Pregnancy; Jasmine Vs. Kannur University [Kerala High Court, 24-05-2016]

Contents

B.Ed. course – failed to attend classes – due to pregnancy – Pregnancy was an optional choice and that cannot be a reason to permit a student to deviate from the requirements of a regular course of study, and the insistence to adhere to the course regulations cannot be termed to be, a negation of the preferential treatment to women enshrined under the Directive Principles or in derogation of the values of motherhood.

# Pregnancy

The petitioner has chosen to expand her family and can only be deemed to have taken a sabbatical from regular studies; which is definitely permissible and laudable too. But that cannot be turned to her advantage for wriggling out of the terms and conditions of a regular academic course. The award of a degree is not a private affair concerning the awardee alone; when it also brings with it the stump of approval of a reputed educational agency, on which the society acts. Personal preferences and individual predilection should bow down to the larger public interest and societal obligations. The petitioner definitely will be entitled to continue the second semester in the next year and appear for the examination after securing the requisite attendance.


IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

K. VINOD CHANDRAN, J.

W.P.(C) No. 17993 of 2016 (Y)

Dated this the 24th day of May, 2016

PETITIONER

JASMINE

BY ADV. SRI.E.C.BINEESH

RESPONDENTS

1. Kannur University, Represented By The Registrar, Kannur University, Thavakkara, Civil Station (P.O.), Kannur, Pin-670002.

2. The Vice Chancellor, Kannur University, Thavakkara, Civil Station (P.O.), Kannur, Pin-670002.

3. The Controller Of Examinations, Kannur University, Thavakkara, Civil Station (P.O.), Kannur, Pin-670002.

4. The Course Director, Department Of Teacher Education, Kannur University, Mananthavady Centre, Edavaka. (P.O.), Wayanad District, Pin-670645.

By Sri. Viju Thomas, Sc, Kannur University

J U D G M E N T

The petitioner is aggrieved with the fact that the petitioner is not permitted to appear for the second semester examination in the B.Ed. course, for reason of her having failed to attend certain classes, only due to her advanced stage of pregnancy. Admittedly, the petitioner had appeared only in 41 classes, out of the 93 in the second semester, i.e., less than 45%. The minimum required attendance for appearing in the semester examination is 75% of the total working days and the power to condone is limited to 6%, which power is conferred on the Vice Chancellor, on the recommendation of the Principal.

2. The petitioner admittedly is a B.Ed. student in the 4th respondent, affiliated to the 1st respondent University. The petitioner is undergoing the course spread over the academic years 2015-2017. The petitioner had absented herself due to her advanced stage of pregnancy and hence the petitioner was short of attendance.

3. The petitioner having absented herself from the classes cannot be said to be equipped for participating in the examinations, as per the regulations. The regulations of the University specifically stipulate a minimum attendance in the lecture classes for appearing in the semester examinations and also stipulate the limit to which attendance shortage is condonable. In such circumstance, this Court would not issue directions against the specific regulations of the University, unless there are compelling circumstances to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

4. The learned Counsel for the petitioner relies on a judgment of a learned Single Judge of the High Court of Delhi in W.P.(C) No.8302/2009 and connected cases dated 30.04.2010. This Court has perused the judgment minutely and finds that having referred to a catena of decisions of the Delhi High Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the learned Judge found that the Bar Council of India Regulations, which was the regulations relevant in the said case, provided for a minimum 66% of attendance in each subject and permitted condonation only in cases where a student has at least 66% of attendance in aggregate and in cases which can be considered as exceptional, with the further mandate of the Dean, who exercises such power, recording reasons, spelling out the exceptional circumstances, which reasons again have to be communicated to the Bar Council of India. Having noticed the Division Bench decisions of the Delhi High Court itself, in which it was held that the University of Delhi would be required to bring its rules in conformity with the rules of the Bar Council of India; it was held that no relaxation could be granted to the various petitioners therein who had approached the Court with various reasons, all medical, for absence.

5. The issue of absence, for reason of advanced stage of pregnancy, was raised in two writ petitions numbered as 8302/2009 and 8419/2009. Even considering the said cases, it was held that the petitioners would not, in accordance with the rules of the Bar Council of India and Ordinance of the University, be entitled to any relaxation in attendance. However, the learned Judge referred to the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Part IV of the Constitution of India, specifically Article 41 requiring the State to make effective provision for securing the right to work and education and also Article 42 requiring provision of just and humane conditions of work for women and for maternity relief, to grant relief to the two petitioners. Para 56 of the judgment is extracted here under:

“In the light of the above discussion, if any female candidate is deprived or detained in any of the semester just on the ground that she could not attend classes being in the advanced stage of pregnancy or due to the delivery of the child, then such an act on the part of any of the university or college would not only be completely in negation of the conscience of the Constitution of India but also of the women rights and gender equality this nation has long been striving for. It is a saying that “Motherhood is priced of God, at price no man may dare to lessen or misunderstand”. By not granting these students relaxation, we will be making motherhood a crime which no civilized democracy is the history of mankind has ever done or will ever do. We cannot make them pay the price for the glory that is motherhood.”

6. This Court, with due respect, is unable to accept the finding of the learned Single Judge that in providing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief and in making effective provisions for securing the right to work and to education, a female student could be given relaxation from attending the requisite classes as stipulated by the educational agency or the University for participating in the examination. The requirement, insofar as providing minimum attendance in lecture classes, is to equip the students to better perform in the profession they wish to pursue. Mere bookish knowledge is not the criteria of judging a professional, and pass in examination is not the only standard. The professional courses insist that the student carries it out in a competent educational agency under a curriculum, structured as semesters over a period of years. That involves attendance in lecture classes, participation in seminars, performance in practicals; herein giving lectures and so on and so forth, which; together with the pass in the final examinations, not only awards a degree but sends forth a well moulded professional into society. This ensures that the students, after the award of the degree, when send out to the professional world, is equipped to discharge the professional duties with high standards, commitment and orientation in the chosen vocation.

7. The petitioner herein is a student of B.Ed., a teacher training course, and is being trained to work as a teacher, whose role in nation building cannot, but be emphasised. It cannot be said that merely for the reason of her pregnancy a student could be allowed to sit for the examinations even without satisfying the requisite attendance, as prescribed by the educational agency. It cannot also be said that the case of the petitioner is an exceptional one, since, pregnancy cannot be considered to be a medical condition visited on the petitioner unexpectedly. This Court is of the firm view that the petitioner ought to have definitely adjusted her priorities when continuing a higher education, especially in a course which trains her to be a professional teacher. Pregnancy was an optional choice and that cannot be a reason to permit a student to deviate from the requirements of a regular course of study, and the insistence to adhere to the course regulations cannot be termed to be, a negation of the preferential treatment to women enshrined under the Directive Principles or in derogation of the values of motherhood. The petitioner has chosen to expand her family and can only be deemed to have taken a sabbatical from regular studies; which is definitely permissible and laudable too. But that cannot be turned to her advantage for wriggling out of the terms and conditions of a regular academic course. The award of a degree is not a private affair concerning the awardee alone; when it also brings with it the stump of approval of a reputed educational agency, on which the society acts. Personal preferences and individual predilection should bow down to the larger public interest and societal obligations. The petitioner definitely will be entitled to continue the second semester in the next year and appear for the examination after securing the requisite attendance.

The writ petition would stand dismissed. No Costs.

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