On Wednesday, The Delhi High Court issued a notice to the Delhi University and St Stephen’s College regarding a recent controversy relating to undergraduate admissions. This came after a PIL was filed against the college over its decision to continue the admission process for filling its general category seats through interviews – contrary to the mandate by DU from this year.
As per an Indian Express report, the petition in the Delhi High Court demanded that the college should follow the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) exam to admit students to its unreserved seats for undergraduate courses in the college. The Minority institution has drawn daggers with the University Grants Commission which mandated that Undergraduate admissions from the coming academic session be conducted only on the basis of a common entrance state called the Common University Entrance Test or CUET. However, St Stephen’s College in New Delhi decided to continue taking the traditional admission process through interviews.
Last month, the college announced that it would give 85% weightage to the CUET score and 15% to the interview for unreserved category admissions. The division bench of the Delhi HC consisting of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta has issued notice to St Stephen’s college, the DU and the University Grants Commission, asking the respondents to respond within four weeks. The court has listed the matter for the hearing on July 6.
The Petition against St Stephen’s
It all started when Kanika Poddar, a law student from DU challenged St Stephen’s college’s decision to conduct admissions through interviews. She was represented by Senior advocate Arun Bhardwaj in the court. The PIL filed through advocate Akash Vajpai stated that the interview process initiated by the college was against the admission policy of Delhi University.
Poddar argued that the admission process beyond the CEUT violates the mandate of the college’s own Academic and Executive council. The petition argues that while earlier the students were under huge stress to score marks as high as 95% in grade XII to get admitted to St Stephen’s, the introduction of CUET has eased the process for them.
The Petition further argues that DU rules are binding upon St Stephen’s college too, despite it being a minority institution. For its minority character, the institute cannot “disregard merit or merit-based selection of students,” the petition read.
The petition further made a case that the process through CEUT is validated by the National Education Policy, and “it has clearly elucidated that entrance to higher education should be through common entrance test at the national level so that there is a uniform standard of benchmarking of candidates,” the petition argued.
Why St Stephen’s is conducting interviews for unreserved seats?
On April 5, the Delhi University issued a change in its admission policy starting from the academic year 2022-23, which stated that admission to the unreserved seats, including those in the six minority colleges under its jurisprudence will be done only on the basis of marks obtained in CEUT. The Minority Institutions, however, were allowed to conduct interview-based admissions for reserved seats giving only 15 per cent weightage to the process.
The rest 85 per cent of the weightage of the admission process was be rested upon the centralised CUET score at the time of admission. However, St Stephen’s is not ready to abide by the new circular of the DU and has gone ahead to conduct interviews for filling its unreserved seats as well. It should be noted that in DU’s minority institutions like St Stephen’s, Jesus and Mary College, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College etc, 50% of the total seats are reserved for girl students or students belonging to any of the ‘minority’ religions in India.
The rule of centralised admission through CEUT has become a challenge before the college as it followed its own rules of admissions being a minority institute. There have been rounds of meetings between the college management and the DU authorities which have failed to solve the situation through dialogue amicably.
Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Yogesh Singh had also sought legal opinion on the issue to understand the extent to which the provisions for specialised admissions in minority institutions are applicable. Meanwhile, the college is in no mood to budge according to the new process.
St Stephen’s college is adamant on taking interviews of all applicants who have been shortlisted by the College under the CUET list as per the college’s admission criteria. “The admission process is time-tested, proven and guaranteed through a landmark judgement delivered by the highest court of the land – that will be followed for admission to College,” the college opined.