TSt. Stephen’s College v. University of Delhi, (1992) 1 SCC 558: AIR 1992 SC 1630:
1991 Supp (3) SCR 121
In this case the validity of admission programme and the preference given to Christian students (10% reservation for them) by the college was challenged as violative of Delhi University circular for admission of B.A. and B.Com. courses. St. Stephen’s College is affiliated to Delhi University for the academic year 1980-81. The college published admission prospectus which inter alia provided that there would be interview prior to final selection for admission to college. On June 5, 1980 the University issued circular to all affiliated colleges providing programme of admission. On June 9, 1980 the University issued another circular to all colleges stating that admission to B.A. courses be based on the merit of percentage of marks secured by students in the qualifying examination. The college filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court challenging the validity of University circular on ground that they were violative of their right to manage their college under Article 30 of the Constitution.
(1) Whether St. Stephen’s College is a minority-run institution?
(2) Whether St. Stephen’s College as minority institution was bound by the University circulars?
(3) Whether St. Stephen’s College is entitled to accord preference to or reserve seats for students of Christian community and whether such preference would be invalid under Article 29(2)?
The minority institutions have a distinct identity and the right to administer with continuance of such identity cannot be denied by coercive action of affiliation. The candidates have to apply to the college and not to the University and it is for the Principal of college to take decision and make final admission. The college has been constituted as a self contained and autonomous institution. St. Stephen’s College was established and administered by a minority community viz., the Christian community. The college was not bound to follow the University circulars as it would deprive the college of its minority character. The administration of educational institutions of their choice under Article 30(1) means management of the affairs of the institution. The right to select students for admission is an important facet of administration. This power also could be regulated but regulations must be reasonable and conducive to the minority institution. The University circular to select students on the uniform basis of marks secured in the qualifying examination would deny the right to the college to admit Christian students as they generally lack merit when compared with other applicants. Unless some concession is provided to Christian students they will have no chance of getting admission to the college. The oral interview is a supplementary test and not an exclusive test for assessing the suitability of candidates for college admission and there is no arbitrariness or vice or lack of scientific basis in the selection or interview. The interview confers no wide discretion to selection committee to choose candidates of their choice, as discretion is limited to select one out of every 4 or 5. The fact that Article 29(2) applies to minorities as well as non-minorities doesn’t mean that it was intended to nullify the special right guaranteed to minorities under Article 30(1). The institutions are established for the benefit of their community and if they are prevented from admitting their community candidates, the purpose of establishing the institution would be defeated. So, any preference given to the religious minority candidates in their own institution cannot be a discrimination falling under Article 29(2). In view of the importance which the Constitution attaches to protective measures to minorities under Article 30(1), the minority aided educational institutions are entitled to prefer their community candidates to maintain the minority character of the institution subject of course in conformity with the University standard. The State may regulate the intake in this category with due regard to the need of the community in the area which the institution is intended to serve. But in no case such intake shall exceed 50% of the annual admission to members of communities other than the minority community. The admission of other community candidates shall be done purely on the basis of merit.
St. Stephen’s College is a minority-run institution and is not bound to follow the University circulars as it would deprive the college of its minority character.
The minority educational institutions are entitled to prefer their community candidates to maintain the minority character of the institution subject to the University standard but in no case such intake shall exceed 50% of the annual admission to members of communities other than the minority community.