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Sri Calcutta Singh Vs. Registrar, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSpecial Appeal No. 521 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1960All531
ActsConstitution of India - Article 226
AppellantSri Calcutta Singh
RespondentRegistrar, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi
Appellant AdvocateS.N. Kakkar, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateGopi Nath Kunzru and ;A.N. Kaul, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
.....cross-examined or even to give a personal hearing to the students concerned. the requirements of natural justice in a case of this kind could only be that the person concerned should know the nature of the accusation against him, that he should be given an opportunity to state his case and that the tribunal should be acting in good faith. it is not suggested on behalf of the appellant that the aeademie council was not acting in good faith. he stated it very clearly in the form when he said that he had nothing to do with the paper and that it was not found in the circumstances alleged by the invigilator. 15. there is another reason also why the petition of the appellant was bound to fail. unless the circumstances are exceptional, courts as a rule do not interfere in the exercise of such..........of the examination. this, lit was contended, amounted to a serious breach of the principles of natural justice and on that account the resolution and the order were liable to be quashed.5. the contention was not accepted by the learned judge who was of opinion that the academic council was in the case of tbe appellant acting as an administrative body, that the explanation of the appellant had been considered by it, that the opportunity which had been given to him to explain his conduct was reasonable in the circumstances of the case and that no further enquiry was necessary. there was therefore no violation of the principles of natural justice in the appellant's case. on this view the petition of the appellant was dismissed.it was not disputed (before us in appeal on behalf of the.....
Judgment:

Srivastava, J.

1. This appeal has been preferred against an order of Mr. Justice Mathur by which he dismissed a petition filed by the appellant under Article 226 of the Constitution.

2. The facts as have been found by the learned Judge (and no attempt was made before us to challenge those findings) are that the appellant was a student studying for M. Sc. (Technical) Previous Examination of the Banaras Hindu University. In Mav 1959 he was appearing at that examination. The paper which he was answering in that connection on 6-5-1959 was the paper on Industrial Chemistry. Sri Section N. Roy Chaudhary was the invigilator at the examination. Dr. Section Prasad was the Superintendent. At about 9.30 a.m. while the examination was continuing the invigilator recovered a piece o paper from under the thigh, of the appellant.

It contained certain writings which related to the paper which the appellant was answering. While the paper was being taken out it got torn into twopieces. The appellant took one of the pieces and tore it into bits. The other piece was taken by the invigilator. He took the appellant to the seat of the Superintendent. The appellant was told about what had happened and was asked to give his explanation on a printed form. The appellant, however, said that he would submit his explanation after the examination was over. The invigilator and the Superintendent of the Examination then wrote out their own reports on the printed form. After the examination was over at 10 a.m. the appellant went to the Superintendent. He was given the printed form on which the reports of the invigilator and the Superintendent had already been written and was asked to write his own explanation after reading the said reports. He then wrote out on that form :

'I have no concern with that paper and also do not know how it was found near roe. For information of your Sir, I may add that I have been shown that paper that is not mine writing.'

3. The printed form containing the reports of the invigilator and the Superintendent as well as the explanation of the appellant was in due course forwarded to the Academic Council of the Banaras Hindu University which passed a resolution on the 8th June 1959 by which it decided to withhold the result of the appellant in respect of the examination in question, rusticated him for one year for using unfair means at the examination and also directed that ho would not be permitted to appear at any of the University examinations before 1960.

The Registrar of the University by his order dated the 11th of June 1959 communicated this decision to the appellant. The appellant submitted two representations to the Vice-Chancellor but without success. He then filed the Writ petition out of which this appeal has arisen. He prayed that the order of the Registrar as well as the resolution of the Academic Council be quashed by a writ of certiorari. He also wanted a mandamus to be issued to the authorities of the University commanding them to declare his result for the examination and not to interfere with his right of pursuing for the M.Sc. (Technical) Final Examination.

4. The main ground that was urged to support the petitiion was that the punishing authority in the present case was the Academic Council. It , had not itself given any opportunity to the appellant to offer his explanation and had not permitted him to cross-examine the invigilator or the Superintendent or to lead his own evidence. He had thus been condemned without being heard only on the basis of the report that had been submitted by the Superintendent of the Examination. This, lit was contended, amounted to a serious breach of the principles of natural justice and on that account the resolution and the order were liable to be quashed.

5. The contention was not accepted by the learned Judge who was of opinion that the Academic Council was in the case of tbe appellant acting as an administrative body, that the explanation of the appellant had been considered by it, that the opportunity which had been given to him to explain his conduct was reasonable in the circumstances of the case and that no further enquiry was necessary. There was therefore no violation of the principles of natural justice in the appellant's case. On this view the petition of the appellant was dismissed.

It was not disputed (before us in appeal on behalf of the appellant that the Academic Council while it was considering the case of the appellant was acting as an administrative or disciplinary body andnot in any judical or quasi-judicial capacity. It was, however contended that even an administrative or disciplinary body has to observe the principles of natural justice. One of such principles is that no one should be condemned without being heard. The punishing authority in the present case was the Academic Council. The appellant should have been given a hearing by that Council. The fact that his explanation had been taken at an earlier stage by the Superintendent of the Examination could not be considered sufficient. As no hearing had been given to him by the punishing authority the order of punishment could not be upheld, particularly when it seriously affected the appellant's life and career.

