Interpretation of statute that words of a statute must be understood in their natural, ordinary or popular sense and construed : Delhi High Court  

It is a cardinal principle of interpretation of statute that need to understood in accordance to their grammatical meaning, unless such construction leads to some absurdity and unless there is something in the context or in object of statute to suggest to the contrary. This was held in the judgment passed by a single judge bench comprising HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE V. KAMESWAR RAO, in the matter DR. ASHOK KUMAR v. UNIVERSITY OF DELHI & ANR. [W.P. (C) 7928/2021, CM APPL. 24630/2021], dealt with an issue where the petitioner filed a petition seeking a direction to the University of Delhi  to grant him study leave to enable him to proceed to CERN-Geneva for undertaking the Assignment of Technical Coordinator.

University has in its communication, rejected the said request of the petitioner on the basis of a communication / clarification received by it from the University Grants Commission.

The petitioner joined the University as an Assistant Professor on March 26, 2008. In 2010 Regulations were framed by the UGC in relation to study leave and sabbatical leave. In the year 2013, guidelines were issued to revise the 2010 Regulations.

On April 01, 2018, the petitioner was promoted to the post of Associate Professor under the Career Advancement Scheme issued by the UGC. 5. On July 18, 2018 a Gazette notification was issued by the UGC notifying its Regulations called as UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Maintenance of Standards of Higher Education, 2018.

These Regulations include provisions for grant of study leave / sabbatical leave. Regulation 8.2 refers to study leave and similarly 8.3 refers to sabbatical leave.

Counsel for the petitioner stated that the rejection of the request of the petitioner for grant of study leave because the petitioner is no more Assistant Professor and as an Associate Professor, he is not eligible for the same, is totally erroneous because as per the Regulation referred to above, the petitioner being an entry-level appointee as an Assistant Professor and now being an Associate Professor, who has not completed seven years of service as Associate Professor, and being not eligible for sabbatical leave, need to be granted the study leave. According to him, the interpretation sought to be given by the respondent to the Regulations is in violation of basic rules of interpretation of Statutes. According to him, there is no ambiguity in the Regulations. On a harmonious reading of the provisions referred to above would suggest that even an Associate Professor, who is not eligible for sabbatical leave, shall be entitled to the study leave.

After hearing both the parties The Hon’ble Delhi High Court dismissed the petition and held that the court shall not generally sit in appeal over the opinion expressed by expert academic bodies and normally it is wise and safe for the Courts to leave the decision of academic experts who are more familiar with the problem they face, than the Courts generally are. UGC as an expert body has been entrusted with the duty to take steps as it may think fit for the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in the University.

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Judgement reviewed by – Vaishnavi Raman


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