(1.) THESE three writ petitions relate to the selection procedure adopted by the Association of Private Dental and Medical Colleges, Madhya Pradesh for selection of candidates for admissions in Private Medical and Dental Colleges in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
(2.) THE petitioner in W. P. No. 3630 of 2007 is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and claims to be working for advancement of justice to students and has filed this writ petition as a Public interest Litigation. The petitioner has stated in the writ petition that after the common Entrance Test conducted by the respondent Association of Private dental and Medical Colleges, Madhya Pradesh (for short 'the Association') for admissions to Private Medical and Dental Colleges in the State of M. P. for the academic Session 2006-2007, known as D- MAT 2006, the Association followed a procedure of counselling by individual colleges for the seats remaining vacant and there were a number of complaints filed by different candidates before the committee for Monitoring Admission Procedure (for short 'the Committee')under the Chairmanship of Shri Justice Chandresh Bhushan (Retired) alleging that they had not been given admissions to seats according to their merit position in the merit list prepared on the basis of results of D- MAT 2006 and the committee in its meeting held on 13-2-2007 founds substance in some of the complaints and directed the Private Medical and Dental Colleges to give admission to six students during the Academic Session 2007-2008 in different private Medical and Dental Colleges in the State of M. P. Because of such experience of the D- MAT 2006 and the counselling procedure followed by the association after D- MAT 2006 for granting admissions to different students in private Medical and Dental Colleges in the State of M. P. , the petitioner has prayed that the advertisement issued by the Association for holding the common Entrance Test for the Academic Session 2007-2008, known as d- MAT 2007, be quashed and instead the State of Madhya Pradesh be directed to conduct the Common Entrance Test.
(3.) THE petitioner in W. P. No. 6811 of 2007 is a student who has appeared in D- MAT2007 examination and has secured 1955th rank in the merit list. He has stated in the writ petition that the Association in its prospectus of d- MAT 2007 has instructed under Point No. 7 that the candidates should fill up the preferences of courses and colleges in the OMR application forms. He has further stated the selection procedure details in the prospectus stipulates that first computerised allotment to MBBS and BDS courses in the Colleges will be done on the basis of course and college preference given by the candidates in the omr application forms on merit- cum- preference basis. The petitioner's case is that such computerised allotment evolved by the Association is against the principles of transparency and fairness and is absolutely illegal and improper inasmuch as no preference could be obtained at the time of submitting application forms and such preferences can only be obtained when the results are declared and marks are known to the students. The petitioner has therefore prayed that a direction be issued to the Association not to allot seats on the basis of preference and instead allot seats pursuance to centralised counselling.
(4.) THE petitioner in W. P. No. 7583 of 2007 has also appeared in d- MAT 2007 and has secured 341st position in the merit list. He has also stated in the writ petition that the computerised allotment of seats evolved by the association is against the principles of transparency and fairness and is absolutely illegal and improper. The petitioner has prayed that the Association be directed not to admit students on the basis of computerised allotment and instead the seats should be filled up on the basis of centralised counselling and if any admissions have already been made, the same should be cancelled.
(5.) A reply has been filed by the Association in W. P. No. 3630 of 2007 stating inter alia that D- MAT 2006 was cancelled by the Committee but the association and some candidates filed writ petitions (W. P. No. 12361 of 2006 and other petitions) and by order dated 15-9-2006, this Court upheld the examination conducted by the Association and quashed the order passed by the committee cancelling the examination. The Association has further stated in J the reply that the order dated 15-9-2006 of this Court was also affirmed by the j supreme Court. In Paragraph 17 of the reply, the Association has stated that it j is the choice of the candidates to apply for the college of his choice and in J d- MAT 2007, the procedure has been modified and it has been provided that' those seats which remains vacant would be filled up by centralised counselling at; bhopal. A copy of the prospectus of D- MAT 2007 has been annexed to the reply i as Annexure R-4/2. In the reply, the Association has also stated that the committee has gone into each and every aspect of the D- MAT 2007 examination and has issued a letter dated 9-5-2007, annexed with the reply as r-4/3, in which it is clearly mentioned that candidates in order of merit may be allotted concerned colleges as per their choice and as per decision, the information to candidates should also be made available on the web-site. The association has stated in the reply that the writ petition does not have any merit and the same deserves to be dismissed.
