other recognised examining body with Physics, Chemistry
and Biology/Bio-technology which shall include a practical test in
these subjects and also English as a compulsory subject;

4

Or

(c) The pre-professional/pre-medical examination with Physics,
Chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology, after passing either the higher
secondary school examination, or the pre-university or an equivalent
Examination. The pre-professional/pre-medical examination shall in-
clude a practical test in Physics, Chemistry and Biology/Bio-
technology and also English as a compulsory subject;

Or

(d) The first year of the three years degree course of a recognized uni-
versity, with Physics, chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology including
a practical test in three subjects provided the examination is a “Uni-
versity Examination” and candidate has passed 10+2 with English at
a level not less than a core course;

Or

(e) B.Sc. examination of an Indian University, provided that he/she
has passed the B.Sc. examination with not less than two of the follow-
ing subjects Physics, Chemistry, Biology (Botany, Zoology)/Bio-
technology and further that he/she has passed the earlier qualifying
examination with the following subjects – Physics, Chemistry, Biology
and English.

Or

(f) Any other examination which, in scope and standard is found to be
equivalent to the intermediate science examination of an Indian Uni-
versity/Board, taking Physics, Chemistry and Biology including prac-
tical test in each of these subjects and English.
Note:

The pre-medical course may be conducted either at Medical College,
or a science College.

Marks obtained in Mathematics are not to be considered for admis-
sion to MBBS Course.

After the 10+2 course is introduced, the integrated courses should be
abolished.”

6. It is submitted that the University was justified in rejecting the student’s
candidature because there was no material furnished for it to conclude that she had
undergone a complete course in Biological Sciences and that consequently, the
5

qualifications held by her were equivalent to the 10+2 qualification required by the
Regulations. The ASG highlighted in this regard that Conrad High School’s letter
dated 11.12.2020 stated that the student undertook a rigorous course of study of
Advanced Placement (“AP”) Biology during her 10 th grade year. It is submitted that
according to the letter issued by Conrad High School, the course was an introductory
biology course which examines in an accelerated and in-depth manner, topics in
biochemistry, cellular biology, organismal biology, population biology, evolution,
genetics and ecology and that it prepares students for the SAT Biology E/M subject
test.

7. The learned ASG further pointed out that according to the letter dated
14.12.2020 relied on by the student, the AP Biology course at Conrad High School
was designed to be equivalent to a first-year college level Biology course and was al-
so aligned to the two courses offered at the University of Connecticut. The letter fur-
ther clarified that “in most high schools across the US, this Course is offered dur-
ing Grade 11 or 12 to students as a second year Biology course”. The ASG pointed
out that as a consequence, the University acted correctly and was within its rights in
refusing admission on the ground of lack of equivalence in the qualification held by
the student. Even in terms of the material submitted by her, as far as the letter issued
by the Consulate General of India dated 22.12.2020 is concerned, the learned ASG
emphasized that it merely certified that according to the Resolution adopted at the
meetings of the Equivalency Committee and the Standing Committee of the
Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi, the 12 Year High School Diploma of
the United States of America is recognized in India as equivalent to 12 years senior
secondary board examination certificate of India. However, significantly, it does not
and cannot be construed as equivalent to a 10+2 qualification with Biological
Sciences. Likewise, it is stated that the Telangana State Board of Intermediate
Education’s certificate merely declared equivalence to the intermediate examination
conducted by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education. This too omitted
the equivalence of the qualification held by the students in terms of the Regulation,
6

i.e., that the candidate had to complete 2 years scholastic training in Biological
Sciences, which is essential.

8. It was emphasised that the entire structure of Regulation 4(2) lays emphasis not
only on the equivalence of the qualification with respect to 10+2 or intermediate
sciences examination in the Indian University/Board but that the student should have
complete schooling in those subjects in each of the concerned years, i.e. 11 th and 12th
and should have passed 10+2 with English as a subject as well. It was submitted last-
ly that by all indications, the qualification held by the student in this case is equiva-
lent to 10+2 of any Board in India with English as one of the subjects but there is no
further proof that she had undergone study in Biology or Biological Sciences in each
of the concerned years at the 10+2 stage. In these circumstances, the learned ASG
urged that this Court should reverse the impugned judgment.

