1. This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the issue of a Writ of certiorari to call for the records in R. C. 8 BM/58 from the Secretary, Board of Secondary Education, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad and in R. C. 8 BM/58 dated 28-8-1958 from the Commissioner of Government Examinations, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, and to quash the order dated 28-8-1958 recorded in S. S. L. Certificate of the petitioner.
2. The petitioner was a student in the VI form in the Board High School, Nandigama. Krishna District in the year 1957-58. He sat for the S. S. L. C. Public Examination held in March 1958 with the register No. 18572. The examination was conducted at the Board High School, Nandigama, where 212 students from five neighbouring high schools sat to write their papers. The examination would appear to have been held on 12-3-1958 and the following days. On 13-3-1958, a telegram was sent by some person alleging that the examiners were helping the students by dictating answers to the questions. There was also a pseudonymous petition that the candidates writing the papers were helped by the invigilating staff to copy the answers from one another in a systematic manner.
The second respondent, the Commissioner of Government Examinations, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad placed before the Mal-practice Committee of the Board of Secondary Education, answers scripts and the sketch plan of the seating arrangements in the concerned centres for its consideration. After scrutiny of the scripts forwarded and on the strength of the internal evidence afforded by the answers papers, the Committee adjudged six candidates in English paper II and four candidates in the General Science paper to be guilty of mal-practice and recommended to the second respondent that action may be taken against the above 10 candidates by inflicting the usual punishment.
3.The petitioner was one of the four candidates in respect of whose answers in the General Science Paper, the Mal-practice Committee found that there was mal-practice. Immediately behind the petitioner, a boy named Bhaskar Rao, whose register number was 18573, sat in the examination hall. The Mal-practice Committee found that the answers of these two candidates in the General Science Paper tallied and that, therefore, they should be adjudged guilty. In conformity with the recommendations of the Mal-practice committee, the second respondent, wrote to the Chief Superintendent and Head-master of the Board High School, Nandigama, to take explanations from the petitioner and Bhaskar Rao, and holders of S. S. L. C. Nos. 18572 and 18573 respectively as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against them.
By a further communication dated 2-8-1958, the second respondent, wrote to the Headmaster, Board High School, Nandigama, furnishing the details of the questions for which the answers by the two candidates under reference have been suspected of mal-practice. The Headmaster Board High School, Nandigama, was duly directed to communicate the aforesaid information to the candidates and to take their explanations. Accordingly, the Headmaster Nandigama, called for explanations from the two candidates and the petitioner gave his statement addressed to the second respondent through the Headmaster. The statement is in these terms:
' In your communication R. C. 8 BM/58 dated 2-8-1958 you have stated that I have copied part II Di bits. I never copied. My number is 18572. The number of the person who sat behind me is 18573. He was nearly one yard behind my. It is, therefore, impossible for me to write after seeing his papers or after asking him. There was a watcher in front of me. I did not in any manner copy or ask the person behind me. I do not know whether K. V. Bhaskara Rao number 18573 who was sitting on bench behind me copied from my paper. I answered in the way I knew. Therefore, I request you to kindly help a Harijan like me.' By an order dated 28-8-1958, the marks in all the subjects of the two candidates beating S. S. L. C. register No. 18572 and 18573 were directed to be cancelled and they were both debarred from appearing for the examination for one year. The S. S. L. Certificates of these two candidates were, therefore, relumed with orders of cancellation of the results of the public examination duly recorded therein. It is this order and the cancellation of the result of the petitioner pursuant thereto that are sought to be quashed in this Writ Petition.
4. Mr. Kuppuswami, the learned counsel for the petitioner, has raised before me two principal contentions: (i) that the proceedings resulting in the cancellation of the results of a candidate are essentially judicial or quasi-judicial in nature and that, therefore, there should have been a due and proper enquiry into the charge, and that the mere calling for an exlpanation is an empty formality divested of all meaning and significance, as the petitioner was really not given an opportunity to meet the specific charge against him; and (ii) that even on the assumption that there was enquiry whereat the petitioner was called upon to give his explanation inasmuch as the Mal-practice Committee and the concerned authorities have acted only upon the identity in the answers of the two students which cannot be regarded as evidence, much less legal or proper evidence, the entire proceedings are vitiated.
