St. Stephen’s College has been at loggerheads with Delhi University over its admission criteria for undergraduate courses. The College, stressing on its minority institution character, has said that 85 per cent weightage would be given to CUET scores and 15% to interviews for all candidates, a stand strongly opposed by DU, which wants interviews to be conducted only for the reserved category students.
The Delhi High Court has said that the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30 of the Constitution is not unquestionable and absolute and can be subjected to reasonable restrictions imposed by the State.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharmaand Justice Subramonium Prasad directed St Stephens College to withdraw its admission prospectus stating that it would give 85% weightage to Common University Entrance Test (CUET) marks and 15% weightage to interviews for admission. The order states,
“The Petitioner-College is, therefore, directed to follow the admission policies for the year 2022-2023 as formulated by Respondent No.1 (Delhi University). Further, in accordance with the subsequent communication dated 24.05.2022, the Petitioner-College must withdraw its Admission Prospectus and issue a Public Notice declaring the amended admission procedure.”
The Court held that though Article 30 is couched in absolute terms, it is subject to regulations which cannot be proposed to be for the betterment of society at large or in the interest of the State. These regulations must first and foremost be for the purposes of ensuring that the standards of excellence of the minority institution are maintained and that the interests of the minority community are advanced, the judges said.
“Regulations can be framed to prevent maladministration as well as for laying down standards of education, teaching, maintenance of discipline, public order, health, morality, etc.”
The Bench further said that when observed from the prism of constitutional intent, it becomes clear that the right of a minority institution to manage its affairs is for the purpose of ensuring that the minority community is elevated to a position at par with the majority community.
“As a corollary, it could not have been the intent of the Constituent Assembly to allow minority institutions to implement its protectionist measures for the betterment of the minority community, and then extend this protection to the non-minority community. Such an interpretation of the provision under Article 30(1) would only defeat the purpose of the constitutional provision, which is to bring minority communities at par with the non-minority communities,” the Court said.
“The communication dated May 9, 2022 issued by Delhi university is set aside to the extend that St Stephen’s College must follow the directive that 100 per cent weightage must be given to CUET 2022 score for admission to students belonging to non-minority category applying to under-graduate course,” the high court said.
The letter also asked St Stephens to employ a single merit list for admission of candidates belonging to all denominations of the Christian community.
DU further said that minority institutions like St Stephens can give 15% weightage to interviews while dealing with admissions in the reserved category, but for the unreserved seats, admissions should be only on the basis of CUET scores.
St Stephen’s refused to follow the admission policy and declared that even with respect to unreserved seats, it will give 85% weightage to CUET score and 15% weightage to interviews.
The Court held that the fundamental right under the Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India given to a minority institution cannot be extended to non-minority members.
Therefore, it directed St Stephens to issue a fresh prospectus giving 100% weightage to the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) score for admission under non-minority category to its undergraduate courses.
However, the Court rejected Delhi University’s argument that the College should publish a single merit list for admission of candidates belonging to all dominations of the Christian community.
The judges said that protection under Article 30(1) can be extended to the extent that it allows a minority institution to sub-classify the reservation accorded to the minority community.