In Academic Appointments, Courts Should Be “Extremely Reluctant” To Impose Their Own Views: Repeated by Orissa High Court

In the case of Satya Narayan Bhujabala & Anr V. Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Science and Research, Burla and Ors. (Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 16290 of 2022) (judgment Dated: 2nd August 2022), the Orissa High Court has emphasized that courts should exercise utmost caution when imposing their own opinions in spite of the laws or regulations regulating academic employment. In the present case, the requirement for chance certificate was let known very categorically in the advertisement issued by notice no. 225/Director, VIMSAR, Burla dated 19.04.2022 as well as vide a reminder website notice released on 20.05.2022 i.e., five days before the date of original document verification. Therefore, this demonstrates the petitioners’ callous attitude. Furthermore, given the adverse marking associated with the certificate, it cannot be said to be irrelevant. Therefore, it must be seen as an essential document that must be checked in order to secure the candidature, regardless of how it may affect one person’s grades.

Facts: On 19.4.2022, the Respondent-University published a job announcement for the position of Assistant Professor on a contract or deputation basis for various disciplines. Two job openings in the department of anaesthesia were published. According to the aforementioned announcement, the required qualifications were an MD or an equivalent degree, but for the purposes of the merit assessment, only the marks obtained in the matriculation, intermediate, and MBBS examinations were given weight. A “Chance Certificate” of the MBBS/MD/MDS/DNB/MSc (Medical)examination was one of the documents that had to be supplied. The petitioners responded to the aforementioned advertisement and were contacted for a document check. The reply made no deficiencies known during the document verification. On 22.6.2022, a provisional selection list was issued. The petitioners were listed as holding the 3rd (Anaesthesiology) and 8th (Pathology) merit ranks; however, they were rejected on the grounds that the MD Chance Certificate was not submitted. The petitioners have filed this writ case because they feel offended by the same.

Judgement: The Court noted that the High Court has consistently held that the procedural criteria are regarded as mandatory when it comes to appointments in academic institutions and universities that are governed by statutes. In this instance, Clause 8 of the advertising listed the documents that had to be supplied, and Clause 8(vii) lists the Chance Certificate for the MBBS, MD, MS, MDS, DNB, or MSC Examination as one among those documents. Therefore, it was a (medical) required document to be submitted at the time of form submission as well as at the time of document verification. Further emphasis was placed on the fact that the medical institution in question had also provided candidates with the opportunity to present documents (if any were present) during verification that they may not have included with their application. Even with this flexibility, the petitioners neglected to carry the opportunity certificate with them when they were being verified.

The Court then cited the case Paritosh Bhupesh Kumar Sheth & Ors. v. Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education & Anr., where it was stated that “the Court should be extremely reluctant to substitute its own views as to what is wise, prudent, and proper in relation to academic matters in preference to those formulated by professional men possessing technical expertise and rich experience of actual day-to-day operations of educational institutions and the like. It will be completely incorrect for the Court to take a pedantic and purely idealistic approach to issues of this nature, disconnected from the actual realities and systemic issues at hand, and unaware of the repercussions that would follow from advocating a purely idealistic viewpoint as opposed to a pragmatic one.’’

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