Guru Nanak Dev
University Th.Registrar Vs. Sanjay Kumar Katwal & ANR  INSC 1789 (21
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.2252 OF 2006 Guru Nanak
Dev University ... Appellant Sanjay Kumar Katwal & Anr. ... Respondents
appeal, by special leave, has been filed by the appellant-Guru Nanak Dev
University against the judgment dated 5.7.2005 of a Division Bench of the High
Court of Punjab & Haryana, whereby the writ petition filed by the first 2
respondent herein was allowed approving his admission to the LL.B. (three years
professional) course at St. Soldier Law College, Jalandhar, affiliated to the
Government of Punjab authorized Punjab University to conduct a Common Entrance
Test for selection of students for admission to three year LL.B. (Professional)
course for the session commencing from 2004-2005, for the various colleges
affiliated to or run by the said University and the appellant university. The
first respondent appeared for the entrance test held on 8.7.2004 and was
declared successful. He attended the counselling and was selected and was
admitted to St. Soldier Law College at Jalandar (second respondent) affiliated
to appellant university. He paid the tuition fee of Rs.25000/- to the second
respondent and attended college regularly. The final examinations of first
semester were held in December, 2004. After scrutinizing the records relating
to the first respondent, the appellant university registered the first
respondent for the examination with Roll No.4723. The first respondent appeared
for the first semester examination.
the appellant university wrote a letter dated 20.12.2004 informing the college
that first respondent's basic degree was M.A.(English) from Annamalai
University through Distance Education, which was not recognized by it and
therefore, his admission to LL.B. course should be cancelled.
The first respondent
submitted a detailed representation contending that his admission was valid.
The appellant did not agree and by letter dated 29.3.2005 directed the second
respondent college to cancel the admission of the first respondent.
aggrieved, the first respondent filed a writ petition before the High Court of
Punjab & Haryana, contending that he was eligible for admission as he
possessed a M.A. degree recognized as equivalent to M.A. degree of the
appellant-University and that his admission could not be cancelled. The High
Court accepted the contention of the first respondent and directed that his
admission to LL.B. course be 4 restored forthwith. The High Court rejected the
contention of the appellant that a bachelor's degree was a pre-condition for
admission to the LL.B course by holding that prescription of M.A. was an
alternative eligibility qualification for admission to the course. These
findings of the High Court are challenged before us.
academic qualification prescribed for admission to three years LL.B
professional course (vide Handbook of Information)is as follows:
have passed bachelor's Degree of Guru Nanak Dev University or any other
equivalent examination recognized as such by the University with not less than
45% marks; or Master's Degree of Guru Nanak Dev University or of any other
University recognized as equivalent thereto."
appellant-University submitted that a Bachelor's degree is a must for
admission, and the Master's degree of the appellant University (or the
equivalent) was considered as an eligible qualification for admission, only
where the candidate had not secured 45% marks in the Bachelor's degree course.
argument of the appellant-University is contested by the first respondent, who
appeared in person. According to him, the provision relating to eligibility
used the word "or" between the two qualifications prescribed; and
that indicated that they were alternatives and possessing either of them would
make a candidate eligible. He submitted that as he possessed M.A. (English)
degree from the Annamalai University, through Distance Education, under the
Open University System (OUS), he fulfilled the alternative requirement
prescribed, that is, a master's degree recognized as equivalent to the master's
degree of the appellant- University and, therefore, he is eligible to get
admission to three years LL.B professional course.
prescription of eligibility criteria is very clear. It requires a Bachelor's
degree with not less than 45 marks or a Master's degree. The university's
contention that the candidate must have a Bachelor's degree and only if his
marks 6 are less than 45% in the Bachelor's degree course, the Master's degree
was to be considered, would mean that the word `or' should be substituted by
the words `in the event of the candidate not having 45 marks in Bachelor's
Reading such words
into the provision is impermissible. The word `or' is disjunctive. No doubt, in
some exceptional circumstances, the word `or' has been read as conjunctive as
meaning `and', where the context warranted it. But the word `or' cannot
obviously be read as referring to a conditional alternative, when such
condition is not specified. In view of the provision relating to eligibility
being unambiguous and using the word `or', it is clear that a Master's degree
without a Bachelor's degree will satisfy the eligibility requirement.
next contention of the university is that a person without having a Bachelor's
degree cannot have Master's degree. They contend that even according to the
criteria prescribed by Annamalai University for admission to MA, only persons
who have BA or equivalent degree, are eligible for admission. They rely on the
following eligibility criterion 7 prescribed by Annamalai University for
admission to MA degree course:
have passed the B.A. or B.Sc. Or BOL or an examination of any other university,
accepted by the Syndicate as equivalent thereto, with English under Part
I/II/III, are eligible to join MA Degree course in English. Preference will be
given to those who have studied English under Part III."
Appellant University therefore contended that as the first respondent did not
possess a Bachelor's degree, the Master's degree secured by him is irregular.
