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A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court has upheld a Single Judge order passed in January this year directing Amity Law School to award Abhinav Pandey a Gold Medal for graduating with highest honours.
The law school, affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, had earlier refused to confer the Gold Medal on Pandey since he had not cleared two examinations on the first attempt.
Pandey, during his 6th semester in 2013, was unable to appear for two out of five papers as he was suffering from Chicken Pox. He wrote the said two papers later in 2014, and graduated with the highest Cumulative Performance Index (CPI).
After representations to the Vice-Chancellor of the University fell on deaf years, Pandey filed a writ petition in the High Court praying that the Gold Medal be awarded to him for the B.A. LL.B. course.
Appearing for the University before the Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Rekha Palli, advocate Ekta Sikri contended that the Single Judge had failed to appreciate the real meaning of the term “first attempt”. She referred to Ordinance 5 and Ordinance 11 of the University, which she argued, do not treat appearance in a supplementary examination as a first attempt even if the student could not appear in the regular examination due to medical reasons.
It was also argued that a student who cleared the examination on the first attempt, and one who did so on the second attempt cannot be treated as similarly placed, as the latter student gets the advantage of more time to prepare for the same examination.
Amit George, appearing for Pandey, welcomed the Single Judge order and argued that the University’s interpretation of the term “first attempt” would lead to gross injustice to meritorious students like his client.
After hearing the parties, the Bench noted that the term “first attempt” has not been clarified in Ordinance 5. Therefore, the parties have resorted to case law to construe the same. The Bench noted that there were conflicting decisions on the topic; while the decisions of the High Courts of Bombay and Karnataka were relied upon by the University, decisions of the Supreme Court, Rajasthan High Court and Andhra Pradesh High Court were cited by the counsel appearing for Pandey.
The Bench therefore held,
“We are of the considered opinion that the term “first attempt” as occurring in the unmodified provisions of Ordinance 5 of the appellant/University cannot take in its sweep, situations where a student could not, as a consequence of severe medical issues, give an examination when it was first due. Thus, in the facts of the instant case, we have no hesitation in arriving at the conclusion that the respondent no.1 having been prevented due unavoidable medical concerns from appearing in the aforesaid subject papers in the first instance, during the Sixth End Semester Examinations, he ought not to be penalized or deprived of the fruits of his labour and well-deserved merit.”
Addressing the argument that Pandey had an unfair advantage over the other students who wrote and cleared the exams on the first attempt, the Court held,
“In our opinion, the aforesaid contention is wholly unmerited as it overlooks the fact that in the present case, instead of getting any undue benefit, the respondent no. 1 was compelled to prepare for and take the remainder of his Sixth End Semester Examinations alongwith his Eighth End Semester Examinations. In other words, the respondent no. 1 while appearing for his Eighth Semester Examinations, had to prepare for and take more examinations in the same duration that his fellow students had to prepare for a lesser number of examinations.”
The Bench also held that apprehensions that the Single Judge judgment, if allowed to stand, will open floodgates for similar claims by other students who may have missed some examination for any reasons, not limited to medical grounds, were unfounded.
Therefore, the Single Judge decision directing the University to award Pandey the Gold Medal was upheld.
Read the judgment: