Shreyas Sinha vs The West Bengal National … on 9 September, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

Shreyas Sinha vs The West Bengal National … on 9 September, 2020

Author: L. Nageswara Rao

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, S. Ravindra Bhat

                                                                                           REPORTABLE


                                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                              CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3085 OF 2020
                                       (ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NO. 1283 OF 2020)


                         SHREYAS SINHA                                                   .....APPELLANT(S)



                                                                      VERSUS



                         THE WEST BENGAL NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
                         OF JURIDICAL SCIENCES & ORS.                                  .....RESPONDENT(S)




                                                             JUDGMENT

HEMANT GUPTA, J.

1. The challenge in the present appeal is to an order passed by the

Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court on 23rd December, 2019

whereby an appeal against the order passed by the learned Single

Judge on 22nd July, 2019 was dismissed.

2. The appellant had sought admission to the five-year law course
Signature Not Verified

offered by the West Bengal National University of Juridical
Digitally signed by
GEETA AHUJA
Date: 2020.09.10
15:38:29 IST
Reason:

Sciences1 on the basis of the amendment in the West Bengal

1 for short, ‘University’

1
National University of Juridical Sciences Act, 19992 vide the

Amending Act which came into force on 21 st May, 2019. Such

Amending Act inter alia provided for reservation of seats for

students domiciled in the State of West Bengal to the extent of at

least thirty percent of the total intake of the University. The

Amending Act reads as such:

“1. (1) This Act may be called The West Bengal
National University of Juridical Sciences (Amendment) Act,
2018.

(2) It shall come into force at once.

2. In the West Bengal National University of Juridical
Sciences Act, 1999, after section 4, the following sections
shall be inserted:-

4A. (1) The tuition fees in the University shall be such
as may be determined by the State Government
from time to time.

(2) The University shall allow free-ship in tuition
fees to at least five per centum of their total
strength to the students belonging to poor and
economically backward classes.

Note.- The relevant criteria for determining poor
and economically backward class shall be such as
may be determined by the State Government from
time to time.

(3) The University shall compulsorily make
provision for reservation of seats for the students
domiciled in the State of West Bengal to the extent
of at least thirty percent of the total intake in the
University.

4B. (1) Admission of the student in the University shall
be made on the basis of merit.

(2) Merit for admission in the University may be
determined either on the basis of marks or grade
obtained in the qualifying examination or on the
basis of marks or grade obtained in a relevant
entrance examination conducted by the University

2 for short, ‘the Act’

2
or by Common Entrance Test conducted at the
State or National level.”

3. An advertisement was published on 5th January 2019 by a

consortium of 21 National Law Universities in the country to

conduct Common Law Admission Test 3 on 12th May 2019 for which

the last date of submission of application forms was 31st March

2019. The under-graduate admissions process herein provided for a

choice of institution to the candidate, in which such candidate was

willing to seek admission based on merit. The date of CLAT was

later changed to 26th May 2019 in which the appellant participated

and was ranked 731 in the All India Merit List, declared on 14 th June

2019. As per the merit list and his choice, he was selected to get

admission in National Law University, Odisha but admittedly, he did

not join such institution.

4. The University had issued a Brochure to fill up 127 seats based on

CLAT merit list. As per the Brochure, 74 seats were meant for

general category candidates and 10 seats for West Bengal

domiciled candidates including 4 seats for general category.

5. The grievance of the appellant is that 30% of the seats were

reserved for the students domiciled in the State of West Bengal

when the Act was amended on 21st May 2019. The Act had come

into force before CLAT was conducted, but the benefit of reservation

had not been extended to the students by the University in the

Academic Session 2019-2020.

3 for short, ‘CLAT’

3

6. The stand of the University before the Learned Single Judge was

that the consortium conducts the CLAT examination for admission

of students from all over the country. The seat matrix as well as the

general information about the said examination was uploaded on

the website in January, 2019. The table towards the total allocation

of seats across the categories was incorporated in the information

uploaded. All the seats in the Domicile category of West Bengal

have been filled up, whereas, for the remaining vacant seats, the

candidates in terms of the rank have been asked to confirm their

acceptance. The last candidate who would be admitted in the

General Category has rank 262, whereas the rank of the appellant

is 731. It was also contended that the Amending Act is prospective

and cannot be made applicable in respect of the admission process

which has already commenced from January 2019. The elaborate

exercise of admission was started before the Amending Act came

into force and the students had given their option for admission

based on choices of National Law Universities available.

