Mumbai: Rapping the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (HSC) Board for its actions which nearly jeopardized a 17-year-old’s entire educational career and future, the Bombay High Court has directed the state board to release the Class 12 marksheet and certificate of the student who had opted for Science stream from Class 11.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale, on June 7, while directing the HSC Board to release the marksheet and certificate, questioned whether it is “reasonable” for the Board to undertake any form of scrutiny after a student has completed two years of the Class 11 and 12, rather than as soon as practicable after admission to the Class 11.
“The choice of subjects at SSC and ICSE schools is not made in Class 10, but at least a year or two earlier, around Classes 8 or 9. It is surely unreasonable to expect that the decision of a 14-year-old will be determinative of his or her entire future,” the bench said.
The Wednesbury Principle
In a detailed order, the court said, “The actions of the Board have to be tested on the basis of the well settled principles of Wednesbury unreasonableness and the doctrine of proportionality.” (The Wednesbury Principle states that if a decision is so unreasonable that no sensible authority could ever take it, then such decisions are liable to be quashed through judicial review.)
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Krish Chordiya whose admission to Class 11 and 12 was cancelled. He urged the court that the HSC Board be directed to release his marksheet and certificate. According to the plea, Chordiya secured 92% in Class 10 from the ICSE Board in 2020-21. Because of the lockdown, he could not immediately take admission in any college and worked on developing a digital app relating to the Covid situation. Intrigued by it, he decided to pursue Science and Technology despite not opting for Science in Class 10.
He was granted admission by Gargi Junior College, Nashik. He topped Class 11 and even in JEE, he secured 97.346 percentile. For Class 12, he appeared for all internal examinations, viva and other tests and cleared them all. He even appeared for Class 12 exams conducted in February–March 2023.
Student caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of HSC Board
However, on March 27, he received a letter from the college forwarding an order passed by the HSC Board on March 23 cancelling his admission in Class 11 and 12. It reasoned that the student had not “opted for the Science subject” at his Class 10 ICSE examination. Despite an application by the student’s father, he was not given a copy of the order by the HSC Board bench observed that the student was caught between the Scylla of an utterly doctrinaire approach of the HSC Board and the Charybdis of an alleged lapse on the part of the Gargi Junior College, Nashik. “The result is that the young Petitioner’s entire educational carrier and future is in jeopardy,” the judges said.
The bench noted that as per the National Education Policy (NEP), the entire pattern is proposed to be changed. “The old trifecta of Science-Arts-Commerce is to be done away with and rightly so. The emphasis is now on identifying and nurturing potential and providing flexible learning options,” it added.
If this was the policy trend, then the court was unable to see how the inflexibility and tardiness of the Maharashtra State Board's approach fulfils any objective at all, it added.
The court questioned, “We are compelled to ask what the purpose of the 4th respondent (HSC Board) is: to assist students and provide and encourage education opportunities or to discover new ways to stymie them?”
The HC has kept the petition for hearing on July 11.