5. On the contrary, the learned Government Pleader has contended that even on the assumption that the enquiry in connection with the taking of disciplinary action against an examinee for malpractice in an examination is a quasi-judicial proceeding the requirements of natural justice have been duly complied with in this case, as on the recommendations of an Expert Committee called the Mal-practice Committee the petitioner was given specific notice as to the case against him and was called to give an explanation. That being so, it is contended that there is no substance in the allegation that the enquiry is vitiated by infringement of the rules of natural justice. As to the second contention of Mr. Kuppuswami, the answer of the learned Government Pleader is that the Mal-practice Committee, which consists of educational experts, thought that the identity in the particular case signified a mal-practice and that it is not open to the petitioner to question the propriety of the conclusions of Mal-practice Committee.
6. Before referring to these rival contentions it will be necessary to briefly notice the scheme and the regulations under which the S. S. L. C. Examinations are conducted. The reorganised scheme for the award of Secondary School Leaving Certificate, is embodied in G. O. No. 2028, Education and Endowments, dated 6-10-1955. Under that scheme a Board consisting of 18 members had been constituted to whom is confided the power of awarding the Secondary School Leaving Certificates. The Board has to advise the Director of Public Instruction on all the matters referred to it, relating to Secondary Education, particularly those relating to S. S. L. C. Scheme.
The Board should also be consulted (i) on the syllabuses and the courses of study in Secondary Schools; (ii) on the suitability of books prescribed for the S. S. L. C. Examination; (iii) on the appointment of examiners; and (iv) on the nature and duration of the question papers for the S. S. L. C. Public Examination. The Board has the power to constitute separate committees for any specific purpose or to get any expert advice on any matter. The Board is also empowered to frame rules for the conduct of its business and for the constitution of committees for the conduct of the examinations and the award of the certificates.
The Certificate should be in form shown in the appendix to the scheme. The marks obtained by the students in each of the subjects at the examination have, to be entered by the Board on the appropriate pages of the Certificate. The certificates duly filled in with the marks of the pupils will have to be signed and dated by the Secretary to the Board and returned to the Headmaster of each school for delivery to the students. Clause 3 of paragraph 7 of the scheme provides:
'Where evidence is laid before the Director of Public Instruction showing that any person, to whom a certificate has been Or is proposed to be given under the rules, has been guilty of malpractice at the public examination, or convicted by a 'Court of law of what is in his opinion a serious offence, or that any person to whom a certificate has been given has made erasures or unauthorized or fraudulent alterations in the certificate, the Director may himself cancel or withhold or suspend the certificate with due regard to the offence.'
7. It is not in dispute that under the powers vested in the Board a committee called the Mal. practice Committee was constituted to deal with the cases of mal-practice at the S. S. L. C. Examination in March 1958. The Committee was charged with the functions of examining the cases of misconduct of the candidates appearing in the examination.
8. Now, the question is what exactly is the nature of the order passed by the Director under Clause (3) of para 7 of the Reorganised scheme.
9. In cases where the appropriate authorities cancel the result of a student who sits for an examination on the ground that the student has been guilty of malpractice, it has been held in some decisions that such authorities are exercising only administrative functions and the Examination Board is not bound, as a matter of Law, to give notice to the delinquent student before coming to a conclusion that he is guilty of misconduct before taking action in that behalf, subject, however, to the limitation that the action of the Board is not capricious, arbitrary or mala fide or influenced by extraneous considerations. (vide Jogendra Raj Kishore v. University of Allahabad, (S) : AIR1956All503 ; Nanik Dharamdas Vazkani v. Sayajirao University, Baroda, : AIR1957Bom246 and Uma Shankar Singh v. State of Bihar, : AIR1959Pat224 .
