Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How a dyslexic student failed to get justice from Supreme Court

On March 19, Supreme Court refused to permit a dyslexic student use calculator in Class XII examination. The case is unusual for several reasons. The boy, Pranjay Jain, through his father, sought relief from the Supreme Court through SLP, after the Punjab and Haryana High Court pleaded helplessness, because of a stay order by the Supreme Court operating against the Bombay High Court order in a similar case in 2007. A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court had in another case in 2006, taken a similar decision.

The boy could not have sought vacation of stay, because he was not a party in the case before the Bombay High Court. Pranjay Jain sought interim relief from the Supreme Court in the form of permission to use calculator, pending the hearing of the SLP by the Court at the earliest. His Mathematics examination, conducted by the CBSE, was scheduled on March 22, and he wanted to use the calculator during that examination. The Supreme Court Bench which heard the matter need not have vacated the stay to give him relief. The Bench could have asked the CBSE to permit him to use calculator and to withhold his result, till the Bench decided the SLP against the Bombay High Court order. The Bench could have directed the CBSE to permit similar students who might apply for similar relief, and withhold their results as well, till it decided the matter at the earliest.

Instead of doing this which would have met the ends of justice, the Supreme Court Bench issued a peculiar order on March 19. It asked Pranjay Jain to withdraw his petition with liberty to approach the Division Bench of the High Court against the March 2 order of the Single Judge of the High Court (by Justice Permod Kohli). If a single Judge cannot provide interim relief because of the Supreme Court's stay in a connected matter, how could a Division Bench grant the same?

Pranjay Jain case is perhaps an instance of how the Supreme Court wrongly admitted the SLP and issued a stay at the first instance, even though the CBSE did not raise any Constitutional issue against the Bombay High Court's reasoned order in a similar case. This wrongful admission of SLP and issue of stay not only tied the hands of the High Court from providing interim relief to Pranjay Jain, but limited the Supreme Court's own options in providing appropriate and prompt relief to him. Perhaps, the Constitution Bench which is likely to lay down guidelines for admission of SLPs, must also consider when a stay order could be given, or vacated, or suitably moulded in order to ensure prompt and timely interim relief to litigants who are likely to suffer irretrievable loss of time and resources, in the event of refusal of relief.


uthamanarayanan said...

So....... it is a gross injustice to a dyslexic student has been done, even if damage may be filed what use it is to one who fought life despite all odds against him.As famous Jurist says ' Justice not only be done should appear to be done' If possible please get the esteemed opinion of Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer [Retd] on this issue, so that it would be more clear to a laity like me.

Alok said...

1. Admitting an SLP is within the (absolute, virtually unguided) discretion of the Supreme Court and is not restricted by subject matter of the case.

2. As an affected party, the boy could have sought impleadment since the order of the Supreme Court has adversely affected him. A recent instance of the same were the Deemed Universities who impleaded themselves in Viplav Sharma v Union of India after the report of the Committee was "accepted" by the Government.

3. Since I was not in Court, I cannot comment on who made the suggestion to approach the Delhi High Court but by and large counsels, when faced with an "unfavourable attitude" from the Court, seek to withdraw the petition to approach another Tribunal, which is mostly permitted. Again, this is a possibility and I cannot say for sure this might have also happened.

3. Sympathy for individual litigants cannot guide the laying down of the law for the whole country. The interim relief in this case would amount to final relief since there would be nothing left in the case if the Supreme Court directed CBSE to allow the petitioner to use the calculator during exams.

gousgame said...

While I think that students with any learning disabilities need to be given the requisite support for their examinations, I disagree with your analysis regarding the nature of the Supreme Court order.

You label the order peculiar because: "It asked Pranjay Jain to withdraw his petition with liberty to approach the Division Bench of the High Court against the March 2 order of the Single Judge of the High Court (by Justice Permod Kohli). If a single Judge cannot provide interim relief because of the Supreme Court's stay in a connected matter, how could a Division Bench grant the same?"

But perhaps the point in sending the matter to the Division Bench was to provide an opportunity for the Division Bench to correct an erroneous position which the Single Judge took i.e. that one High Court cannot grant relief in a case merely because the order of another High Court deciding a similar point (but with unconnected parties) has been stayed by the Supreme Court. If the Single Judge decision of the Bombay High Court is reversed on that point in Pranay's case, then the Division Bench can go ahead and consider the matter on merits.

So I think that you are incorrect when you question the entire point of asking the parties to approach the Division Bench. I however understand that given the constraints of time this might not really have been the most practicable.

Renu Gupta said...

The Bombay High Court order in the case of Sushil Kumar specifically mentioned that the "order is confined only to the petitioner".

I fail to understand how could an order, which the HC categorically meant that the decision is based on the facts of that particular case and should not be considered as law in general, could be made "law" in general.

How does the interim order of stay by the Supreme Court in Sushil's case, become a deterrent for the Punjab and Haryana High Court to give relief in Pranay's case?

Mahfuuz said...

Dear Venkatesan,

In 2006, one of my Clients was also in a similar situation and the matter ended on the same note. I had also written about it on my blog. Here is the link:

Tarunabh Khaitan said...

the judgment of the bombay high court in ranjit kumar rajak v state bank of india where the court held the duty to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled students as part of article 21 is also relevant in this regard.

Renu Gupta said...

Bombay High Court decision in Sushil Kumar case categorically states that the relief is limited to the petitioner. It has not been made the law.

Could someone elucidate how does the stay by Supreme Court, of the HC decision, acted as a deterrent for the Punjab and Haryana HC to grant relief to the Pranjay?

Does an interim order of the SC amount to law declared by the SC under Article 141 and therefore binding on all courts?