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Girls cry foul

After 20 days of studying in Daulat Ram College, 16 girls who got admission under the sports quota have been asked to re-register, stating allegations of bribery by students and favouritism by the Sports Council

Nibedita* shifted to Delhi a month back to study in a Delhi University college. The 18-year-old from Jaipur was finding it difficult to adjust to a new city — a new environment comes with its own challenges. But she was ready to face the hardships for a better, brighter future. Little did she know that she had to face bigger challenges than this — she had to fight a legal battle to study in that college.

Cancellation of admission
After 20 days of being a part of Daulat Ram College, I suddenly got a notice, saying that my admission has been withdrawn and cancelled. I felt helpless,” says Nibedita, who is into athletics. She is one of the 16 girls whose admission was cancelled on August 2 by the principal of that college, long after they crossed all ‘hurdles’ of the admission procedure.

However, Principal Savita Roy, being the the chairperson of the Admissions Committee, unilaterally cancelled the admission granted under the sports quota to these 16 girls, many of who came from different parts of the country. Yet they were certified as being among the best sports players, identified through the sports trials conducted by the University Sports Council.

All the 16 girls appeared for the sports trials on June 22 – 29 this year and were successfully placed in the merit category. They also paid the fees for their respective courses and were attending classes since July 21. All certification and preliminary verification was conducted under the principal’s supervision and was authorised by her signature.

Shaky position
Nibedita further explains, “I think she got scared when we took the matter to the High Court, that is why she took out the list of 12 girls who need to re-register. We were against re-registering because it was not just open to us, but to all of those who did not apply in the first registration. Also, re-registering would mean we have withdrawn from our college and now we are applying as a new student. Girls who scored 65% or so, were scared that another student with a better score might come and apply for the same seat now.”

The principal, on the other hand, claims, “Re-registering means re-registering their choice of subject, it does not mean their admission is cancelled. Because earlier they were given the subjects without their preferences.” She has blamed the Sports Council for conducting a flawed admission process and favouritism.

“The sports quota admissions are handled by the Sports Council. The way they conducted the admissions was not correct. The first list was a blunder, full of errors. Many worthy and good students could not get a seat. They started complaining at various places. So, I immediately looked into it and tried to rectify it by releasing a revised list to give a chance to such students,” says Principal Savita Roy. “Also, if I do not touch the first cut-off list, then I need to get more seats from the university. But no extra seats were given. So, I tried to adjust the aggrieved students by putting up the correct list,” she adds.

“I cannot comment on who they favoured as I don’t know. But I think favouritism is behind this as the admissions were not correct. I also asked them to re-register. It is a matter that should be looked into. But I have taken my own action now. I have removed the teacher-in-charge of the sports department and despite pressure, I have not re-instated her,” says Roy.

Karishma,* a Delhiite who is a kho kho player, is among the four who were allegedly involved in bribing and were not even given the chance to re-register. “, We are all from middle class families. How can we bribe to get into a college? Also, the new list has students with marks lower than us. I don’t know on what basis the principal made the list,” she says.

Legal battle
Meanwhile, the operation of the impugned order dated August 2 is stayed. The court made it clear that the petitioners shall be permitted to participate in all the activities, including attending classes, held by the college till the next date of hearing, which is October 11.

The parents of these students came to their rescue. “My parents came all the way from Jammu after this incident. Many came from other states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They had to go through a lot of trouble,” says Keya,* who is from Jammu and is a table tennis palyer.

“My parents showed immense support and wanted us to fight against this injustice because we were not at fault in this,” says Mitali. “She (the principal) accepted that the mistake was in the process of admission, conducted by their own Sports Committee, but she wanted us to re-register for that. Why should we suffer for their fault? My father is in the BSF at the Indo-Pak border. How can he come here now?” says Nandini*, who belongs to UP.

“My dad is in the army, so he could not take a leave and come here at such a short notice. I have a younger brother who is in the fourth standard, so mother could not come leave him and come. So, I had to go through the process alone – I also went to the High Court on my own. My parents could only support me over the phone. They are still wondering how anyone can do this to students, says Nibedita.

Rights at stake
On August 9, the University of Delhi rejected the RTI application filed under Section 7(1) of RTI Act, 2005 ‘Life and Liberty’, stating that the request for information did not come within the ambit of imminent danger to life and liberty.

Due to the non-responsive nature of the Public Information Officer of Daulat Ram College, a complaint was preferred/filed with the Central Information Commission, requesting the imposition of penalty on Daulat Ram College and to appoint an official, other than the principal as the First Appellate Authority to decide the first appeal under RTI Act, 2005. But due to the change in rules by the commission, the complaint petition was returned with the advice to wait for the decision of the principal.

“Had the court not supported the students, these young minds would have believed that the principal is next to god. What is shocking is that the university, not the college, has mentioned in the RTI reply that this issue does not constitute life and liberty, and has refrained from revealing information. This denial of our right to academic learning, poses new challenges before us. Also, grievance redressal in academic institutions need a fresh and independent character,” says Mohit Kumar Gupta, an advocate and IIAM (Indian Institute of Arbitration and Mediation) mediator who is representing the students in the case.
Gupta further noted that it is a quest for information. “The university stated that admission is a regular process and there’s nothing possessing imminent danger. But if their admission is cancelled then their entire one year will be wasted. This is against the principal of natural justice,” he says.

Justice Siddharth Mridul came down heavily on the college and said that women in our country are achieving more and more in the field of sports today — both nationally and internationally. He questioned how a college can debar students from attending classes after admission. He also said that there appears to be no difference between the lawlessness these days on roads and the manner in which these institutions are working.

(*These names have been changed)