The Supreme Court on Friday asked Delhi University to respond to a plea a law student has filed challenging the varsity’s decision to detain her in the third year for inadequate attendance.
Ankita Meena said the decision of the authorities amounted to a violation of her fundamental right to reproduce children as she had mostly been absent on maternity grounds.
Ankita, who gave birth to a boy in February this year, doesn’t have the required 70 per cent attendance the Bar Council of India — the regulatory body for advocates and legal education in the country — has fixed as the minimum a student must have to be able to sit for exams.
A bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and A.M. Khanwilkar allowed the third-year student to attend classes, subject to the final outcome of the case.
“Issue notice, the petitioner is permitted to attend classes at her own risk, on completion of the required formalities,” the bench said while seeking the university’s response.
Ankita, a final-year student, had cleared 15 of the 20 papers a law student must pass in the first two years to be eligible for promotion to the third year.
But she needs to clear the backlog of five papers — through her fourth semester exam — before she clears all the papers in her final year and graduate.
The student has moved the top court because the university authorities are not allowing her to sit for the fourth semester exam because of lack of required attendance.
Ankita says the denial amounts to a violation of her fundamental rights. “(The) denial of the maternity benefit to the petitioner would be in grave violation of the fundamental rights of the petitioner under Article 14 (equality) and Article 21 (life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India in as much as the petitioner has a right to reproduce and would be at a detriment only on account of her gender,” she said in her petition filed through advocate Himanshu Dhuper.
A Delhi High Court division bench had last month endorsed a single-judge bench’s May 15 order that upheld the varsity’s decision to detain several students, including Ankita, for lack of minimum attendance.
On May 23 this year, Ankita had challenged the varsity’s decision but the apex court had then refused to pass any interim order in her favour.
The court had then observed that “academic discipline” could not be breached and also the time was too short to pass any order, as the exam was scheduled for the same day.
Ankita has claimed that apart from her pregnancy, she also missed classes because of a teachers’ strike.