Stressing on the importance of attendance in professional courses, the Delhi High Court has stated that the requirement of a minimum percentage of attendance prescribed in professional courses like BA LL.B /B.B.A. LL.B is non-negotiable.
The Court has thus held that students who do not cross the threshold of the minimum attendance cannot argue that they are entitled to be promoted to the next academic year only because they have secured a minimum of 50% credit score.
"A degree in law cannot be treated as an empty formality", the Court has stated.
The Judgment was passed by a Division Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Asha Menon in an appeal preferred by Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (University) against an order passed by a Single Judge Bench of the High Court.
The Single Judge Bench had allowed in short two students who were enrolled in the five years integrated LL.B course offered by the University to be promoted to the 9th semester, based on the credits obtained by them during the previous academic year. The Court had also permitted them to appear for the 8th semester end-term examinations in the next even semester, i.e. the 10th semester, as supplementary papers.
Accordingly, the Single Judge Bench had directed the University to make suitable adjustments in the form of extra classes for the students, if found necessary.
The University had detained the two students in the 8th semester as they had failed to achieve the minimum attendance.
While one student had attended 6.88% classes due to a fracture in her right arm, the second student had 0.97% attendance as he had participated in various moot court competitions, music competitions and then interned with an Advocate for a month.
The University argued that for being promoted to the next academic year, a student must fulfill the twin requirements of having a minimum attendance of 75% and a credit score of at least 50%. It further argued that the order of the Single Judge Bench completely disregarded the fact that classroom teaching was an essential and integral part of the learning process and shortage of attendance, as prescribed in Clause 9 of the Ordinance governing education in the University, was sufficient reason to detain the respondents/students, even if they had secured the minimum 50% credit score in the fourth academic year.
The University also relied upon Rule 12 of the Bar Council of India Rules of Legal Education, 2008 which stipulates that no student of any degree program would be allowed to take the end semester test in a subject student has not attended a minimum of 70% of the classes held in the subject concerned and a relaxation of only 5% could be awarded to a student in special circumstances.
The students, on the other hand, argued that a shortage of attendance could not be a ground to refuse them promotion to the next academic year. It was also argued that the language used in Clause 11.3(v)(ii) of the Ordinance governing the University made it evident that only those students would fail to get promoted to the next academic year, who did not have the requisite percentage of credits coupled with the minimum required attendance.
After hearing the parties and perusing the University Ordinance, the Court opined that the students in the University must have a minimum attendance of 75% in the aggregate of all the courses taken together in a semester with a margin of 5% afforded to him in exceptional circumstances and there was no doubt that this was a mandatory condition for promotion to the next academic year.
It held that Clause 11.3(v)(ii) of the Ordinance which deals with "academic break" does not contemplate that a student cannot be detained in a particular year if he does not secure the minimum attendance.
It thus remarked,
"In the face of such a poor attendance, can it be urged that shortage of attendance should be given a complete go-bye and the respondents/students should be promoted to the next academic year solely on the basis of 50% credits scored by them in the existing academic year? To our mind, the answer would be a firm "No".
The Court, therefore, stated that the two prerequisites of minimum attendance and credit score were mandatory and not optional and in the absence of any one of the two, a student could not be promoted to the next academic year.
In conclusion, the Court remarked that the requirement of attendance of a minimum percentage of classes prescribed in professional courses like B.A. LL.B/B.B.A. LL.B was non-negotiable.
Stating that there was no substitute for classroom teaching in law, the Court added,
"Conducting classes in the institutions is a dynamic system that keeps evolving over time. It can be said with certainty that reading books prescribed in the syllabus/curriculum alone can never be enough for imparting and imbibing knowledge, which is always a two-way street..The intellect of a student evolves in this process and helps in honing his skills and attaining a higher standard of excellence, which is the underlying object of acquiring a professional degree like law. It is this discourse with their teachers and peers that is engrained forever in the heart of every student as the most cherished and enduring memory of student life. Understanding the doctrines and principles of law and going through the case law prescribed in the curriculum by referring to law books and journals in a routine manner, has its own importance but that goes hand- in-hand with the knowledge that is acquired by a student on attending classes."
It further added,
"A degree in law cannot be treated as an empty formality. A law degree encompasses all that a University stands for and is a reflection of the nature of knowledge that it has imparted to its students. The process is not about simply cramming and disgorging during the examinations. It is about assimilating, absorbing and soaking up for being imprinted permanently in the mind of a student."
The Court cautioned,
"The Court may empathize with the respondents/students who would have to take an academic break but empathy cannot translate into a positive order in their favour when the legal position is loaded against them."
In view of the above, the order of the Single Judge Bench was quashed and set aside and the appeal was allowed.
The University was represented by ASG Maninder Acharya with Advocates Ekta Sikri, Saket Sikri, Ajaypal Singh, Vikalp Mudgal, Jasbir Bidhuri, Viplav Acharya, Arun Sanwal.
The students were represented by Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi with Advocates Raj Kamal, Aseem Atwal.
Tags : #Delhi HC ; #BALLB ; #Law