SC denies relief to DU student detained for low attendance on account of pregnancy

SC denies relief to DU student detained for low attendance on account of pregnancy

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court refused to grant interim relief to a law student from Delhi University (DU) who was detained in the fourth semester and barred from writing her exams on account of low attendance, owing to her pregnancy.

The Court has, however, granted liberty to the petitioner to seek remedy from the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court.

The matter was taken up by the Supreme Court Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Navin Sinha this morning.

On learning that the counsel for the respondent university was not present before the Court, Justice Khanwilkar noted that by the time the Court hears the respondent’s argument, the exam would have been over.

“How can we pass an order without hearing the other side? The exam is at 2 and by the time we hear the other side what can be done?”

At this point, Senior Advocate Amarendra Sharan, who was present in the Court for a different matter, apprised the Bench of a past instance wherein arrangements were made for the students to write their exam just an hour ahead of the exam. Sharan told the Court that if Delhi University wishes, arrangements could be made.

Justice Khanwilkar directed the petitioner to reach out to the counsel for Delhi University, as the Court wished to hear the respondent’s side as well. He said,

“If the Delhi University agrees and arrangements can be made, then we have no problem.”

The matter came back before the judges just as they were about to rise for lunch.

Advocate Mohinder J S Rupal appeared for the respondent and the petitioner was represented by Advocates Ashish Virmani, Himanshu Dhuper and Pallav Mongia.

On appearing before the Bench, Rupal raised objection over allowing the petitioner to appear for her exam stating that the specific laws applicable to the Faculty of Law as well as rules laid down by Bar Council of India require a minimum attendance of 70 per cent.

Justice Khanwilkar, highlighting that the petitioner had not applied for maternity leave, agreed with this and said,

“Discipline of academics is lost completely. What is the point of laying down rules and cut off dates etc for various things?”

Justice Sinha too expressed his discomfort over the matter and told the petitioner,

“This sounds very incongruous. We are not very comfortable with the idea that the Supreme court passes an order at 1 and the student sits for the exam at 2pm…This is a hard case and the law is not in your favour.”

Directing the petitioner’s counsel to pursue the appeal before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, Justice Khanwilkar dismissed the petition without granting any interim relief to the petitioner.

The petition was filed before the Supreme Court after a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court refrained from granting any interim relief to the petitioner. The petitioner was unable to attend the requisite number of classes owing to pregnancy. Her case is that this detention was in violation of her rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The matter was mentioned yesterday before the same Supreme Court Bench, through Advocates Ashish Virmani and Himanshu Dhuper. Owing to the urgent nature of the matter, the Court had listed it for this morning.

The petition calls the decision of Delhi University to debar the petitioner from appearing for her exams as “illegal”, describing the action as a violation of her right to procreate, and amounting to discrimination on the basis of gender.

It is also stated that denying maternity benefits to the petitioner would be in “grave violation of the Fundamental Rights of the petitioner”. Calling for the furtherance of gender justice, the petition states that extending maternity benefits to the petitioner would also be in consonance with International Conventions.

It is also contended that maternity benefit to women students is allowed in various states, and the same ought to be applied in this specific instance as well.

Consequently, the petitioner has sought interim relief from the Supreme Court, praying for a stay on the University’s notice that detained her. Additionally, the petitioner also sought to be allowed to appear for her ongoing IV Semester exams.

Read the Order:

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news