SAKSHI CHAUHAN Vs. DR. YASHWANT SINGH PARMAR UNIVERSITY OF HORTICULTURE AND FORESTRY
HIGH COURT OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar University Of Horticulture And Forestry
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Jyotsna Rewal Dua,J. -
(1.) Aggrieved against rejection of their candidature for admission to M.Sc (Agri Business Programme) by respondent No.1/University, the petitioners have preferred the instant writ petition.
(2.) (i) Respondent No.1/University in May 2020, published its prospectus for admission to M.Sc/MBA (Agri Business Programme) for academic session 2020-2021. The last date for receipt of application form was 8.6.2020. The application form alongwith late fee could be submitted by 15.6.2020. The entrance test was scheduled for 27.6.2020. Chapter-III of the prospectus pertained to 'admission to normal and self financing seats'. Clause 3.1 (a)(iv) whereof prescribed minimum qualification i.e. eligibility of candidates for different disciplines of M.Sc/MBA (Agri Business Programme). Relevant clause under this chapter is extracted hereinafter:-
" 3.1 Minimum Qualification/eligibility
The eligibility criteria of candidates to the different disciplines of M.Sc/MBA (Agri Business) programmes is given below:
(iv) Bsc (Hons) Horticulture/B Sc Horticulture/B.Sc (Hons) Forestry/ B Sc Forestry 4 years programme under ICAR-AU system (SAUs/ CAUs/ CU's with Agriculture faculty). However, if seats remain vacant, the candidates with B Sc (Hons) Biotechnology/B Tech Biotechnology, B Sc (Hons) Agriculture/ B Sc Agriculture under ICAR-AU system (SAUs/ CAUs/ CU's with Agriculture faculty) shall be considered on merit basis in order of preference. If seats still remain vacant the candidates with BSC Medical under ICAR-AU system or UGC recognized universities will be considered on merit basis. "
2(ii) Both the petitioners had passed Bachelors of Science (Hons) in Agriculture from respondent No.2/University in the year 2020. Respondent No.2/University is a private university, stated to be affiliated/recognized by the University Grant Commission (hereinafter referred as UGC). Respondent No.2- University's name figures at Sr. No. 266 of the list of universities (Annexure P-2) affiliated/recognized by the UGC. The petitioners applied for Post-graduate course in terms of the time line indicated in the prospectus.
2(iii) On 26.11.2020, respondent No.1/University in view of adoption of a new reservation roster and due to Covid-19 pandemic, revised/amended its prospectus for admission to the B.Sc/M.Sc/MBA (Agri Business Programme). Under the amended prospectus, the reservation roster was statedly modified and seats were shuffled from one discipline to another. The provision of entrance test stipulated under clause 3.3 of the original prospectus also underwent change. Under the amended clause 3.3, there was to be no entrance test for PGET-2020 for admission in Post-graduate programme for the academic year 2020-2021. In view of Covid-19 pandemic, the merit list of candidates was to be prepared by taking into account their OCPA/Marks obtained in the qualifying degree plus weightage of sports (cultural) co-curricular activities, NCC, Scouting and MSS, if any. However, the minimum qualification/eligibility criteria as prescribed earlier in Chapter-III of the original prospectus remained unchanged. Under amended prospectus the candidates were required to send their counselling proformas alongwith relevant certificates. Petitioner No.1, accordingly, submitted her counselling proforma for normal seat as well as self financing seat indicating her preferences in seriatum. Similarly, petitioner No.2 also furnished her counselling proforma for normal seat.
2(iv) On 3.12.2020, respondent No.1 issued a notice, relevant portion whereof, is extracted hereinafter:-
"This is for the information of the applicants, who have applied for admission to M.Sc. Programmes of this University for the Academic Session 2020-21 for Normal Seats and have passed their B.SC Agriculture/Horticulture/Forestry etc. degree from SAUs/CAUs/CUs with Agriculture Faculty that the University has prepared tentative merit list on the basis of the documents supplied by the applicants with their counselling proforma. There is a separate list of those candidates, who have passed their B.Sc degree from Non-SAUs/CAUs/CUs with Agriculture faculty and in accordance with the prescribed minimum qualification, they are not entitled for allotment of seat in M.Sc programme of this University."
In terms of the above notice, candidates who had passed their B.Sc degree from Non-SAUs/CAUs/CUs with Agriculture Faculty and in accordance with prescribed minimum qualifications were held not entitled for allotment of seats in M.Sc programme. Names of the petitioners were also part of the list of rejected candidates appended alongwith the notice.
2(v) For continuation of facts, it may be noticed that on 11.12.2020, respondent No.1 issue an addendum carrying out following amendments in Chapter-III of the prospectus:-
"The candidates who have passed out from ICAR-AU system (SAUs/CAUs with Agriculture Factuly) and ICAR accredited universities/colleges/programmes, public funded/Govt. Institutions (including their constituent colleges-irrespective of ICAR accreditation) are eligible for admission through counselling on merit basis. However, candidates passed out from agricultural private universities/colleges not accredited by ICAR, even though affiliated to public funded/Govt. Institutions are not eligible for admission. Other conditions will remain same".
This was followed by yet another addendum on 15.12.2020, which reads as under:-
"The candidates who have passed out from ICAR-AU system (SAUs/CAUs with Agriculture Factuly) and ICAR accredited universities/colleges/programmes, public funded/Govt. Institutions (including their constituent colleges-irrespective of ICAR accreditation) are eligible for admission through counselling on merit basis. However, candidates having B Sc 4-year degrees of Horticulture/Forestry/Agriculture/Food Technology from agricultural private universities/colleges not accredited by ICAR, even though affiliated to public funded/Govt. Institutions are not eligible for admission. Other conditions will remain same".
Since candidature of the petitioners were rejected, therefore, the instant petition has been preferred for the following substantive reliefs:-
"(i) That the impugned Annexure-P7, dated 3rd December, 2020, whereby the candidature of the petitioners for admission to M.Sc (Agriculture) Programme has been rejected, may kindly be quashed and set aside.
(ii) That the impugned Annexure-P8 (colly), addedums dated 11th December, 2020 and 15th December, 2020 whereby the eligibility criteria for admission to M.Sc (Agriculture) Programme was modified/notified midway the admission/selection process, may kindly be quashed and set aside.
(iii) That the respondent No.1-University may kindly be directed to consider the candidature of the petitioners for admission to M.Sc (Agriculture) Programme strictly as per the merit of the petitioners against normal seats or self financing seats;"
(3.) Heard learned counsel for the parties and gone through the pleadings & documents appended therewith.;
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