On the other hand, first respondent pointed out that the above eligibility criteria
prescribed by Annamalai University was for admission to regular M.A. degree
course or M.A. Correspondence Course; and that the eligibility criteria for
admission to Master's degree programme under the Open University System
(`OUS'), in the Annamalai University - distance education, was as follows :
"Those who have
completed the age of 21 as on 1st July of the year of admission and have
subsequently passed the preparatory course examination are eligible for
is thus clear that under the OUS scheme, if a candidate had passed the
preparatory course examination for admission to MA (English) literature, he
need not have a basic Bachelor's degree. It is true that normally a student
cannot enroll for a Master's degree course unless he has a basic Bachelor's
degree in the chosen subject. But some universities may provide for enrolment
to a Master's degree course without a basic Bachelor's degree course, if
certain requirements are fulfilled. Annamalai University has in fact made such
a provision for enrolment to M.A. course by distance education (OUS).
last contention of the appellant university is that the MA (OUS) qualification
possessed by the first respondent is not recognized as equivalent to the
Master's degree of appellant university. The appellant university has issued an
equivalency book containing the list of examinations of other universities
recognized by the appellant university. Clause (5) of the said equivalency book
reads thus :
correspondence courses conducted by other Universities/Boards/Bodies be
recognized as equivalent to the corresponding (regular) examinations of this
University provided that regular examinations of those Universities/Boards/
Bodies already stand recognized as equivalent to the corresponding examinations
of this University (Academic Council, dated 16.1.1990)."
The said equivalency
book also shows that MA examination of Annamalai University is recognized as
equivalent to MA examination of appellant university. But that may not be
sufficient. The appellant university in its additional affidavit has clarified
that there are three types of courses, as under:
(i) Regular Courses;
Courses: (where the University directly sends the course material to the
There is therefore
direct contact of the university with the students).
Education Courses: (where the University concerned designates a franchisee/associate
institutions in the concerned local area and the course material is then given
by the said franchisee/associate centre. There is no direct contact between
students and the University).
appellant university has categorically stated that while regular courses and
correspondence courses in MA conducted by Annamalai university are recognized
as equivalent to the corresponding M.A. course of the appellant university,
M.A. (OUS) course through distance education conducted by Annamalai university
is not recognized by the appellant university as equivalent to its M.A. course.
The first respondent has passed his M.A. (OUS) from Annamalai University
through distance education. Equivalence is a technical academic matter. It
cannot be implied or assumed.
Any decision of the
academic body of the university relating to equivalence should be by a specific
order or resolution, duly published. The first respondent has not been able to
produce any document to show that appellant university has recognized the M.A.
English (OUS) of Annamalai University through distance education as equivalent
to M.A. of appellant university. Thus it has to be held that first respondent
does not fulfil the eligibility criterion of the appellant university for
admission to three year law course.
first respondent made a faint attempt to contend that the distance education
system includes `correspondence courses' and therefore recognition of M.A.
(correspondence course) as equivalent to M.A. course of appellant University,
would amount to recognition of M.A. - OUS (distance education) course, as an
equivalent. For this purpose, he relied upon the definition of "distance
education system" in section 2(e) of Indira Gandhi National Open
University Act, 1985. But there is nothing to show that Annamalai University
has treated correspondence course and OUS (distance education) course as the
same. What is more important is that the appellant university does not wish to
treat correspondence course and Distance Education Course as being the same.
That is a matter of
policy. Courts will not interfere with the said policy relating to an academic
the appeal of the University deserves to be allowed. Accordingly, the judgment
of the High Court holding that M.A. English degree (OUS) granted by Annamalai
12 University through distance education is equivalent to MA degree of
appellant university, is set aside.
on the peculiar facts of the case, the first respondent is entitled to relief.
The first respondent was admitted through a Common Entrance Test process during
2004-2005. He was permitted to take the first semester examinations by the
university. He is not guilty of any suppression or misrepresentation of facts.
Apparently, there was some confusion in the appellant university itself as to
whether the distance education course attended by the first respondent was the
same as correspondence course which was recognized. The first respondent was
informed that he was not eligible, only after he took the first semester
examination. He has however also been permitted to continue the course and has
completed the course in 2007. He has succeeded before the High Court. Now after
four years, if it is to be held that he is not entitled to admission, four
years of his career will be irretrievably lost. In the circumstances, it will
be unfair and unjust to deny the first respondent the 13 benefit of admission
which was initially accepted and recognized by the appellant university. This
Court in Shri Krishan vs. The Kurukshetra University, (AIR 1976 SC 376), has
observed that before issuing the admission card to a student to appear in
Part-I Law Examination, it was the duty of the university authorities to
scrutinize the papers; and equally it was the duty of the Head of the Department
of Law before submitting the form to the university to see that it complied
with all requirements; and if they did not take care to scrutinize the papers,
the candidature for the examinations cannot be cancelled subsequently on the
ground of non- fulfilment of requirements. In Sanatan Gauda vs. Berhampur
University (AIR 1990 SC 1075), this Court held where the candidate was admitted
to the Law course by Law College and University also permitted him to appear
for Pre- Law and Intermediate Law examinations, the college and the university
were estopped from withholding his result on the ground that he was ineligible
to take admission in Law course.
Having regard to the
above we are of the view that irrespective of the fact that M.A. English (OUS)
degree secured by first 14 respondent from Annamalai University through
distance education, may not be recognized as an equivalent to the Master's
degree of the appellant university, his admission to the law course should not
be cancelled. The appellant University is directed to treat the admission as
regular admission and permit the first respondent to appear for the law
examination and if he has already appeared for the examination, declare his
result. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
CJI (K G Balakrishnan)
(R V Raveendran)