(6.) A reply has also been filed by the Association in W. P. No. 6811 of 2007 in which it is inter alia stated D- MAT 2007 was conducted on 20-5-2007 which was supervised, monitored and regulated by the Committee and no complaint whatsoever has been received in respect of the examination. In the reply, it is also stated that results of D- MAT 2007 have been declared on 29-5-2007 and allotment of ranks and colleges have been done on 5-6-2007 strictly on the basis of merit- cum- preference and allotment letters have been issued to all candidates who have secured position in the merit list and most of the candidates have taken admission. In particular, it is stated that D- MAT 2007 examination was conducted for filling up 894 seats of three Medical and 8 Dental colleges and accordingly the merit list of the candidates has been prepared and candidates have been allotted courses and colleges keeping in view the preference given by them and their merit position. In the reply, it is also stated that the petitioner in W. P. No. 6811 of 2007 has secured 1955th rank which was far below the last student who was allotted the seat and therefore, nothing survives in the petition so far as challenge in the petition as regards allotment of seat is concerned. The Association has also stated in the reply that computerised allotment has resulted in fair and transparent selection and there is no room for any manipulation in such computerised allotment.
(7.) AT the hearing, Shri Kale, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner in W. P. No. 7583 of2007 and Shri Kaurav, learned Counsel appearing for the petitioners in W. P. No. 3630 of 2007 and W. P. No. 6811 of 2007 submitted that in PA. Inamdar and others Vs. State of Maharashtra and others, (2005) 6 SCC 537, the Supreme Court has held in Paragraphs 136 and 138 at page 604 and 605 as reported in the SCC that Common Entrance Test should be followed by centralised counselling so that merit is promoted and malpractice is curbed. They submitted that in view of the aforesaid judgment of the Supreme court in the case of PA. Inamdar (supra), it was not open for the Association to have replaced centralised counselling by computerised allotment on the basis on preference by candidates given in the application forms. Shri Kale, in particular, submitted that it is difficult to know the game plan of the Association and to ensure transparency and fairness, centralised counselling should be followed as held by the Supreme Court in the case of PA. Inamdar (supra).
(8.) SHRI Tankha appearing for the Association in all the three writ petitions, on the other hand, submitted that so far as D- MAT 2007 is concerned, the same is already over and there have been no complaints whatsoever and hence the Court should not interfere with the D- MAT 2007 examination. In reply to the contention of learned Counsel for the petitioners that centralised counselling should have been followed, he submitted that in the case of PA. Inamdar (supra), in Paragraph 136 of the judgment at Page 604 as reported in the SCC, the Supreme Court has held that out of the common merit list, the successful candidates will be identified and chosen for admissions to different institutions depending on the courses of study offered, the number of seats, the kind of minority to which the institution belongs and other relevant factors. He submitted that the judgment of the Supreme Court thus permits the Association to adopt a procedure of allotment of seats to candidate on the basis of their merit, preferences and other relevant factors. He submitted that the Association has, therefore, adopted computerised allotment on the basis of preferences given by the candidates in their application forms and their merit at the first instance and for the seats which remain vacant after admissions are over at the first instance, the Association is following the procedure of centralised counselling as would be evident from the prospectus of D- MAT 2007 issued by the Association. He further submitted that in accordance with such procedure, allotment of seats has already been made to different candidates after the rank of 951 in the merit list and there are no complaints whatsoever against such allotment made by the Association filed before the Committee or the High court. He further submitted that the Committee has considered this aspect of the matter and also approved the procedure for computerised allotment of seats at the first instance followed by centralised counselling for the seats which remain vacant, as would be evident from the communication dated 7-2-2007 of the Committee. He submitted that since no student including the two petitioners before the Court has been affected by the computerised allotment, this Court should not interfere keeping in view the fact that a large number of candidates have taken admission.
(9.) WE have considered the submissions made by learned Counsel for the petitioners and the Association and we find that in Paragraphs 136 and 138 of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of PA. Inamdar (supra), the supreme Court has dealt with the centralised counselling which is to follow the common entrance test. Paragraphs 136 and 138 of the judgment in the case of pa. Inamdar (supra), are quoted herein below:-"136. Whether minority or non-minority institutions, there may be more than one similarly situated institutions imparting education in any one discipline, in any State. The same aspirant seeking admission to take education in any one discipline of education shall have to purchase admission forms from several institutions and appear at several admission tests conducted at different places on the same or different dates and there may be a clash of dates. If the same candidate is required to appear in several tests, he would be subjected to unnecessary and avoidable expenditure and inconvenience. There is nothing wrong in an entrance test being held for one group of institutions imparting same or similar education. Such institutions situated in one State or in more than one State may join together and hold a common entrance test or the State may itself or through an agency arrange for holding of such test. Out of such common merit list the successful candidates can be identified and chosen for being allotted to different institutions depending on the courses of study offered, the number of seats, the kind of minority to which the institution belongs and other relevant factors. Such an agency conducting the common entrance test ("cet" for short) must be one enjoying utmost credibility and expertise in the matter. This would better ensure the fulfilment of twin objects of transparency and merit. CET