9. Mr. Rana Mukherjee, learned senior counsel appearing for the student argued
that the impugned judgment has correctly reasoned that the candidate held equivalent
qualifications and was eligible for consideration for a medical UG/MBBS course
offered by the University as an NRI candidate, but submitted that a close look at
Regulation 4(2), particularly Regulation 4(2)(f) clarifies that nowhere is it expressly
stipulated that an eligible candidate has to undergo schooling in every year in the
concerned subjects – in the present case, that subject being Biology/Biological
Sciences. Learned counsel placed reliance upon the two letters of Conrad High
School dated 11th and 14th December 2020, and the equivalence certificate issued by
the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education. He further placed reliance up-
on the letter written by the Assistant Principal of Conrad High School on 29.01.2021,
which sought to clarify the structure of pre-school through 12th grade in the US, espe-
cially in the state of Connecticut. The relevant part of the letter reads as follows:

“High school in the United States is not specialized for a specific ca-
reer path; as a result, in addition to the core classes that students can
choose to take (English, Math, Science, World Language, and Social
Studies), students can choose to take elective courses in Business, Art,
Theatre, Music, Technology and Engineering, etc. While there is an
7

expected order of specific courses within each field, for example all 9th
grade students take Earth Science, a student in 10 th grade in West
Hartford has the option of taking an Advanced Placement Biology
course, which is challenging and at a college level. Students can earn
college credit for these courses. Students can take courses based on
their interests, but they still must take a certain number of courses in
each discipline. Our expectation at Conard High School is that stu-
dents WILL challenge themselves with difficult and advanced courses
to prepare them for college and to determine their future interests and
possible pathways to careers. The state of Connecticut does not have a
10+2 system as many other countries do. However, students in grades
9-12 have the opportunity to take college level courses through the
college Board’s Advanced Placement Program (recognized interna-
tionally) and Early College Experience courses (recognized by the
University of Connecticut).”

10. Learned senior counsel also relied upon the two judgments of the Madras High
Court in Sharanya Balaji Nadar v. The Dental Council of India2 and Kashvi Udhaya-
kumar v. Union of India3 in support of the submission that the interpretation placed
by the High Court on Regulation 4(2) is correct. He emphasised that each of the
sub-clauses, i.e. (a) to (f) of Clause 4(2) are independent of each other and in the
present cases, the declaration of equivalence established by the certificate of
23.12.2020 by the Telangana State Board of Intermediate Education could not have
been discredited as was done by the University.

Analysis and Conclusions

11. A plain reading of Regulation 4(2) shows that the MCI visualized five different
situations, having regard to the nature and structure of high school education in India,
and provided for equivalence in respect of other variants of similar examinations,
possibly even overseas qualifications. In all, the MCI regulations contemplate six
qualifications for eligibility – (i) higher secondary examinations conducted by one of
the several boards (of secondary and senior secondary school examinations) or the
Indian School Certificate Examination [Reg. 4(2)(a)]; (ii) the intermediate

2
W.P.Nos.32099/2019 & WMP 32352 & 32353/2019 dated 14.07.2020
3
WP Nos. 16529 & 16534/2020 & WMP 20510, 20512, 20517 and 20515/2020 dated01.12.2020
8

examination in science of an Indian University/Board or other recognised examining
body [Reg. 4(2)(b)]; (iii) “Pre-professional/pre-medical examination” with Physics,
Chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology, after passing either the higher secondary
school examination, or the pre-university or an equivalent examination, with further
stipulation that the pre-professional examination should have a practical test in
Physics, Chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology [Reg. 4(2)(c)]; (iv) the first year
examination of the three years degree course of a recognized university, with Physics,
Chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology, with a further stipulation that the candidate
should have passed the 10+2 examination with English at a level not less than the
“core course” [Reg. 4(2)(d)]; (v) the B.Sc. examination of an Indian
University, only if the candidate “has passed the B.Sc. examination with not less than
two of the following subjects Physics, Chemistry, Biology (Botany, Zoology)/Bio-
technology and further that he/she has passed the earlier qualifying examination with
the following subjects – Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English” [Reg. 4(2)(e)]; and
lastly, (vi) any examination found to be equivalent to the intermediate science
examination of an Indian University/Board, taking Physics, Chemistry and Biology
including practical test in each of these subjects and English[Reg. 4(2)(f)].

12. It is noticeable that each variant of what is acceptable, lays stress on certain
common features: (a) that the candidate should have passed the examination with
Physics, Chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology; (b) the candidate should have
undergone practical tests in those science subjects (c) the candidate should have
studied English and, lastly, (d) that marks obtained in Mathematics would not be tak-
en into consideration for deciding admission to the MBBS course.

13. The respondent-student’s argument is twofold: one, that the letters of Conrad
High School4 and the West Hartford Science Department Supervisor5 together with
the certificate of the Telangana Intermediate Education Board6, establish that she had

4
Dated 11.12.2020 and 29.01.2020
5
Dated 14.12.2020
6
Dated 23.12.2020
9

successfully undergone a school certificate program, equivalent to the 10+2
qualification in India, and second, that the Advanced Placement (AP) course
undertaken by her is equivalent to a first-year degree qualification in Biology. This
court finds the submission insubstantial. While the court cannot claim expertise and
pronounce upon the curriculum and pedagogy of any course, much less the academic
course which the student (in this case) qualified, what it can certainly do is examine
whether the University’s stand that she does not hold a qualification equivalent to any
of the five categories of qualifications spelt out [i.e., Regulation 4(2)(a) to (e)], or the
sixth category [Regulation 4(2)(f)] is correct.