10. On the contrary in Dipa Pal v. University of Calcutta, : AIR1952Cal594 , Rose J., held that in a case where the misconduct of a student is detected upon the scrutiny of the answer papers and the Examination Board has to consider and determine as to the nature of the offence committed and award the penalty therefor, it is only fit and proper that the party arraigned should have an opportunity to offer an explanation, if any, I am relieved of the need to embark upon any long examination of the question as to the nature of the proceedings, because in two cases decided by this Court Satyanarayana Raju, J., has taken the view that the functions exercised by the Secondary School Examination Board when it investigates into cases of misconduct are quasi-judicial in nature. (Vide Janardhana Rao v. Secretary, Education Depart., Andhra State, 1955 Andh WR 439 and the unrepnrted decision in W. P. Nos. 878, 938, 939, 985, 1070, 1134, 1197 and 1248 of 1958 (AP). I am in respectful agreement with that view and it is on that basis that I propose to deal with the present case.
11. In cases where the authorities exercise judicial or quasi-judicial powers, it is elementary that they could be restrained by a writ of prohibition or their orders removed by a Writ of Certiorari, if they exceed the limits of their jurisdiction. It is also equally well settled that those Writs could he issued where the action of the authorities is opposed to the principles of of natural justice. The question is what are those principles or rules of natural justice. The purpose of these principles or rules is clear enough.
It is simply to ensure that a party shall not be condemned without being heard. The Courts have recognised that this purpose could be achieved without necessarily requiring the tribunal to follow the procedure Known to the Courts of Law. Whether in a particular1 case the principles of natural justice have been complied with or not must be judged in the light of the constitution of the authority, its statutory powers or rules, if any, prescribed for the conduct of the enquiries (vide Local Government v. Arlidge, 1915 AC 120 and New Prakash Transport Co. Ltd. v. New Suwarna Transport Co. Ltd., : 1SCR98 . But where no such rules are laid down compliance with the principles of natural justice must depend upon the facts of each case. As pointed out by Lord Atkin in General Council of Medical Education and Registration of United Kingdom v. Spackman, 1943-2 All ER 337 at p. 341:
''the procedure which may be very just in deciding whether to close a school or an insanitary house is not necessarily right in deciding a charge of infamous conduct against a professional man.' To the same effect are the observations of Tucker, L. J.. in Russell v. Duck of Norfolk, 1949-1 All ER 109:
'There are no words which are of universal application to every kind of inquiry and every kind of domestic tribunal. The requirements of natural justice must depend on the circumstances of the case, the nature of the enquiry, the rules under which the tribunal is acting, the subject matter that is being dealt with and so forth. Accordingly, I do not derive much assistance from the definitions of natural justice which have been from time to time used, but whatever standard is adopted one essential is that the person concerned should have a reasonable opportunity of presenting his case.'
12. Where the authority exercises quasi-judicial functions if there are rules governing the procedure, the authority is bound to adopt the rules. But the difficulty arises in cases where there are no rules. In such cases the requirements of natural justice are practically nothing more than the observance of the principle of audi alter am par-tem. In other words no person should be condemned without his having notice of the charge against him and without an opportunity to meet the charges. In this case there can be no doubt that on the opinion formed by the Mal-practice Committee, the Commissioner of Government Examinations asked the Headmaster of the High School, Nandigama, to take the explanation from the petitioner as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against him.
It is not in dispute that the petitioner did give a statement denying the charges which had already been extracted. Mr. Kuppuswami, however, contends that this is but an empty formality. It is argued that from the statement recorded it is shown that all that the Headmaster of the High School had asked the petitioner was whether he copied or not, which of course was, denied by the petitioner, and. the ground upon which the Mal-practice Committee came to the conclusion that the petitioner had resorted to copying in this case was hot actually put to him, namely, the tallying of the answers.
I do not think that there is substance in this contention. In the communication dated 2-8-1958 addressed by the Deputy Commissioner for the Government Examinations, Andhra Pradesh, to the Headmaster, High School, Nandigama, it is clearly stated that the case against the petitioner was with respect to the answers in Part II Di, with respect to which the answers of the petitioner and Bhaskar Rao tallied. There is no justification for thinking that the Headmaster did not draw the petitioner's attention to the tallying of the answers given in the General Science paper by the petitioner and his neighbour, Bhaskar Rao.
