NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has struck down a university rule that required students aspiring to get admission under the sports quota to secure a minimum of 75% marks.
“The objective of introducing sports quota is not to accommodate academic merit, but something altogether different – promotion of sports in the institution, the university, and ultimately, in the country,” a bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar said in its verdict on Wednesday, holding the rule notified by Punjab Engineering College, a deemed to be university, as unconstitutional.
The bench said universities were the “nurseries or catchment for sportspersons” who can represent the country in state, national and international as well as Olympic sports. “The imposition of the minimum 75% eligibility condition, therefore, does not subserve the object of introducing the sports quota, but is, rather destructive of it.”
The top court held this criterion to be violative of the right to equality protected under Article 14 of the Constitution and said such a condition “would tend to exclude meritorious sportspersons and place the less (academically) meritorious sportspersons at a disadvantageous position.”
The court reasoned that the rule would exclude sportspersons who may have won an Olympic medal if another sportsperson who has never reached even the national level, secures 80% marks in the qualifying examination.
“It is exactly this consequence which this court had warned would be the “unequal application” of a uniform criterion, a wooden equality without regard to the inherent differences, which Article 14 frowns upon, and forbids,” the bench said.
The order came on a petition filed by one Dev Gupta who did not secure 75% marks in the Class 12 examination and failed to get through the 2% sports quota in the engineering course offered by PEC University of Technology at Chandigarh.
The university had received 34 applications for the 17 sports quota seats. Of the 34, 28 fulfilled the 75% cutoff yardstick and admissions against 16 seats were finalised. The court on Tuesday directed the university not to fill the last vacant seat pending the final order.
Without disturbing the admissions already made, the top court allowed the petitioner and five others who failed to qualify to be considered against the lone unfilled seat and directed the university to complete the admission within two weeks.
Senior advocate PS Patwalia who appeared for the petitioner student told the court that in the previous years, the same university admitted students under sports quota on the requirement that the candidate must be a “10+2 pass”.
This was also in line with the 2023 sports policy introduced by Chandigarh administration to pass the qualifying examination or to have studied in Chandigarh for the preceding two years.
The court wondered that if students applying under the reserved category seats could get a 10% exemption of qualifying with 65% cutoff, what prevented the state from lowering the criteria for sports quota as well. “The dissimilarity in treatment is therefore, egregious…It is held that exclusion of the petitioner and other like candidates on the ground of their securing less than 75% in the qualifying examination, was unwarranted and discriminatory. The reference to, and incorporation of clauses giving effect to such criterion is held unenforceable and void.”