Karnataka High Court castigates NLSIU's "step-motherly treatment" of student denied promotion for attendance shortage
NLSIU

Karnataka High Court castigates NLSIU's "step-motherly treatment" of student denied promotion for attendance shortage

The Court noted that NLSIU was unjustifiably swayed by the "Rule of Textualism", to the prejudice of the student.

The Karnataka High Court recently directed National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore to promote a student who had attendance shortage to the fourth year of the BA. LL.B (Hons) course.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit, while allowing the petition filed by Dayan Warsi, expressed its dissatisfaction at the "step-motherly" approach of NLSIU, whose medical officer refused to attest the student's medical records on the ground that his attendance was only 65%, 2% lesser than the prescribed 67%.

....a step-motherly treatment is meted out to his detriment; this is not a happy thing to happen at the hands of the University which enjoys a great academic reputation in the country.

Karnataka High Court

The order states,

"As already mentioned above, in several cases the University had granted condonation of shortage of attendance under the very same Regulations; however, in the case of the petitioner, a step-motherly treatment is meted out to his detriment; this is not a happy thing to happen at the hands of the University which enjoys a great academic reputation in the country."

The Court went on to observe that the affidavit filed by NLSIU "borders on perjury", as it did not inform the Court that it had condoned the shortage for three other students whose attendance was below the stipulated percentage.

"...infact the affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents arguably borders perjury, since information relating to condonation of attendance in respect of above three more students has been withheld from the Writ Court with no justification whatsoever....ideally speaking, the respondent law university ought to have stated about the fact in the very beginning when it had filed its Statement of Objections..."

The Court also took into account the affidavit filed by the Registrar of the University admitting that in a case of one particular student, condonation has been granted even when he had less than the prescribed minimum of 67% attendance.

The petitioner had also submitted details of several such instances with material particulars wherein condonation was accorded despite attendance being well short of the prescribed minimum.

The whole issue arose when the University, by way of two orders issued in July and August 2020, had denied to promote the petitioner to the fourth year of BA. LL.B (Hons) programme for the academic year 2020-21. He was denied admission because he had a shortage of attendance in two courses and had failed in a subject in his third year.

The University contended that the Academic Examination Regulations (AER), 2020 does not admit leniency. It was further submitted that matters such as these need to be left to the University authorities sans judicial interference.

It was also argued that even under AER 2009, the petitioner is not entitled to condonation of attendance shortage since he had a little less than 67% of attendance which is the minimum prescribed for seeking condonation.

Considering these contentions, the Bench held that the petitioner ought to have been treated under AER 2009 and not under AER 2020, as the latter does not have retrospective effect.

"Denial of admission to the petitioner to the 4th year of the course is on the specific grounds that he has a shortage of attendance in two courses and he has secured 'F' Grade in Criminal Law III (3rd year, VII Semester). Respondents have invoked provisions of AER 2020 which this Court has already held to have no retrospective effect in W.P.No.11287/2020 between AAKASHDEEP SINGH Vs. NLSIU & ANOTHER, that being the position, case of the petitioner ought to have been treated under AER 2009, and not under AER 2020 wrongly; thus there is an error apparent on the face of the record, that has caused enormous prejudice to the petitioner."

The Bench added,

"One has to bear in mind that what is being construed are the 'Campus Regulations' and not the 'Cattle Trespass Act'; true it is that, law speaks through language and not music; the rules which are promulgated to regulate & discipline the young minds in educational institutions should sing justice; this happens if a purposive construction based on language, purpose and discretion, is placed on these regulations that admit a range of possibilities; they also vest some discretion since their purpose does not point to a single, unique legal meaning regardless of myriad circumstances; respondents ought to have used discretion to formulate, as objectively as possible, the purpose at the core of the legal text; however, they have been unjustifiably swayed away by the Rule of Textualism, to the prejudice of the poor student."

The Court was also prompt to state that the contention of NLSIU that the petitioner ought to have submitted an application seeking condonation of attendance shortage within six days of classes resuming, was quite unreasonable.

Criticising the University for this contention, the Court said,

"It is not that the University was launching a Satellite within those six days and delay of a few days has prevented it from launching one; even otherwise such a contention cannot be countenanced when said requirement arose under the directory provisions of Regulations which admit a lot of discretion & leniency, by their very nature."

With these pertinent observations, the Court proceeded to allow Warsi's petition.

[Read order here]

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Dayan Warsi vs Vice Chancellor, NLSIU.pdf
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