14. A careful reading of the said provision discloses that the MCI emphasized that
the candidate should have undergone study at the 10+2 stage, (or in the intermediate
course) in the specified subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology/Bio-technology.
In this case, the certificate relied upon by the student7 merely clarifies that she
undertook a course whilst in the 10th grade. That, by no means, is sufficient to fall
within the description of “equivalent” qualification under Regulation 4(2)(f). Nor, in
the opinion of this court, can it be deemed adequate having regard to the letter of the
Assistant Principal of Conrad High School8 that the AP course in Biological Sciences
is of college standard.

15. In the opinion of this court, there is a rationale and compelling logic on the part
of the University to say that the candidate should have studied biology or biological
sciences (apart from the other two science subjects, along with the further
requirement of having studied English) in all the relevant years during the
intermediate or at 10+2 level. Further, the reference to having studied in the first year
in a degree course, at the college level with the said subject, carries with it, the
implication that the student would have necessarily undergone academic study and
training in the said three subjects at the 10+2 or intermediate level (without which,
admission in a degree course is inconceivable in India). The further emphasis on

7
Issued by the West Hartford Science Department Supervisor.

8

Dated 29.01.2021
10

having attended or undertaken practical lessons, (again at that level, in each of the
concerned years) clearly signifies that a candidate should have undergone study in
those subjects for the last two years at school or intermediate college level. The
regulation is further clear that the examination score (marks) in Mathematics shall
not be taken into consideration for the purpose of admission to a medical course, in
reckoning merit or performance in the qualifying examination.

16. So far as the judgment of the Madras High Court in Sharanya Balaji Nadar
(supra) is concerned, the candidate there had applied for admission, and was
permitted to appear in the common entrance examination. The structure of the
concerned regulations of the Dental Council of India, in that case, were closely
similar to Regulation 4(2) of the MCI Regulations in the present case. The High
Court accepted the candidates’ submissions, and held as follows:

“14. A careful reading of the above regulations makes it clear that
a candidate even at the time of taking NEET examination must fulfil
the eligibility criteria that is prescribed in Clause 3 which is extracted
supra. Clause 3 contains six sub clauses from (a) to (f). Each sub-
clause is independent of the other and none of the sub-clauses can be
read together. For the purposes of this case, sub-clause (a) and sub-
clause (f) requires consideration.

15. The case of the petitioner is that she falls under sub-
clause (f) of the regulations. Any candidate who falls under sub-clause

(f) of the regulations, has to obtain an equivalence certificate from the
concerned authority. The concerned authority is the Association of the
Indian Universities. This authority considered the degree/diploma ob-
tained by the petitioner in as educational institution at USA. The con-
cerned authority found that the qualification of the petitioner is equiv-
alent to the senior school certificate of CBSE/other boards in India.
The evaluation of the educational credentials has been extracted su-
pra.

16. It is based on this equivalence certificate, the petitioner
was allowed to write the NEET examination and the petitioner se-
cured 258 marks and she was allotted a seat in the fourth respondent
college by the allotment order passed by the third respondent, dated
24.07.2019. The petitioner is undergoing the course.”
11

17. In Kashvi Udhayakumar (supra) the relevant facts were noted by the court, in
the following terms:

“The petitioners got the confirmation from the Equivalence Commit-
tee and the Standing Committee of the Association of Indian Universi-
ties that the high school diploma underwent by the petitioners in USA
is equivalent to 12-year senior school Certificate of Central Board of
Secondary Education.”

18. The High Court then cited and relied on Sharanya Balaji Nadar (supra) to hold
that each sub-clause of Regulation 4(2) was independent, and that the qualification
held by the candidate, an NRI who had studied in the USA, was deemed to be
equivalent to the prescribed eligibility conditions:

“13. It was categorically held by this Court that each Clause is inde-
pendent of the other and none of the sub-clauses can be read together.

If the candidate has fulfilled the requirements of any one of the
Clause, he or she will be entitled for admission to the Medical Course.
The petitioners in the present case will fall within Regulation 4 (f) and
once the petitioners have produced the Equivalence Certificate issued
by the 5th Respondent, there is no more requirement to again subject
the petitioners for one more scrutiny on their eligibility. It will be too
farfetched to declare that a candidate who fulfils the requirements for
NEET Examination, will not fulfil the qualification when it comes to
joining the MBBS Course. Such an interpretation will lead to illogical
consequences. The petitioners who were living in USA have come to
this country to undergo the Medical Course and they were found to be
eligible by the Equivalence Committee to write the NEET Examina-
tion.