13. It is very strenuously pressed upon me by Mr. Kuppuswami that on the facts of this case there could not have been any mal-practice. It is argued that the examination was a public examination and there were a number of invigilators, who would have noticed any mal-practice if any. It is also contended that from the sketch plan of the seating arrangements in the examination hall it would be seen that the petitioner was sitting a yard in front of Bhaskar Rao and therefore it was impossible for him to have copied from Bhaskar Rao. It is further contended that even now the counter-affidavit does not disclose as to what exactly is the mal-practice that the petitioner is supposed to be guilty of, whether he copied from Bhaskar Rao, or whether knowingly he allowed Bhaskar Rao to copy from him resulting in the giving of identical answers.
I recognise that these contentions are of considerable force, to which if, I were sitting as a court of appeal reviewing the evidence and the probabilities of the case, I might have attached very great importance. But in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, where I am asked to quash the orders of an educational authority, the scope of my inteference is limited only to cases where that authority has clearly exceeded its jurisdiction, or has committed an error which is patent on the record or has done something which is manifestly opposed to the principles of natural justice. In this case there is no question of want of authority Or jurisdiction. Nor is there any case made out as to an error apparent on the face of the record. I am not also persuaded that the principles of natural justice have not been complied with. In those circumstances, whatever might be the force of the contentions of Mr. Kuppuswami that the alleged guilt of the petitioner has not been established beyond all reasonable doubt, I am not inclined to interfere with the orders now impugned.
14. The next contention of Mr. Kuppuswami is that the basis upon which the Mal-practice Committee proceeded to condemn his client, namely, the tallying of the answer, is such a tenuous and misleading basis for so grave a charge fraught with such a serious consequence to the examinee. In the question paper answers were also given and the boys were asked to select the correct answers to those questions and place marks to such answers which they considered correct Many questions in those circumstances, it is argued, can only be answered in, exactly an identical way, namely, by putting the appropriate numerals. It is argued by the learned counsel that in such cases identity is a very deceptive guide.
In this case the Committee took the view that the original answers were subsequently altered Tom 2, 3, 5, 7, I into 2, 3, 1, 7, 5. The answers of the petitioner 2, 3, 5, 7, 1 were obviously altered which tallied with the candidate who was seated behind him and the answers given by both the students were found to be partly right and partly wrong. In such a case it is argued, it would he impossible for the authority to say with precision whether there was copying between the two boys and whether there was the passing of the information. These are questions, which it is not for me fo decide.
15. It is urged by Mr. Kuppuswami, that to make identity in the answers the sole ground of condemning a student of being guilty of mal-practice is opposed to all civilized and enlightened jurisprudence. The Board, as I said already, counts of people with experience in educational matters and if they thought that particular answers of two examinees am so identical as could only be consistent with the hypothesis that there had been a mal-practice, I do not think it is for this court to substitute its decision on the ground that the basis upon which they proceeded is not a correct or proper basis.
16. The learned counsel has argued that the action resulting in such serious consequences to the pupils ought not to be lightly taken. To condemn a boy of 15 or 16 as being guilty of mal-practice, it is urged, would leave upon him a swear which the passage of time can hardly efface and would also irretrievably warp the ebullience of his youthful spirit. These considerations, however relevant, cannot outweigh the compelling and paramount need of preserving the purity and integrity of the standards of an examination and bringing to book delinquents who by sharp practice try to steal a result which other pupils can achieve by hard and strenuous toil.
In a matter affecting the discipline of examinations and their fair conduct the High Court would and ought to he slow to interfere, with the discretion and the autonomy of statutory bodies charged with the conduct of examinations in a proper and fair manner and the due publication of the results, unless it had been established that the decision of the authorities is capricious, arbitrary or influenced by extraneous considerations and oblique motives. Nothing has been suggested in this case that the members of the Mal-practice Committee or the second respondent had any bias against this petitioner or that their action was anything more than the result of an honest exercise of their functions.
17. I cannot, however, leave this case without expressing my entire agreement with the observations made by Satyanarayana Raju. J. in Writ Petitions Nos. 878, 938, 939, 985, 1070, 1134, 1197 and 1248 of 1958 (AP) that the scheme adopted by the Board in bringing delinquent students to book in the matter of mal-pratice committed by them in the examination required some modification and that a better scheme should be devised for the detection of mal-practice than what has been hitherto pursued. But that is for the appropriate authorities to determine.
18. In the circumstances of this case, therefore, I have come to the conclusion that the petition should fail. It is accordingly dismissed with, costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 50/-.