A bench of Justices Ramesh Dhanuka and Riyaz Chagla’s verdict came on a petition by ICSE student Ananya Patki and intervention plea by four IGCSE students (Kavya Bhatt, Manav Chopra, Jiya Shah and Rashi Agrawal ) challenging the May 28 government resolution that declared holding of CET based on SSC board syllabus. The State government is directed “to issue appropriate order cancelling CET within 48 hours” and “to complete the process for admission on the basis of marks secured by the student Class X by evaluation/internal assessment within a period of maximum 6 weeks.” Some “10.98 lakh” had registered for the optional CET to be held on August 21.
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The judges upheld submission by Ananya’s father advocate Yogesh Patki and senior advocate Mihir Desai, for IGCSE students, that there is no provision in the Maharashtra Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board Act, 1965 and in regulations under it for CET. The judges said under the guise of issuing executive order under article 162 (extent of executive power of State subject), the State could not override the statute and rules. “In our view, such a condition is thus, arbitrary, harsh, capricious and without authority of law,’’ said the bench.
In their 68 page order, the judges said the State government acted contrary to provisions of the Act and Rules and “exceeded its power by issuing the GR thereby putting embargo or such condition which would affect the right of such students from other boards to get admission in junior colleges affiliated to State board as per their choice.”.
The judges said since SSC and other boards were allowed to promote their students on the basis of a particular marking pattern and exercised such marking pattern decided by each of the Board separately, the State Government could not have imposed a condition in the GR which would affect the eligibility criteria already prescribed under Regulation 79(1). “In our view, such a condition is thus, arbitrary, harsh, capricious and without authority of law. The rights to get admission in the First Year Junior College granted to the students passing X th examination from other statutory boards cannot be taken away by imposing a condition which would treat them unequally with the students having passed Xth examination from respondent no.2 (SSC)-Board.” They also noted that by imposing a condition that other board students appear in CET on SSC syllabus and priority will be given to those who appear for CET in the first phase of admission, “ the State Government has deprived the students from other statutory boards to compete with the students of SSC Board.”
The judges said due to the GR large number of students “who are waiting to start their second inning by taking admission in junior college are suffering mental trauma, anxiety and tension. “ They noted that though the GR was issued on May 28, the date for conduct of CET and syllabus were announced recently. They said the commencement of the academic year would be delayed if CET is allowed and it will “cause gross injustice to all the students including the students who have passed in X std through the SSC Board”
The judges said the common admission process (CAP) which has been in operation for the last several years is based on the merit-cum-choice. They rejected advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni’s submission that by introducing such CET examination, the case of students on merit-cum-choice would be considered. “No convincing reasons are brought to the notice of this Court by the State Government as to what purpose that would be achieved by issuing the impugned resolution by introducing CET examination and more particularly in this pandemic situation,” the judges noted. They added that the GR even otherwise is “vague in respect of various aspects such as percentage required for reserved category candidates and regarding minority quota and cannot be implemented.”
The judges were unimpressed with the AG’s argument that since CET would be held only for two hours no prejudice would be caused to students. They said students who are not vaccinated are forced to appear for CET and more particularly in violations of standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued from time to time. “ These students would carry the risk of their life by exposing themselves if they appear for such a CET examination.. Life is more important than the choice of the students to get admission in a preferred junior college which even otherwise would be secured by CAP admission method subject to the merits of each student,’’ the judges added.
The judges perused three letters sent to State by ICSE, CBSE and IGCSE bards and added that “it would indicate that none of these boards who are parties to this petition have agreed to participate in the CET examination willingly or unwillingly and have given suggestions to do away with the CET examination for various reasons already set out therein.” “ In view of the protest made by those boards also, in our view, no purpose and object would be achieved if CET examination is allowed to be held as canvassed by the learned advocate general,” the judges concluded.