SC declines to stay Delhi HC judgment asking St Stephen’s to comply with DU policy

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the Delhi High Court judgment, which asked St Stephen’s College to issue a fresh prospectus giving 100 per cent weightage to Common University Entrance Test (CUET) 2022 score for non-minority candidates applying to under-graduate courses, and affirming no interviews for the admissions.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and C.T. Ravikumar dismissed the application filed by the college seeking interim relief.

It clarified that validity of admissions will be subject to the final outcome of the appeal by St. Stephen’s College and scheduled the matter for next hearing in mid-March next year. Dismissing the application for interim relief, the bench said: “We find no reason to stay the operation of the judgment (Delhi High Court).”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Delhi University, contended that staying the Delhi High Court judgment would have detrimental effect and also pan-India repercussions.

He said except St. Stephen’s College, no minority college has questioned the admission through CUET, and added that CUET was introduced for the first time, for a common standard of assessment and therefore, there is no requirement of a separate interview by the college.

Counsel, representing law students, submitted that there were hidden parameters that the college has in the interview – an CUET topper would not get the course of her/his choice, and urged the court, “let merit prevail”.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the college, submitted that “we are taking CUET students… we are not discarding merit”. Citing St. Stephen’s College vs University of Delhi December 1991 case, he added that the issue was not merit but whether the college could conduct an interview.

He added that the interview was conducted to find out the personality of the student and not to re-assess him. He added that in foreign countries, they do not depend solely on marks, and the interview is part of the admission process to find out about the personality of the candidate and whether it matches the ethos of the university.

The bench queried, if there is uniformity now, what is the relevance of the interview? Justice Ravikumar said if a student scores 90 per cent, her/his marks would be reduced, as only 85 per cent would be considered by the college.

The bench further queried, if there’s an interview, what is the objective assessment which you keep in mind so that a student knows? Justice Rastogi said these days the competition is neck-to-neck, “now, if you adopted a mechanism, what is the mechanism for objective calculation?”

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the bench declined to stay the Delhi High Court judgment.

Therefore, St Stephen’s College cannot hold interviews for general category students and it would have to give admissions for the undergraduate courses only on the basis of CUET scores.

On September 12, the Delhi High Court asked St. Stephen’s College to issue a fresh prospectus giving 100 per cent weightage to CUET 2022 score for non-minority candidates applying to under-graduate courses, affirming no interviews for the admissions. The St. Stephen’s College moved the apex court challenging the high court order.

St Stephen’s College moved the high court against the Delhi University order to withdraw its admission prospectus and allow admissions through the Common University Entrance Test (CUET).

In the order, the high court had directed the college to withdraw its admission prospectus and issue a public notice declaring the amended admission procedure, saying the aided minority educational institutions that are affiliated with the university must follow its norms and procedures.

It was also said, in the ruling, that the DU cannot insist upon a single merit list for admission of candidates belonging to the Christian community regardless of any denomination, sub-sex, or sub-activities within the community.

The prospectus issued by St. Stephen’s for admissions 2022-23 stated that students from all categories, including general/unreserved seats, will be admitted on the basis of an 85:15 ratio. While 85 per cent of weightage would be given to the CUET, 15 per cent weightage would be given to interviews.

However, this decision went against the Delhi University guidelines issued for admissions to the new academic session which led to a row between Delhi University and St Stephen’s College.

20221019-184005

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