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.
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