No special exemption against course regulations to pregnant student, in order to appear for an examination

Kerala High Court: With reference to a pregnant student seeking exemption from the rule of requisite attendance in order to appear for the second semester examination in B.Ed course, the Court categorically held that “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 was not permitted to appear for the examination being short of the minimum required attendance of 75% to which she contended that she had failed to attend the classes due to her advanced stages of pregancy and sought an exemption for the same.

The petitioner relied on a judgment of a Single Judge of the Delhi High Court in Vandana Kandari v.  University of Delhi, 2010 SCC Online Del 2341,  where in similar circumstances, it was held that no relaxation in attendance could be made, in accordance with the rules of Bar Council of India and Ordinance of the university. Referring to the Directive Principles, the Judge however observed that by depriving/detaining  a student on the ground of pregnancy  would not only be completely in negation of the conscience of the Constitution but also of the women rights and gender equality, akin to making motherhood a crime.

Dissenting from the abovesaid judgment, the Court held that the petitioner cannot be accorded any exemption from the minimum attendance requirement in order to appear for the examination, only on account of her pregancy. The Court emphasised upon the role of a teacher in nation building and that the requirement to attend minimum number of classes is to equip the students to discharge the professional duties with high standards, commitment and orientation in the chosen vocation, by way of lectures, seminars, practicals, as mere bookish knowledge is not the criteria of judging a professional.

Dismissing the petition, the Single Bench of Vinod Chandran, J, firmly held 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.

Further, insistence to adhere to the course regulations cannot be termed as a negation of the preferential treatment to women enshrined under the Directive Principles or in derogation of the values of motherhood. Having chosen to expand her family she can be deemed to be on a sabbatical from regular studies, which cannot be turned to her advantage for wriggling out of the terms and conditions of a regular academic course. The Court observed that personal preferences and individual predilection should bow down to the larger public interest and societal obligations. [Jasmine V.G. v. Kannur University, 2016 SCC OnLine Ker 3221, decided on May 24, 2016]

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