The Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently imposed Rs 1 lakh fine on Panjab University for the cancellation of the internship programme of a meritorious student due to a minor mistake.
The petitioner, Ishita Uppal, who topped the 10+2 examination (2014-15) in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, got admission in the 5-year B.A., LL.B. course offered by the University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS), Panjab University, Chandigarh. She belongs to an Economically Weaker Section (EWS). The petitioner was provided an EWS scholarship from the very beginning; but due to her illness on 12.05.2018, she could not appear in one paper (French III) of 6th Semester scheduled to be held on 14.05.2018. Petitioner was advised 5-days bed rest by the doctor w.e.f. 12.05.2018 to 16.05.2018.
Uppal was granted the benefit of the EWS scholarship which she continued for two years. As a result thereof, University used to refund her fee which she had already paid; but in the fourth year, when she asked for the refund of the 3rd year fee, the University did not agree on the premise that the petitioner has not produced her Detailed Marks Card (DMC) of 6th Semester. Petitioner tried to convince the University that she could not appear in her French- III paper on account of her illness, but no positive response was received in the matter for a period of a year.
After this, UILS removed her from their rolls and also cancelled the internship. The petitioner approached the director of the department, but she did not get any help. After this, the Vice-Chancellor was also requested but her request was rejected without a chance of hearing.
Subhash Ahuja, counsel for Panjab University, submitted that it is not an EWS scholarship; rather merely a freeship for tuition fee and lab charges. Participation in the internship programme is permissible only to those students who are on the rolls of the institute; but the name of the petitioner was not on the roll of the Department as she neither deposited the fee for 8th Semester; nor got admission in 9th Semester, thus, disentitled herself to participate in the internship programme.
A single-judge bench of Justice Mahabir Singh Sidhu, while considering the facts and circumstances of the case held that the petitioner is having good talent, but she has been forced to suffer great trauma on account of the wholly unacceptable approach adopted by the University. She is being harassed by the University for the last two and a half years; thus, obviously, her study has also been affected. Consequently, there is no hesitation to observe that the actions of the University have not only caused great prejudice to the petitioner but also resulted in a miscarriage of justice.
Panjab University and UILS while taking drastic steps in the matter, did not realize that “student is not created for the university, but the university exists for the student”. It seems that instead of encouraging a brilliant student from EWS category, university tried to debar her to complete the B.A., LL.B. course for few thousands of rupees which she was not able to pay on account of financial incapacity. University remained oblivious of the fact that they are not running a private establishment; rather manning the University having glorious past, which produced many great personalities including former Chief Justices of India as well as the Prime Ministers of the Country, apart from other scientists of repute, said the Judge.
The Court while allowing the Petition ordered, ”Since the respondents (Panjab University and UILS) have not only acted in an arbitrary manner but also taken most unreasonable stand while defending the present writ petition with full vigour just to harass a female student belonging to EWS category; therefore, the petitioner would be entitled to costs of Rs 1 lakh (Rupees One lac), as a suitable compensation. At the first instance, costs shall be paid by Panjab University and UILS in the equal share i.e. Rs.50,000/- each; however, they would be at liberty to recover the same from the erring official/officer.”