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Tale of an extraa “a”: Delhi High Court comes to the aid of MBA aspirant who mailed admission documents to incorrect email id

The Delhi High Court on Friday came to rescue of an MBA aspirant who had emailed documents for admission to Delhi University’s Delhi School of Economics, to a wrong email id (Adil Sajeer Ansari v. University of Delhi).

A single-judge Bench of Justice Prateek Jalan noted that it was a typographical error and was condonable by the University, particularly in view of the fact that the candidate had followed up the matter with due diligence and rectified the mistake before the University had commenced processing the admissions and before any third-party rights had intervened.

“The law does not, in my view, necessarily require the person in this situation to be burdened with such harsh consequences of his error, without regard to the particular facts and circumstances of the case. Some degree of administrative flexibility can be exercised to enable him to pursue an educational opportunity in a situation where neither the institution nor any other candidate would be prejudiced,” the Court said.

The petitioner, Adil Sajeer Ansari, a resident of Uttar Pradesh had applied for admission to the MBA (International Business/Human Resource Development) Programme (2020-21) in the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.

The petitioner appeared for the Common Admission Test (CAT), and was provisionally selected in the Other Backward Caste Category. The petitioner was required to mail documents following which payment link was to be sent to him.

The petitioner made a typographical error while submitting his documents and added an extra ‘a’ and sent the documents to [email protected], instead of the correct e-mail address, [email protected]

He had done this at a time Government of Uttar Pradesh had issued directives for a curfew in the State over the weekends. As no movement was permitted, he faced some difficulty in arranging all the necessary documents and scanning them. Nevertheless, he had managed to send the documents albeit to the wrong email address.

Later after he discovered that his email had not reached the University, he realised the error he had committed and therefore, wrote to the University explaining the predicament.

The University replied stating that the petitioner’s case could not be considered because of the deadline of submission of documents, but mentioned that the University will forward the case of the petitioner to a committee and will convey its decision to him at the earliest possible.

The petitioner again pleaded his case through various further representations and also informed the University that he had mailed the documents at an incorrect e-mail address, by an unintended error. However, on August 7, 2020, the University conveyed the decision of the committee to the petitioner, wherein the request of the petitioner was not acceded to.

The petitioner thereafter made various further representations to the Dean of the Department, the MBA Admissions Office and Dean of Students Welfare, which did not elicit a response.

This led to the present petition before the High Court.

The High Court noted that the petitioner’s conduct other than the typographical error was diligent and responsive.

Despite restrictions on movement due to COVID-19 in the State of Uttar Pradesh, where the petitioner was residing during the relevant period, and intervening festivals, he was able to access a cyber cafe and e-mailed the documents to the University well within the stipulated deadline, the Court stated.

“Unfortunately, he made an error in typing the e-mail address. He kept track of the status with other applicants and contacted the University immediately upon discovery that others had received the payment link but he had not. He rectified the defect immediately and represented repeatedly to the University to consider his case. He also requested that he be considered in the next list if necessary,” the order said.

The University, however, declined all these representations, the Court observed.

The approach of the University, the Court noted, was unduly harsh.

“The petitioner provided documents to support his contention that he had in fact sent the documents within time, albeit to the wrong e-mail address. He corrected his mistake as soon as the University informed him that his documents have not been received, and within a few hours of the deadline having passed,” it stated.

Law, the Court emphasised, does not “necessarily require the person in this situation to be burdened with such harsh consequences of his error, without regard to the particular facts and circumstances of the case.”

Some degree of administrative flexibility can be exercised to enable him to pursue an educational opportunity in a situation where neither the institution nor any other candidate would be prejudiced thereby,” ruled the court.

Regarding the admissions committee, the court noted that “the consideration of the petitioner’s case by the Committee was also perfunctory, at best,” and that the “minutes on record do not reveal any application of mind to particular circumstances, but a blanket decision to disallow all late submissions, and thus stick to the view taken by the admissions team.

The Court also noted how some degree of flexibility is permitted and distinction is made between essential eligibility conditions and ancillary or subsidiary condition even in cases of tenders floated by public authorities.

“If commercial organizations can be permitted such latitude, surely a young student at the cusp of life is entitled to the same benefit,” it ruled.

The Court, therefore, allowed the petition and directed Delhi University to grant admission to the student in the MBA course for 2021-22 session.

Advocate Sahil Bhaliak appeared for the petitioner student.

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