The Delhi High Court has wondered how a university will deal with a situation where a student suffering from serious infections like HIV insisted on attending classes owing to a prevailing regulatory regime which mandates attendance of 75 per cent for appearing in the examination.
The court’s query came while dealing with a situation where a law student, afflicted with an infectious disease, was seeking a one-time waiver of shortage of attendance and permission to appear in exam but the Delhi University was not granting him the relief in view of existing rules.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher said while he commiserates with the affected student, the court was unable to grant him any relief as it was bound by a division bench judgement which rules that in professional cases, the requirement of attaining minimum attendance is “non-negotiable”.
The court said it is important for the university and the Bar Council of India (BCI) to re-visit the attendance and promotion rules and make a provision and clarify that in genuine cases where students who are otherwise punctual and have a good track record would not be detained only for the reason that in a particular period they were not able to attend classes in circumstances such as this one.
“The insistence on attaining minimum attendance as prescribed in regulation… seems, at least to my mind, out of place in situations such as this,” the judge said.
“There could be a circumstance where a student could be carrying a serious infection such as Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and he insists that he would attend the classes, given the regulatory regime put in place, I wonder what would be the answer of the university in such situation.
“Swine flu, which has reached, at times, endemic proportions in Delhi is another example where confinement is routinely advised. I could give several other examples, however, to my mind, for the moment, these examples should suffice,” the judge said.
The court highlighted that in today’s world where technology rules the roost, the short attendance issue can be dealt with by having students connected to classrooms via video-conferencing mode or having the lectures uploaded on YouTube.
It said the requirement of physical presence in classrooms can be overcome during periods of confinement by taking recourse to technology and the policymakers need to separate the wheat from the chaff.
“Students who are indolent as against those who are temporarily disabled and/or distracted, and therefore fail to attain, in a given period, prescribed minimum attendance, need to be treated differently. One size fits all cannot be the approach of the educators. Engagement with students involves keeping track of several indices. Amongst them, their educational record is one of them. Bereft of necessary leeway, and, in a manner of speech, play-in-the joints lends to the decisions rendered by the college administrators a robotic hue,” it said.
The court said harsh and disproportionate punishment can imbue frustration in a diligent student and while high standards should be maintained in the field of education for which attendance is important, “it has to be borne in mind that even good and brilliant students face difficult circumstances which need to be understood and negotiated with care and compassion.”
The student, a student of three-year LLB programme, had sought waiver of shortage of attendance to enable him to sit in the first semester end-term examination for academic session 2019-20.
After perusing the medical reports, the court noted while he was suspected to be suffering from typhoid, the fact that the Mantoux test was positive suggested that he may be suffering from tuberculosis.
The court said the irony was that the regulation of the university ordinance which deals with both attendance and promotion, does not consider the circumstances such as the one arisen in this case.
The court noted that if a student is afflicted with an infectious disease or a serious injury which degrades his ability to attend classes, there is no leeway available to the administration to allow him to continue with studies.
However, a student who may have superficially/ostensibly marked his/her attendance but failed to pass even one paper or even failed to appear in any of the papers in the 1st, 3rd and 5th term would be eligible for promotion to the 2nd, 4th and 6th term.