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The Delhi High Court has stated that it is important for the Bar Council of India (BCI) and others to revisit rules mandating compulsory minimum attendance for promotion in order to accommodate cases in which a student, who otherwise has a good track record, is unable to attend classes due to genuine reasons.
Remarking that “one size fits all cannot be the approach of the educators“, the Court added,
“Harsh and at times disproportionate punishment can imbue frustration in an otherwise diligent student..it has to be borne in mind that even good and brilliant students face difficult circumstances which need to be understood and negotiated with care and compassion. The university has to have the skills of a trapeze artist; a difficult task but not impossible.”
The Court has thus suggested that the issues of short-attendance, in such situations, could be dealt with by having students connected to classrooms via video-conferencing mode or having the lectures uploaded on Youtube.
Bar Council of India has indicated to the Court that issues are presently being deliberated upon.
The averments form part of a Judgement passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher in a petition by a first-year LL.B student (petitioner) seeking a one-time waiver qua shortage in his attendance score on medical grounds.
The petitioner was a student at the Faculty of Law, Delhi University’s 3-year LL.B. Programme qua academic session 2019-2020.
It was the petitioner’s case that since March 2017, he had been suffering from an illness but there was no clear and certain diagnosis. Due to the illness, the petitioner even lost nearly 10 kgs of weight in the past 11 months.
Based on the pathological reports, the petitioner asserted that he had been tested “positive” for Salmonella Typhi IgG (Typhidot) and Salmonella Typhi IgM (Typhi DOT), and Mantoux test.
In view of the above, the petitioner even approached the professor-In-Charge, Law Centre-I, the Dean and other authorities for necessary accommodation. Since there was no positive response from the university, the petitioner was constrained to move Court.
After hearing the parties, the Court concluded that it was bound by a Division Bench judgment which ruled that the requirement of attaining minimum attendance in professional courses was “non-negotiable” and thus refused to grant any relief.
It nonetheless took the opportunity to make certain pertinent observations and suggestions on the issue.
The Court noted that in the present case, given that typhoid was suspected and Mantoux test which ascertains tuberculosis was positive, the petitioner’s inability to attend the classes on the face of it could not be doubted.
“The irony is [something that the university and the Bar Council of India (in short “BCI”) need to work on] that the Regulation 7 (i), (ii) & (iii) of Ordinance VII1 of the university…which deals with both attendance and promotion, does not factor in circumstances such as the one which have arisen in the present case.”, it noted.
The Court thus observed that the Rules were such that there was no leeway to the administration to allow and enable a student to continue with his/her studies in case he/she is afflicted with an infectious disease or a serious injury which genuinely degrades his/her ability to attend classes.
“There could be circumstance where a student could be carrying a serious infection such as Human immunodeficiency virus (‘in short “HIV”) and he insists that he would attend the classes, given the regulatory regime put in place, I wonder what would be the answer of the university in such situation. Swine flu, which has reached, at times, endemic proportions in Delhi is another example where confinement is routinely advised. I could give several other examples, however, to my mind, for the moment, these examples should suffice.”
In view of the above, the Court opined that rules mandating minimum compulsory attendance for promotion must be revisited to make provision for cases in which a student, who otherwise has a good track record, is unable to attend classes due to genuine reasons.
“It is, thus, in my opinion, important for the university as well as the BCI to revisit the attendance and promotion rules and perhaps make a provision and/or clarify that in genuine cases where students who are otherwise punctual and have a good track record would not be detained only for the reason that in a particular period they were not able to attend classes in circumstances such as the one cited above.”
It further added that requirement of physical presence in classrooms could be overcome during periods of confinement etc., by taking recourse to technology such as video-conferencing or having the lectures uploaded on Youtube.
The Court also laid emphasis on the “need to separate the wheat from the chaff” and said that students who are indolent as against those who are temporarily disabled and/or distracted, and therefore fail to attain needed to be treated differently.
The Court stated that although it could not be disputed that high standards should be maintained in the field of education and therefore attendance was important, it must also be borne in mind that even good and brilliant students face difficult circumstances which need to be understood and negotiated with care and compassion.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate DS Kauntae.
The Union of India was represented by Advocates Vivekanand Mishra, Dharmendra Tyagi.
Advocates Mohinder JS Rupal, Kousik Ghosh appeared for University of Delhi.
BCI was represented by Advocates Preet Pal Singh, Saurabh Sharma.
Read the Judgement: