The Bombay High Court recently dismissed pleas filed by two LL.B aspirants who sought to be allowed to apply for law admission, although their pre-law degree scores had fallen short of recently introduced academic eligibility criteria by a small margin. The Bench of Justices SC Dharmadikari and RI Chagla held,
"The student must accept the Rule and there is no fundamental or vested right in a rounding off. A candidate who has failed or has not fulfilled the minimum prescribed standard or benchmark, cannot request a Writ Court to round off his percentage to the nearest so that he can fulfill the eligibility requirement or criteria. We do not think that writ jurisdiction is meant for serving such a purpose or to enable such students to introduce themselves in Law courses".
The Bench proceeded to highlight that there is a need to do away with the notion that basic academic qualifications are not necessary to become a lawyer.
"The impression that is given to the public at large that for becoming a Lawyer you need not have to possess the basic academic qualification nor you are required to fulfill the basic standards and norms, should be dispelled forthwith."
The petitioners before the Court had failed to score the requisite 45% marks in every year of their (pre-law) degree course, as prescribed in a rule introduced by the Government earlier this year. The petitioners had sought the reconsideration of their application for admission since their scores were close to the eligibility criteria. The petitioners pointed out that the applicable rules in this regard underwent drastic changes midway or after the commencement of the process for state-level entrance exams for law courses.
The Court noted that in 2015, the State Government introduced the Central Admission Process (CAP) and Common Entrance Test (CET) as a gateway to secure admissions for law courses in Maharashtra.
In May this year, the Government of Maharashtra announced the introduction of an additional eligibility requirement for the three-year LLB course i.e. that the candidate should secure 45% marks for all parts of the pre-law degree examination taken together. This rule was notified on June 4, 2019, and was implemented for admissions starting from the academic year 2019-20. It was argued by the Government that the rules were intimated to all well in advance.
On the other hand, the petitioners argued that they were informed by the authorities that 45% minimum score condition was not prescribed and that the mere passing the degree course was enough to qualify for the CET and subsequently for CAP rounds. It was also pointed out that there are vacant seats to which they could be admitted.
The Court, however, disagreed, observing that,
“Merely because the CET is cleared, that does not mean admission is guaranteed. For the admission to be secured, every student must fulfill the eligibility criteria.”
Given that the applicable rules were not in favour of the petitioners, and finding no merit in their submissions, the Court eventually dismissed their pleas, observing that,
".. in writ jurisdiction, we must and we ought to promote truth, honesty, and justice. If justice is not in favour of the candidates, then nothing can be done to help them.”
dispel notion that basic academic qualification not required to become Lawyer: Bombay HC
In the course of the judgment, the Bench also highlighted that statutory rules cannot be relaxed by way of writ petitions only to suit the convenience of certain candidates. As stated in the judgment,
“... we want to dispel the impression and gaining ground very fast that this Court in its writ jurisdiction can bring about an alteration or change in the Rules and Regulations or relax their rigour simply because it is inconvenient for some students or candidates to comply with them. The candidates or students seeking admission to professional degree courses ought to be aware that the best and the meritorious should join such professional courses and obtain professional degrees, for tomorrow they all project themselves to be qualified and educated professionals competent enough to deal with cases involving complete legal issues so also giving advice and opinion to litigants.
There cannot be any compromise with the standards and norms prescribed as public interest and the interest of the institution is at stake. If the best and the most competent are not available to redress the grievances, particularly about legal rights and complicated legal issues concerning such rights, then, it is the justice delivery system that suffers. Then justice is a casualty.
There cannot be any compromise in this regard and in our writ jurisdiction, we will not issue any writs contrary to the Rules and Regulations. If there is no power or there is no provision enabling a deviation or departure, or dilution of the rigour of the rule, then, in writ jurisdiction our writ will not introduce such a stipulation. In the absence of express stipulation in that regard, we will not, therefore, issue any writ, much less a prerogative one directing the State and the academic bodies to grant admissions by departing or deviating from the Rules".
The petitioners in the matter were represented by Advocates Rashid Khan and Siddharth Ingle. Advocates Shriniwas Patwardhan and Geeta Shastri appeared for the state authorities.