M. Govindaraj, J.
1. The writ petitioner-School has filed this writ petition against the show cause notice, in Na.Ka. No.3367/A5/2008, dated 04.06.2008, issued by the sixth respondent, calling for explanation as to why the recognition and grant-in-aid granted to their School as per the Tamil Nadu Minority Schools (Recognition and Grant-in-Aid) Rules, 1977 and Tamil Nadu Educational Grant-in-Aid Rules Rules shall not be stopped.
2. The case of the petitioner-School is that the courses and curriculum of their School have been regulated by the instructions issued by the Government from time to time and the staff were appointed as per the qualifications prescribed by the Government and accordingly grant-in-aid was also given.
3. That on 04.06.2008, the sixth respondent/District Elementary Educational Officer, Sivagangai District, issued a show-cause notice to the Correspondent of the petitioner-School stating that on 02.06.2008, when the third respondent/District Collector, Sivagangai District, had visited the petitioner School, he found the Headmaster of the School received a sum of Rs.100/- as bribe from the 8th standard student, namely, Thanasekar, for issuing record sheet and hence, the third respondent/District Collector had directed the sixth respondent to take action against the Headmaster and to suspend him. Pursuant to the strong instructions issued by the third respondent, the sixth respondent directed the petitioner to take action against the Headmaster. Since no action was taken in spite of the matter being published in Newspapers, the impugned order came to be issued.
4. The contention of the petitioner-School is that there is no chance for such an incident to take place within the campus of the School and the third respondent had never visited the School on 02.06.2008, which was a reopening day for the academic year 2008-2009. Moreover, neither the third respondent nor the sixth respondent have jurisdiction to issue such a show cause notice as they are incompetent persons and the respondents have no right to interfere with the affairs of the minority educational institutions. On these grounds, the impugned show-cause notice is sought to be set aside in the present writ petition.
5. The learned Senior Counsel appearing for the petitioner-School would submit that under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, High Courts, without insisting the exhaustion of alternative appeal remedy, can interfere with the illegal action taken without jurisdiction or purported to usurp the jurisdiction. In support of his contention, the learned senior counsel has placed reliance upon the decision in Whirlpool Corpn. v. Registrar of Trade Marks, reported in (1998) 8 SCC 1.
6. The sixth respondent has filed a counter stating that the petitioner School is a minority institution and it is functioning under the direct supervision of the Correspondent of the School and he marked all the correspondences with the Educational Departments regarding administration of the School. That on 03.06.2009, at 11.30 a.m., when the third respondent/District Collector, Sivagangai District, had visited the Government Higher Secondary School, Thiruppathur, he found the Headmaster of the petitioner-School said to have received a sum of Rs.100/- as bribe from one 8th standard student, namely, Thanasekar, for issuing record sheet. But, it was wrongly stated in the impugned show-cause notice as "Thanasekar" and the correct name of the student is "Rajarethinam, son of Mr. Ramasamy and Mrs. Pandiammal. The third respondent had found the above student in the campus around the School with record sheet in his hand and when the third respondent enquired him about same, he stated that a sum of Rs.100/- was given to the Headmaster.
7. It is the further averment of the sixth respondent that the Government in its recent order, dated 20.05.2008, has ordered cancellation of collection of annual special fees from the students from the academic year 2008-2009. Therefore, the petitioner-School was directed to submit explanation to the show-cause notice, dated 04.06.2008, as to why recognition and grant-in-aid granted to the School should not be stopped. But, the Correspondent of the School had not submitted any explanation.
8. It is the further averment of the sixth respondent that the third respondent/District Collector, Sivagangai District, is empowered to regulate the administration of the whole District and the Correspondent of the petitioner-School did not take any action against the Headmaster as per the Government Order and instructions of the third respondent. It is further averred that even though the District Collector did not visit the particular School on 02.06.2008, he met the student during his visit to Government School at Thiruppattur on 02.06.2008. The enquiry revealed that the Headmaster had received a sum of Rs.100/- as bribe for issuing record sheet and in the impugned notice, the name of the student was wrongly mentioned as Thanasekar. The impugned notice is only a show-cause notice and the petitioner-School could have given explanation to the same. The interim order of stay granted by this Court would not settle the issue, but it would complicate the education of all the children. Therefore, the sixth respondent prays for dismissal of the writ petition.
9. Heard both sides and perused the materials produced.
10. It is pertinent to note that the counter filed by the sixth respondent is found to be contradictory, because in Paragraph No.8 of the counter, it is stated that the third respondent had visited the Government Higher Secondary School, Thiruppathur, on 03.06.2008 and in the impugned show-cause notice, dated 04.06.2008, it has been stated that the third respondent visited the petitioner-School on 02.06.2008 and he found that the Headmaster said to have received a sum of Rs.100/- as bribe from an eighth standard student, namely, Thanasekar, for issuing record sheet. Therefore, the third respondent instructed the sixth respondent to take action against the Headmaster in the meeting held on 02.06.2008 at his office. Thereafter, the Correspondent of the School was directed to take action against the Headmaster on 02.06.2008 itself. However, no action was taken against the Headmaster. Therefore, in a meeting held on 04.06.2008, it was directed by the third respondent to withdraw the recognition and to stop grant-in-aid given to the petitioner- School. Pursuant to which, the impugned show-cause notice came to be issued.
11. Further, the contention found in the counter affidavit that the name of student, from whom the Headmaster is alleged to have received bribe of Rs. 100/- has been wrongly mentioned as "Thanasekar" and the correct name of the student is "Rajarethinam". Thereafter, in Paragraph No.12 of the counter, it is stated that even though the District Collector did not visit the petitioner School on 03.06.2008, but he met the student during his visit to the Government Higher Secondary School, Thiruppattur, on 02.06.2008 and enquired him. The repeated averments made by the sixth respondent would create doubts in the minds of even an ordinary person as to whether such an event would have been taken place or not. In Paragraph No.16, it is again averred that the District Collector visited the Government Higher Secondary School, Thiruppattur, on 03.06.2008, in contradiction to the previous statement about the visit of third respondent on 02.06.2008. Therefore, the counter filed by the sixth respondent is contradictory by itself and the directions issued by the third respondent appear to be without application of mind.
12. Rule 10 of the Tamil Nadu Recognised Private Schools (Regulation) Rules, 1974 envisages that even for a Primary School, the competent authority to issue notice for withdrawing the recognition granted is the Chief Educational Officer and for the Higher Secondary Schools, it is the Joint Director of School Education (Higher Secondary). It is an admitted fact that the petitioner-School is a Higher Secondary School and the competent authority to issue such a notice is the Joint Director of School Education (Higher Secondary), whereas the present impugned notice came to be issued by the District Elementary Educational Officer, who is totally an incompetent person. Moreover, it is the own statement of the sixth respondent that he/she had acted on the instructions given by the third respondent, who is having all over control of the District shows that the impugned notice issued is without application of mind. The contradictory statements made in the counter affidavit exposes the mala fide motive on false facts and lack of independent application of mind. In such circumstances, this Court has no hesitation to declare the show-cause notice issued by the sixth respondent as it is without jurisdiction and tainted with mala fides and hence the impugned notice is liable to set aside.
13. In the result, the writ petition is allowed and the impugned notice in Na.Ka.No.3367/A5/2008, dated 04.06.2008, issued by the sixth respondent/District Elementary Educational Officer, Sivagangai District, is set aside. No costs.