is necessary in the interest of achieving the said objectives and also for saving the student community from harassment and exploitation. Holding of such common entrance test followed by centralised counselling or, in other words, single-window system regulating admissions does not cause any dent in the right of minority unaided educational institutions to admit students of their choice. Such choice can be exercised from out of the list of successful candidates prepared at CET without altering the order of merit inter se of the students so chosen. " "138. It needs to be specifically stated that having regard to the larger interest and welfare of the student community to promote merit, achieve excellence and curb malpractices, it would be permissible to regulate admissions by providing a centralised and single-window procedure. Such a procedure, to a large extent, can secure grant of merit-based admissions on a transparent basis. Till regulations are framed, the Admission Committees can oversee admissions so as to ensure that merit is not the casualty. "
(10.) IT will be clear from a reading of Para 136 of the judgment in the case of PA. Inamdar, quoted above, that the Supreme Court has taken a view that the common entrance test must be one enjoying 'utmost credibility' and must fulfil the twin objects of 'transparency and merit' and must save the student community from 'harassment and exploitation'. The Supreme Court has further taken a view that 'holding of such common entrance test followed by centralised counselling, or, in other words, single-window system regulating admissions does not cause any dent in the right of minority unaided educational institutions to admit students of their choice'. In Paragraph 138 of the judgment in the case of PA. Inamdar (supra), quoted above, the Supreme Court has further observed that 'having regard to the larger interest and welfare of the student community to promote merit, achieve excellence and curb malpractices, it would be permissible to regulate admissions by providing a centralised and single-window procedure'. The Supreme Court has held that 'such a procedure, to a large extent, can secure grant of merit-based admissions on a transparent basis'. The supreme Court has further directed that 'till regulations are framed, the admission Committees can oversee admissions so as to ensure that merit is not the casualty'.
(11.) THUS, centralised counselling was to be adopted after the common entrance test for not only ensuring that admission to different colleges and courses are done strictly on the basis of merit but also ensuring that the procedure for admissions was credible, transparent and fair and the student community was not subjected to any harassment and exploitation. The computerised allotment of seats to candidates on the basis of their preferences given in the application forms in different courses and colleges may be done by the Association on the basis of merit. But if such allotment of seats to candidates in different colleges and courses is not done by the Association as per the merit of the students, there will be no way for the students to know whether there has been any departure from the merit. In a centralised counselling, on the other hand, the entire procedure followed for allotment of seats to the candidates in different colleges and courses would be an open procedure and in such an open procedure, any departure from the merit in the matter of allotment of seats is likely to be detected by the candidates. The centralised counselling certainly is more transparent than the computerised allotment on the basis of preference given by the candidates in their application forms.
11. As a matter of fact, the experience of admissions pursuant to d- MAT 2006 in the State of Madhya Pradesh bears testimony to the fact that admissions when done otherwise than by centralised counselling give scope for manipulations and complaints by the candidates. After D- MAT 2006, several candidates filed complaints before the Committee that their merit position in the merit list was by-passed and candidates below them in the merit list were given admissions in different Private Medical and Dental Colleges in the State of Madhya Pradesh. The Committee went through the complaints and in a decision recorded in the minutes dated 13-2-2007 annexed to the Writ Petition no. 3630 of 2007, found substance in the complaints of six such candidates. In case of other candidates, the Committee appears to have rejected the complaints because the candidates were unable to adduce sufficient materials in support of their complaints. This being the experience of irregular admissions pursuant to the D- MAT 2006 by some of the Private Medical and Dental colleges in the State of M. P. , t
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he Committee should not have allowed the association to allot candidates to different colleges as per their choice and their merit position through the computer and the Committee should have directed the Association to conduct centralised counselling for all the seats and not just for the remaining seats in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of P. A. Inamdar (supra). (12.) FOR the aforesaid reasons, we are not inclined to quash advertisement dated 21-2-2007 Annexure P-2 issued by the Association for conducting D- MAT 2007 examinations but we hold that the decision of the committee to permit computerised allotment of seats to candidates on the basis of preferences given by candidates in the application forms and then merit is illegal and direct the respondent Association to hold centralised counselling at bhopal for allotment of seats to the successful candidates on the basis of their position in the merit list. The admissions of candidates who have already been given admissions in different Private Medical and Dental Colleges in the State of Madhya Pradesh, will not be cancelled if they were entitled to admission to the courses and colleges they have been admitted as per the merit position in such centralised counselling, but in case such candidates who have been admitted were not entitled to admission to the Colleges and courses on the basis of their merit position in such centralised counselling, their admissions will be cancelled and they will be adjusted in appropriate colleges and courses on the basis of such centralised counselling. The centralised counselling will be done the admissions will be completed before the time limit fixed by the Supreme Court in Mridul Dharand another Vs. Union of India and others, (2005) 2 SCC 65. The three writ petitions are partly allowed. There shall be no order as to costs. Writ Petition partly allowed.