7. The learned Single Bench of the High Court dismissed the writ

petition inter-alia holding that the Amending Act is prospective. The

rank of the last candidate admitted from the General Category is

262 whereas the rank of the appellant is 731. In terms of the

Amending Act, 34 seats are, thus, reserved for the candidates

domiciled in the State of West Bengal being 30% of the total intake.

Such seats have to be taken away from the unreserved category

4
and added to the domiciled category. It would disrupt the entire

admission process. The candidates who have already been allotted

seats in different Universities all over the country as per the option

would be seriously prejudiced.

8. In the appeal, before the Division Bench of the High Court, an

affidavit was filed on behalf of the University, and it stated that the

first round of admission was completed on 4 th July, 2019 and

thereafter the last vacant seats were allotted on 23 rd July, 2019. The

University has attached the resolution of the Executive Council of

the University on 10th August 2019 based on the recommendation

of the Academic Council of the University on 27 th July 2019. It was

decided that the benefit of reservation in terms of the Amending

Act would be given from the next Academic Year i.e. 2020-2021.

9. The Division Bench affirmed the findings recorded by the Single

Bench, holding that the Amending Act is prospective and all seats

under the West Bengal domiciled category have already been filled

up so as to prevent students of domiciled in Bengal to migrate to

other States. It was held that sub-section (3) of Section 4A of the

Amending Act makes it clear that the reservation provided to

candidates to apply for CLAT is for the session starting after the law

comes into force. It also held that the test of reasonableness and

fairness has not been compromised in any manner by the

University. The Court held that the Amending Act has come into

force after the admission process was started, therefore, such

5
Amending Act would amount to changing the rules of the game

after the start of the admission process.

10. In the Special Leave Petition against the Order passed by the High

Court, the show cause was issued limited to the question as to

whether the appellant can be accommodated for admission to the

University for the year 2020-2021.

11. Mr. Vikas Singh, learned senior counsel for the appellant submitted

that since the Amending Act came into force at once, the University

was bound to provide reservation to students who are domiciles of

West Bengal. As the test was held after the Amending Act came

into force on 21st May 2019, the action of the University in not

granting benefit of domicile to the appellant was unwarranted,

illegal and contrary to the provisions of the Amending Act. It was

also argued that the appellant was the only candidate who had

sought admission against the seats meant for West Bengal

domiciled candidates, therefore, he should be admitted dehors the

merit list. Learned senior counsel for the appellant relied upon the

direction (iii) in the judgment of this Court reported in S. Krishna

Sradha v. The State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors.4 to contend that

if a meritorious candidate has been denied admission for no fault of

the candidate, for the reason that the cut-off date has passed, such

candidate is entitled to be admitted in the next session, if the

candidate has approached the Court at the earliest and without any

delay. The court can direct the admission to such a candidate in the

4 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1609

6
next academic year by directing to increase in the number of seats

and if it is found that the management was at fault and wrongly

denied the admission to the meritorious candidate, the Court may

direct to reduce the number of seats in the management quota.

12. The Judgment in Anupal Singh & Ors. v. State of U.P. Through

Principal Secretary, Personnel Department & Ors. 5 was relied

upon to contend that the Amending Act does not amount to

changing the rules of the game after the commencement of the

selection process.

13. On the other hand, Mr. Chatterji, learned counsel appearing for the

University contended that the last candidate admitted in the

category of domicile students in the West Bengal against the

existing quota of 10 was at merit rank No. 356, whereas, the rank

of the appellant is No. 731. The decision of the Executive Council

of the University was in terms of the Amending Act as the

University resolved to provide compulsory reservation in view of

the fact that the admission process had already been started and

the option of the candidates to seek admission in the various

National Law Universities had already been given. Any change in

the choice of admission would not be possible at such a stage

because of the large number of candidates taking CLAT. Therefore,

the University had decided to give the benefit of reservation in

terms of the Amending Act from the next Academic Year. It was

argued that even if the option for domicile for West Bengal

5 (2020) 2 SCC 173

7
candidates was made available to the appellant, still, he would only

have a remote chance of getting admission in the University

keeping his rank in the merit list.

