The Delhi High Court has come to the rescue of the law students of Delhi University, who were detained for the shortage of attendance.
A number of law students had approached the Delhi High Court through multiple writ petitions, protesting a notification issued by the Faculty of Law, DU on May 7. This notification had intimated the DU administration’s decision to detain the students from appearing for their end-semester exams on account of shortage of attendance.
Rule 12 of the Rules of Legal Education of the Bar Council of India Rules (BCI Rules), mandates that law students must have a minimum of 70% attendance to appear for exams.
On behalf of the law students, it was contended that the students were not to be blamed for their attendance shortage, given that DU had neither scheduled nor actually conducted the mandatory minimum number of classes as required by Rule 10 of the BCI Rules. Further, they had no warning that the classes conducted by DU would be below the statutory minimum.
DU submitted that the petitioners’ attendance was calculated with reference to the total number of lecture classes actually held.
Finding serious lapses on the part of DU in complying with the BCI Rules, Justice Rekha Palli today ruled in favour of the law students.
Senior Advocates Kriti Uppal and Prashanto Sen appeared for the student-petitioners pro bono. Among other counsel, Advocates Himanshu Dhuper, Ashish Virmani, Rajesh Mishra, Mehmood Pracha and Eshna Kumar also appeared for the petitioners. Advocate JS Mohinder Rupal made arguments for the Faculty of Law, DU.
Classes conducted in DU far below statutory minimum
Justice Palli found that DU had flouted the BCI Rules when it failed to comply with Rule 10, which required the University to conduct at least 450 hours of class.
The judge went on to discern that class hours actually conducted by DU were far below the statutory minimum. Taking into consideration reliable evidence, the Court was constrained to consider only 230 hours of in-class lectures conducted by DU.
This apart, the Court also expressed disapproval over manner in which attendance records were being maintained at DU.
Glaring discrepancies in the original attendance records
It was noted that attendance was being marked in the most archaic fashion on loose attendance sheets that are maintained in a most disorganized manner. Overwriting, use of different pens and attendance marks by different persons were evident from the records produced before the court.
- In light of the Court’s observations, the May 7 notice was quashed with respect to the petitioners and other similarly placed students.
- The Court directed that extra classes be held for the petitioners to make up for the shortage of attendance and mandatory class hours. It was also directed, “The Faculty of Law must, within 8 weeks, hold at least 139 hours of extra classes/tutorials for all those students desirous of attending the same and making up the shortfall in their attendance caused only due to the Faculty of Law’s failure to hold the mandatory minimum number of class hours in compliance with the BCI Rules.”
- Students who were prevented from taking their end semester exams for attendance shortage should be allowed to write the supplementary exams. The declaration of supplementary exam results would be subject to these students attending the extra classes and thereby make up for their attendance shortage.
- As for students who were allowed to write their exams on interim orders of the Court, it was directed that their provisional results be released. However, this would also be subject to their attending the extra classes ordered by the Court.
BCI directed to take immediate steps to ensure compliance of Rules
In the course of rendering judgement, Justice Palli also observed that law colleges frequently flouted BCI mandates, despite repeated observations that recognised centres of legal education must ensure meticulous compliance of BCI Rules.
~ Preksha Mishra
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