In a ruling that would impact thousands of students, the Supreme Court has held that there can be no rounding-off of the percentage of marks to the next digit for making a candidate eligible for admission to a course when eligibility criteria are clearly mentioned.
“When eligibility criteria are prescribed in a qualifying examination, it must be strictly adhered to,” the apex court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai said in a recent judgment.
“Any dilution or tampering with it will work injustice on other candidates” and “such rounding-off is impermissible”, said Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai who authored the judgment.
The apex court’s judgment came while answering the question of law of whether a relaxation was possible through the application of the principle of rounding off in the eligibility criteria prescribed for admission, in a case related to a post-graduate nursing course.
The court said: “No provision of any statute or any rules framed hereunder has been shown to us, which permits rounding-off of eligibility criteria prescribed for the qualifying examination for admission to the PG course in M.SC (Nursing).”
The court sought strict adherence to the eligibility criteria while disposing of an appeal by Bangalore-based Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, challenging the Oct 28, 2010, judgment of the division bench of the Karnataka High Court declining to entertain a plea against the single-judge order upholding rounding-off of the percentage of marks obtained by one G. Hemlatha so as to make her eligible for admission to the post-graduate nursing course.
“The Division Bench of the High Court erred in holding that the learned single judge was right in rounding off 54.71 percent to 55 percent, so as to make respondent 1 (Hemlatha) eligible for admission to the PG course. Such rounding off is impermissible,” the apex court said.
Hemlatha completed the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing with 54.71 percent aggregate marks from N.T.R. University of Health Sciences in the year 1997, and was appointed staff nurse at the Primary Health Centre, Nagasamudram (Andhra Pradesh) from July 8, 1999.
After working for eight years and three months, she decided to pursue post-graduate studies.
The eligibility criteria prescribed by the Indian Nursing Council (INC) for securing admission to the post-graduate course was 55 percent aggregate marks in B.Sc. Hemlatha had secured 54.71 percent aggregate marks.
Hemlatha made a representation to INC which said that 0.50 percent would normally be rounded-off to the next digit.
On the strength of this certificate, she got admission to the post-graduate course. However, when she was to undertake the M.Sc previous examination, she was told by the university that she was not eligible.
Hemlatha impugned this order holding her ineligible before the single judge of the Karnataka High Court. An interim order permitted her to appear in the examination.
On the strength of another court’s order, she appeared in the M.Sc final examination.
When Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences moved the Supreme Court challenging the division bench order, the apex court directed the declaration of her result and regularisation of her admission.
However, the court had said that it would decide the question of law of whether rounding of percentage of marks to next digit could be done to facilitate admission in the course of time.