After having been given an allotment in the 4th Respondent Institu-
tion, the 4th Respondent Institution cannot now undertake one more
exercise and come to a completely different conclusion by reading
Regulation 4 (a) into Regulation 4 (f) and thereby render the effect of
Regulation 4 (f) completely nugatory and redundant.”

19. It is apparent that the High Court followed its previous judgment, and did not
closely scrutinize the equivalence certificate or the subject stipulations. It also
appears to have been largely influenced by the fact that the candidate was in fact
12

admitted by the University. In the opinion of this court, the construction placed on
Regulation 4(2), i.e., that each of the sub clauses (a) to (f) prescribes independent
qualifications which should be deemed essential, is rather simplistic. That
interpretation ignores the fact that each of the sub-clauses insists that certain subjects
should have been studied, and practical examinations attempted at the 10+2 or equiv-
alent level. Secondly, the college or intermediate examination [or equivalent qualifi-
cations under Regulation 4(2)(f)] cannot be read in isolation, having regard to the cir-
cumstances. The provision must be read in the context of the requirements for eligi-
bility under Regulations 4(2)(a) to (e). The equivalence in qualification is not merely
at the level of a 10+2 requirement, i.e., that the candidate should have passed an ex-
amination equivalent to the intermediate science examination at an Indian Uni-
versity/ Board. Additional to this requirement, Regulation 4(2)(f) requires equiva-
lence in ‘standard and scope’ in an examination where the candidate is tested in Phys-
ics, Chemistry and Biology including practical testing in these subjects, along with
English. These subject matter requirements are consistent across Regulations 4(2)(a)
to (e) and (f).

20. The approach and construction placed by the High Court, in this court’s
opinion, undermines the intent behind the MCI’s insistence that a certain kind of
education should be undergone, which is that each candidate for the MBBS course
should have undergone study in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, in each of the levels
(i.e. the two years of 10+2 board examination, or the concerned intermediate
examination) with practical exams, in each of those years; that he or she should also
have had English as a subject, and that the score in Mathematics would be ignored
and not taken into consideration9. It would be, in this context, necessary to clarify that
the equivalence relied on by the Telangana Intermediate Board in this case, merely
alluded to the general equivalence in terms of education at the intermediate level,

9
The last negative stipulation, by a note, applicable to all the sub-clauses of Regulation 4(2).

13

without stipulating whether the qualifications were equivalent in terms of the subjects
in which she undertook courses for the relevant years.

21. The stipulation of equivalence in Regulation 4(2)(f) is not merely a formal one.
The provision must be read in the context of the consistent conditions of eligibility
prescribed in Regulations 4(2)(a) to (e), as noted above. This court, in State of
Bombay v. R.M.D. Chamarbaugwala10
interpreted the definition of a ‘prize
competition’11. A prize competition was defined as including crossword prize
competitions, picture prize competitions, etc., and finally, any other prize
competition, for which solution is or is not prepared beforehand by the promotors, or
for which the solution is determined by lot or chance. This last qualification was
appended only to the last sub-clause on ‘any other competition’. The court held that
the qualification should be equally applicable to the other sub-clauses too, and that
there was no difficulty in reading the qualifying clause as lending colour to each of
those items. In the present case, Regulation 4(2)(f) explicitly refers to the subject
matter requirement reiterated in all the eligibility conditions from (a) to (e); the
substance of the eligibility requirement indeed, is that the candidate should have qual-
ified an intermediate level examination or first year of a graduate course, and studied
the subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at this level, along with
practical testing in these subject areas, and the English language. This subject matter
requirement is at the heart of eligibility to be admitted into the medical course.

22. For these reasons, this court is of the opinion that the interpretation placed up-
on the regulations in both the cited cases, by the Madras High Court, do not reflect
the correct position. To be eligible, the candidate should produce clear and
categorical material to show that she underwent the necessary years of study in all the
stipulated subjects. This court is of the opinion that such stipulations are to be
regarded as essential, given that the course in question, i.e., MBBS primarily if not

10
1957 SCR 930.

11

Under s. 2(1)(d) of the Bombay Lotteries and Prize Competitions Control and Tax Act, 1948.

14

predominantly, involves prior knowledge – both theoretical and practical, of senior
secondary level in biology or biological sciences.

23. For the above reasons, this court is of the opinion that the impugned order
cannot be sustained; it is, therefore, set aside. The appeal is allowed without order on
costs.

……………………………………………..J
[L. NAGESWARA RAO]

……………………………………………..J
[S. RAVINDRA BHAT]

New Delhi,
February 16, 2021.



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