The Admissions Process: Issues of Legalities and Rights The Maharashtra Government, in February 2010, introduced a scheme of Best-5 for admission to Std. XI for students who had appeared for the Std. X (S.S.C.) exam of March 2010 onwards through M.S. Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, as per G.R. Dt. SSC-2010/(25/10) Umashi-2, School Education & Sports Department, Mantralaya, Mumbai-32, Dt. 25th Feb. 2010. The Class X exam under the State Board has six subjects; under the Best-5 rule, only the five best subject-wise scores would be totalled. However, this rule is not applicable to students of the I.C.S.E. Board. Thus, these students, who have seven subjects, find themselves at a disadvantage. The government’s explanation was that the I.C.S.E. and C.B.S.E. exams allow students to score higher, leaving the state boards at a disadvantage. Furthermore, the Government has also included the provision of an extra twenty-five marks under the sports criteria. Due to the Best-5 Policy in S.S.C. results the number of students scoring 90% and above has more than doubled this year, both in Mumbai and across Maharashtra. While 6,190 students scored above 90% in 2009, the figure rose to 13,546 this year and that too without consideration of the extra marks the board gave to sportspersons. This marks the third time that the Maharashtra Government has tinkered with the admission process for Std. XI. Last year, the State Government carved out a quota policy for S.S.C. students for Std XI, on the grounds that since I.C.S.E. and C.B.S.E. Board students scored more, S.S.C. students had to be protected. But the quota system was struck down by the Bombay High Court. In the year before that, the State had come up with a "percentile" formula, which gave additional marks to S.S.C. pass-outs on the same ground. But that too was held to be illegal by the High Court. The Bombay High Court had stayed the new admission process, which had started on June 25, saying the rule failed to offer a level-playing field for students from Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (I.C.S.E.) and Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E.) Boards when compared to those from the Secondary School Certificate (S.S.C.) syllabus. On 10th July 2010, the Supreme Court extended the Best-5 rule to ICSE students of Maharashtra and gave the green signal for the online admission process. Passing an interim order, a Bench of Justices V. S. Sirpurkar and Cyriac Joseph set aside the Bombay High Court order quashing the rule. Now, I.C.S.E. board students seeking admission to Class XI can either opt for the Best-5 rule or go for the traditional method of calculating the aggregate of all seven subjects. The court granted the students and parents eight weeks to file their response and posted the matter for further hearing to October 2010. The original petition filed in the Bombay High Court stated that the State Government's resolution was in violation of the fundamental rights of the I.C.S.E. students as laid out in Article 14 of the Indian Constitution Equality before law - The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. It is evident that the resolution passed by the State is in direct contravention of this article. They have drafted and incorporated this decree with only political motivations and electoral gain in mind. The State Government's stand that the structure of the I.C.S.E. and C.B.S.E. Std. X examination allows their students to score higher marks, is a valid argument. For years, S.S.C. students have suffered during admissions to Std. XI due to the fact that the proportion of students scoring above 90% is higher in the other boards as compared to the State Board. Thus, students from these other boards have easier access to highly competitive colleges and courses. As a result, a student scoring high in the S.S.C. examination will always be perceived as being second best compared to a student from another board irrespective of the actual reality on the ground. However, the manner in which the State Government has tried to level the playing field is adhoc and unconstitutional. Instead of focusing on the larger issues and remedying them, the State has decided to adopt a quick-fix, 'plug-the-hole' solution. The Maharashtra Government in its wisdom has chosen to ignore the larger issues such as educational vision, pedagogy, syllabus content and examination procedure. In effect, this resolution creates different rules for different sections of the student population. Thus, it directly contradicts Article 14 of the Indian Constitution by not treating students from different educational boards equal before the law. This resolution gives higher privileges to students of the S.S.C. Board while discriminating against the students of the I.C.S.E. Board. The State has contended that the proposal to introduce the amendments to the admission process of Std. XI was sent by the S.S.C. Board on February 2. The Government further stated that it had asked the Board to publicise the proposed amendment of introducing Best-5 rule. The Board in turn had issued advertisements in newspapers and time was given till February 22 to invite suggestions and objections. Accordingly, 250 views were received, of whom 189 were in favour of the proposal and 59 against it. Two others were neither in favour nor against. On February 25, the State sanctioned the proposed amendment and the GR was issued, the Government's affidavit contended. Though it is true that the I.C.S.E. and C.B.S.E. students did not object to this resolution when they were given the opportunity, it does not take away from the illegality of the resolution which is nothing more than a ploy by the State government to draw attention away from the core issue, which is the violation of fundamental citizenship rights. The fact that the Law Ministry of the State Government was not consulted before this resolution was passed indicates the poorly thought-out approach adopted by the Education Ministry. In conclusion, the resolution passed by the State Government to amend the admission procedure for Std. XI has been poorly conceptualized and executed. In its hurry to score some political brownie points the Government has let down its students by passing a resolution which does not solve their problems and which deprives them of their fundamental rights. It can only be hoped that when the hearing is resumed in October 2010 the Supreme Court will also agree.