14. Learned counsel for the respondent relied upon a judgment of this

Court in P. Bhima Reddy v. State of Mysore & Ors.6 to contend

the expression commencement of the Amending Act “at once”

means within a reasonable time after the commencement of the

Act. The decision of the Executive Council of the University was

taken within a reasonable time and cannot be said to be arbitrary

as the admission process was initiated before the Amending Act

came into force. Therefore, it was not possible to give effect to the

provisions of the Act from the Academic Session 2019-2020. Thus,

the action of the University to grant the benefit of the Amending Act

from the next academic session cannot be said to be unreasonable

and is a possible decision in terms of the Amending Act.

15. The Bill for amending the Act was tabled on 16th November, 2018.

The same came to be approved and published in the State

Government Gazette on 21st May 2019. The Amending Act comes

into force at once i.e. on 21 st May 2019 but there is no provision in

the Amending Act that it will apply to the on-going admission

process. The University was mandated to provide compulsory

reservation of seats to the extent of at least 30% of the total intake

in the University but the year from which the said admission was to

be reserved was not prescribed in the statute. The Academic
6 (1969) 1 SCC 68

8
Council of the University in its 36 th meeting held on 27th July, 2019

resolved that 30% reservation for West Bengal domiciles will be

implemented from the next Academic Year. Such decision of the

Academic Council was approved by the Executive Council of the

University on 10th August, 2019.

16. The total seats at the University are 127 including the seats meant

for State domicile candidates prior to the amendment. The

additional seats reserved were required to be provided at the time

of initiation of the admission process which started in January,

2019. Each of the candidates intending to appear in the CLAT is

required to give three choices for admission into the National Law

Universities. The candidates had given these choices keeping in

view the reservation policy of each State. Since the reservation

policy of 30% seats was not available on the date when the

admission process was initiated, the decision of the University to

provide reservation from the next Academic Year cannot be said to

be contradictory to the provisions of the Amending Act. The Act is

silent in respect of Academic Year in which the benefit of

reservation is to be given. The candidates have already applied

and given an option for admission in the various National Law

Universities before the coming into force of the Amending Act.

Therefore, the University extended the benefit of the reservation

from the next Academic Session. We find such decision to be fair,

reasonable and not arbitrary or capricious.

9

17. None of the judgments referred to by Mr. Vikas Singh are helpful to

the arguments raised. In Anupal Singh’s case, the challenge was

to the bifurcation of vacancies in the cadre of subordinate

agricultural service in the State of Uttar Pradesh on the ground that

it amounts to changing of the rules of the game in the middle of the

selection process. However, the bifurcation of seats amongst the

different categories was due to the wrong calculation of seats as

per the statutory provisions. It was held that such an amendment

in the bifurcation of seats did not amount to change of rules of the

game as it was necessitated on account of a mistaken calculation of

seats in terms of the provisions of the statute.

18. S. Krishna Sradha’s case is applicable only if a meritorious

candidate has been denied admission. In the present case, the

appellant cannot be said to be a meritorious candidate in the

Academic Session 2019-2020. The benefit of reservation had been

extended to the candidates by the Universities from the next

Academic Session i.e. 2020-2021. Since there is no mandate in the

Amending Act to grant the benefit of reservation in the Academic

Year 2019-2020, therefore, the University keeping in view the entire

facts and circumstances has rightly held that the benefit of

reservation would be extended from the next academic year as the

admission process had already been initiated before coming into

force of the Amending Act.

19. We also find that the judgment referred to by Mr. Chatterji is not

10
helpful to the arguments raised. The case pertained to a successful

tenderer who was not granted a license because he had failed to

furnish a statement of immovable properties and to furnish certain

sureties as required by the Rules prescribed. It was in these

circumstances, the Court held that the expression “at once” has to

be interpreted as to be within a reasonable time. However, the

Amending Act in the present case came into force from the date of

its publication in the Official Gazette. Since the Amending Act does

not contemplate that the benefit of reservation has to be granted in

the ongoing academic session, therefore, the University was at

liberty to decide to extend the benefit from the next academic

session.

20. We do not find any error in the findings recorded by the High Court

or that this decision of the University contravenes the provisions of

the Amending Act, which may warrant interference in the present

appeal. The appeal is, thus, dismissed with no order as to cost.

………………………………………J.

(L. NAGESWARA RAO)

………………………………………J.

(HEMANT GUPTA)

………………………………………J.

(S. RAVINDRA BHAT)

NEW DELHI;

SEPTEMBER 09, 2020.

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