Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation Doesn’t Apply to Education: Delhi High Court

Resident doctors pursuing their final year of the Diplomate of National Board (DNB) filed a petition against the Public Notice dated April 4, 2020.  The notice extended the completion of the training period to six more weeks. The petitioners contended that this stood as a clear violation; of the doctrine of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation. However, the Delhi High Court struck down the petition on May 26, 2020.

Arguments for the Legitimate Expectation

The petitioners contended that the NBE had no power to vary the training period. They argued that the decision was completely biased; as it pertained only to the final year students. It did not extend to the first and second years. They stated that the Medical Council of India had exempted the doctors in the super-speciality training programmes from COVID-19 duties. They also cited that the ambiguity caused by the words “till further orders“; prevented them from committing to working with any medical institutions.

Arguments against the Legitimate Expectation

The National Board of Examination (NBE) citing public interest; justified that due to the COVID19 pandemic, it was unable to conduct the entrance examination. This was done to prevent the vacuum that would have been created due to the passing-out of the third-year students and delayed admissions of the first year batch. The third-year students were far more competent as compared to their juniors. Also, they all belonged to different fields within the medical profession. Thus, there couldn’t have been any discrimination. Furthermore, the NBE argued that the concept of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation did not apply to the field of education.

Decision of the Court

The Court supported the decision of the defendant and clarified that the NBE had no obligation to restrict itself to the advisories of the MCI since it was an independent body. Citing Article 14, it refused to acknowledge the first, second and third year learners as equals; thus making the argument of discrimination moot.