Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The Orissa High Court has ordered Sambalpur University to pay Rs 5 lakh as compensation to a student who was erroneously declared as ‘fail’ in his +3 examinations held in 1999. The victim has been identified as Bibhuti Bhusan Barik.

While highlighting the delicate role played by the universities in deciding the future of students, the single judge bench of Dr. Justice Sanjeeb Kumar Panigrahi observed– “Universities have a great responsibility to their students, especially when it comes to administering exams efficiently and publishing results in a timely manner. These processes are fundamental to students’ academic journeys and any failure to do so can have serious consequences for their academic progress, career prospects and overall well-being.”

As per reports in LiveLaw, the petitioner- Bibhuti Bhusan Barik appeared for the +3 Commerce examination conducted by Sambalpur University in 1999. He was declared ‘failed’ in English, scoring only 25 out of 100 points, which was short of the passing score of 30. Also, despite his presence, he was marked as absent for the Commercial Law paper. He again appeared to pass the English paper and simultaneously appeared for the final +3 Commerce Pass exam. 

Despite appearing, he was declared absent. He appeared to have achieved a score of 23 for Commercial Law, where he was previously classified as ‘absent’. His final exam result was withheld due to his ‘absent’ status. It was submitted that the petitioner has been sincerely trying to approach the college authorities time and again for the last ten years, highlighting the discrepancies in the assessment in his favour, but all efforts went in vain. 

According to LiveLaw, after making many efforts, the petitioner finally filed an application under Section 6 of the Right to Information Act in June 2012 with a request to provide the figures from his English paper. After filing the RTI application, the university authorities responded with the ‘passage’ result of the petitioner, which was supposed to have been published only a month ago. The reply informed that the petitioner had been declared ‘failed’ due to a missing grade entry from 1999. As a result, the authorities clarified that the petitioner had indeed passed the exam, but his result was wrongly marked as ‘failed’ due to inattention.

Challenging this lax approach of the university, the petitioner approached the portals of the High Court demanding compensation for the academic and professional losses caused to him due to the delay of over a decade. The Court held that conducting investigations involves proper planning, ensuring the availability of necessary resources and maintaining an environment conducive to fair testing. Any discrepancies or inefficiencies can lead to unnecessary stress and may not accurately reflect a student’s abilities.

Emphasis was also placed on timely publication of results as delays in doing so can cause fear and uncertainty among students. Judge Panigrahi said discrepancies in the publication of results could hinder students’ ability to make informed decisions about their future, such as applying for higher studies or jobs.

“If universities fail to meet these responsibilities, you could argue that they should provide compensation to the affected students. This may be in the form of financial compensation, study credits or other measures that acknowledge and remedy the inconvenience caused. Such a provision not only serves as a remedial measure, but also underlines the responsibility of educational institutions.” he added.

Taking into account the peculiar facts of the present case, the Court stated that recording incorrect/wrong marks in the petitioner’s result and showing that he has not passed and marking him as absent from the examinations in which he has persistently participated is totally an irresponsible act which had a negative effect on the petitioner’s career and future prospects. Accordingly, taking into account the factual scenario and the above-mentioned precedents, the Court ordered the University to pay Rs 5 lakh to the applicant within three months.