Punjab and Haryana High Court Upholds Medical College’s Decision To Not Admit ‘General Category’ Candidate To ‘Sponsored Category’ Vacancy

          In a latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled “Nipun Sharma vs Post Graduation Institute of Medical Education and Research, Sector 12 Chandigarh through its Director” in Civil Writ Petition No. 10684 of 2020 (O&M) delivered just recently on August 14, 2020, the Punjab and Haryana High Court unequivocally upheld the Medical College’s righteous decision to not admit the ‘general category’ candidate to ‘sponsored category’ vacancy. The two Judge Bench of Punjab and Harayana High Court comprising of Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu were hearing this case. Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu authored the judgment for himself and Justice Rajeev Sharma.

To start with, it is first and foremost pointed out in para 1 that, “This writ petition has been filed for issuance of writ, order or direction for reading down condition 7(3)(g) as contained in the Prospectus for Session July, 2020 issued by respondent – PGIMER for admission to DM/M.Ch. Courses, wherein it has been provided that no request for change of category applied for shall be entertained after submission of application to the extent that in case no eligible candidate is available under the ‘Sponsored Category’, then eligible candidate if available, under ‘General Category’ be considered and granted admission to the course of Master of Surgery (M.Ch.) (Plastic Surgery) on fulfilling the requisite eligibility conditions.”

What follows next is stated in para 2 that, “Further prayer has been made for setting aside the action of respondent in not considering the candidature of petitioner for said course against vacant seat available under ‘Sponsored Category’ in view of fact that petitioner had applied for direct category.”

To put it succinctly, para 3 then states that, “It is also prayed that the NOC/Sponsorship Certificate (Annexure-P6) issued in favour of petitioner by Department of Health and Family Welfare, Himachal Pradesh be accepted.”

In hindsight, while dwelling on the petitioner’s past academic background, it is then put forth in para 4 that, “The petitioner secured admission in MBBS Course at Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital at Shimla (2006-2012) and served in rural area after appointment in 2013 for a total period of 2 ½ years. He was selected for Post Graduate Course in General Surgery in 2017 as a sponsored candidate (2017 to 2019) in PGIMER, Chandigarh and secured 2nd rank in Post Graduation final examination. After completing his Post Graduation successfully with the respondent institution he joined back as a Medical Officer in Deendayal Upadhyay Zonal Hospital, Shimla. Thereafter, the petitioner with an aim to study further and super specialize in the field of Plastic Surgery decided to get admission in the Master of Surgery (M.Ch.) (Plastic Surgery).”

To be sure, it is then envisaged in para 5 that, “As per the Prospectus for the Session July 2020 in the PGIMER for securing admission in Post Graduation or Super Speciality Course i.e. M.Ch., two categories have been provided i.e. (a) General category and (b) Sponsored Category. In ‘General Category’, a candidate can apply directly i.e. without seeking permission of any State authority directly whereas in the ‘Sponsored Category’ only that candidate can apply, who is sponsored by the State Government with which he or she is employed. The sponsorship so made by the State Government is also in the nature of a No Objection Certificate whereby a candidate is authorized by the State Government to do a Super Specialty Course with an undertaking to serve the State Government for a specified period.”

Coming to the chief grievance of the petitioner, it is henceforth stated in para 11 that, “Thus the grievance of the petitioner is that despite there being no other eligible candidate available till date, the candidature of the petitioner, who applied under the ‘General Category’, is not being considered under the ‘Sponsored Category’. In case, the respondent-institution accepts the candidature of the petitioner then not only the petitioner would secure admission in the super specialty course of M.Ch. (Plastic Surgery) but the vacant seat will also get utilized and would not be left vacant.”

As a corollary, it is then further stated in para 12 that, “It was also pleaded by the petitioner that two candidates Dr. Lucky Kumar and Dr. Ashok Garg, who hail from Himachal Pradesh had applied for admission in M.Ch. in Cardiology and Neonatology respectively with respondent. Those candidate also secured their NOC cum Sponsorship certificate after the declaration of the result. They have been granted admission and their NOC cum Sponsorship certificate has been duly accepted. Thus the petitioner has been discriminated against.”

What cannot be left unnoticed is what is then stated in para 14 that, “It has been stated that as per clause 7 (3)(g) of the Prospectus:

“No request for a change of category applied for shall be entertained after the submission of the application”.

Since, Petitioner applied under ‘General Category’, therefore his request for grant of admission on the vacant seat under ‘Sponsored Category’ cannot be considered.”

Having said this, it is then observed in para 20 that, “The examination for admission to the M.Ch. Plastic surgery course was held on 21.06.2020. The result was declared on 26.05.2020. On 30.06.2020 the institute vide notice dated 30.06.2020 uploaded a tentative list of selected candidates wherein petitioner was shown at Waiting list No. 1 in the Direct Category. The petitioner was given the NOC/Sponsorship Certificate on 08.07.2020. Clearly as per condition 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus the request for change of category from ‘General’ to ‘Sponsored’ could not be entertained at a stage when even the result have been declared in view of Clause 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus.”

While adding further weight to its ruling, the Bench then observes in para 21 that, “It has been consistently held in different Full Bench decisions of this Court that prospectus has a force of law and is to be strictly followed. Reference can be made to Amardeep Singh Sahota v. State of Punjab 1993 (4) S.C.T. 328, Raj Singh v. Maharishi Dayanand University 1994 (2) S.C.T. 766, Sachin Gaur v. Punjabi University 1996 (1) S.C.T. 837, Rahul Prabhakar v. Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar 1997 (3) S.C.T. 526, Indu Gupta v. Director of Sports, Punjab 1999 (4) S.C.T. 113 and Rupinder Singh v. The Punjab State Board of Technical Education & Industrial Training, Chandigarh 2001 (2) S.C.T. 726.”

To put things in perspective, it is then noted in para 23 that, “This being the settled legal position the respondent-institution is right in strictly adhering to condition 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus and not entertaining the request of the petitioner for change of category after the last date of application and granting him admission against the vacant seat in the sponsored category.”

As it ostensibly turned out, the Bench then also clearly and convincingly holds in para 24 that, “The contention of the Ld. Counsel that provision 7(3)(g) be read down to the extent that in case no eligible candidate is available under the ‘Sponsored Category’, then eligible candidate, if available, under ‘General Category’ be considered and granted admission to the course of Master of Surgery (M.Ch.) (Plastic Surgery) on fulfilling the requisite eligible conditions also is not tenable.”

No wonder, it is then rightly held in para 27 that, “The respondent-institution in its reply has given valid reasons as to why such a provision has been incorporated and any deviation from it would create an untenable and uncertain situation.” Finally, it is then held in the last para 28 that, “Accordingly, there is no merit in the petition and the same is dismissed.”

In conclusion, the two Judge Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising of Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu  in this notable judgment has clearly and convincingly for cogent reasons explained above has rightly rejected the contention of the petitioner! The arguments forwarded by the petitioner were found to be not tenable by the Chandigarh High Court. The Court also made it amply clear that the respondent-institution is right in strictly adhering to condition 7(3)(g) of the Prospectus and not entertaining the request of the petitioner for change of category after the last date of application and granting him admission against the vacant seat in the sponsored category! Very rightly so!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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