6. It is true that even an administrative or disciplinary authority is expected to observe the ordinary rules of fair play and act keeping in view the principles of natural justice. There are, however, no rules of natural justice which can be said of universal application to every kind of enquiry. As Tucker, J. observed in Russell v. Duke of Norfolk, (1949) 1 All ER 109 at p. 118:

'The requirements of natural justice must depend on the circumstances of the case, the nature of inquiry, the rules under which the tribunal is acting, the subject-matter that is being dealt with and so forth.'

7. The same principle was laid down by the Supreme Court in Nagendra Nath v. Commissioner of Hills Division, AIR 1958 SC 398 where after referring to the observations made in the case of New Prakash Transport Co., Ltd. v. New Suwarna Transport Co., Ltd. (S) AIR 1957 SC 232 it was observed:

'In that case, this Court has laid down that the rules of. natural justice vary with the varying constitution of statutory bodies and the rules prescribed by tbe Act under which they function; and the question, whether or not any rules of natural justice had been contravened, should be decided not under any pre-conceived notions, but in the light of the statutory rules and provisions.'

8. The academic Council in the present case was admittedly not acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity. It was functioning in the present case more as a disciplinary body than an administrative one. It was one of its main duties to maintain discipline among the examinees appearing at the examinations of the University and to see that no unfair means were used. Our attention has not been drawn to any statutes, rules or regulations under which the Academic Council was required in cases like the present before passing a resolution imposing a penalty on students guilty of breach of discipline, to hold a regular enquiry, to record evidence after permitting the witnesses to be cross-examined or even to give a personal hearing to the students concerned.

There was therefore nothing to prevent it from taking into consideration the materials that were furnished to it in the report submitted by the Superintendent of the Examination and On the basis of those materials to come to the conclusion that the appellant had used unfair means at the examination and should be punished on that account. The measure of punishment to be imposed lay entirely in its discretion. The appellant could not therefore expect the Council to conduct itself as though it were a Court of law.

He cannot make a grievance of the fact that a regular charge was not framed against him or that he was not permitted to cross examine the invigilator and the Superintendent or to produce his ownevidence. The only thine that he could expect was that the Council should act in a fair and above-board manner and should observe the ordinary rules of fair play. The requirements of natural justice in a case of this kind could only be that the person concerned should know the nature of the accusation against him, that he should be given an opportunity to state his case and that the tribunal should be acting in good faith. All these requirements appear to be fulfilled in the present case. It is not suggested on behalf of the appellant that the Aeademie Council was not acting in good faith. The undisputed finding of the learned Judge is that the appellant knew what the accusation against ham was.

His version that he was compelled to write down his explanation on a blank form has been rejected and it has been held that he was apprised of the reports that had been recorded in the form by the invigilator and the Superintendent before he was required to put down his own explanation on it. He therefore knew that it was alleged against him that he had under his thigh a piece of paper on which there was some writing connected with the question paper he was answering. It is not possible for him to say that he was not allowed to state his own case. He stated it very clearly in the form when he said that he had nothing to do with the paper and that it was not found in the circumstances alleged by the invigilator.

All this material was there before the Academic Council when it took its decision. It is not alleged that the Council took into consideration any material other than what was there on the form submitted to it by the Superintendent. No materials obtained behind the back of the appellant were therefore utilised against him. In the circumstances it is not possible to accept the contention of the appellant that in passing the impugned resolution the Academic Council violated any principle of natural justice in any manner.

9. It is, however, urged that the explanation of the appellant was taken by the Superintendent who was himself not the punishing authority. Natural justice required that the punishing authority should itself have given the appellant a hearing. Reliance in support of this contention is placed on three decisions, namely 10).

10. The first mentioned case (S) AIR 1956 All 539 (supra) does not appear to be an authority for the proposition that the opportunity of hearing must be given by the punishing authority itself. In that case no opportunity had been given at all. The appellants in that case had appeared at their examinations and had even been declared successful. Subsequently a report was received, apparently from the examiner, that the appellant's answers to a particular question agreed with each other word for word and also agreed with the typed copies that were distributed among the examinees. A subcommittee was appointed to enquire into the matter. Without giving any notice to the appellants, it conducted the proceedings ex parte and submitted a report to the Examinations Committee. The report was not disclosed to the appellants.

It was accepted by the Examinations Committee which decided to cancel the appellant's results and to debar them from appearing in the Roard's Examination of the following year. It was in the cir-cumstances, held that because no opportunity had been given to the appellants at all at any stage an, important rule of natural justice had been violated and the decision of the Examinations Committee was liable to be quashed. It was not laid down in the case that the hearing to the appellants should have been given not only by the sub-committee appointed to make an enquiry but also by the Examinations Committee itself.

11. In 1957 All LJ 213 (supra), when the petitioner was answering his paper in the examination hall the invigilator found a diary in the front pocket of his shirt. The statement of the petitioner was recorded. He admitted that he had brought a diary but said that he had not used it for copying. The invigilator submitted his report to the Superintendent who sent it along with his own report to the Registrar.

He passed an order cancelling the examination of the petitioner without giving any reasons of his own and merely purporting to follow the decision in (S) AIR 1956 All 539 (supra) Mr. Justice Mehrotra held that because the Registrar had npt given an opportunity to the petitioner to explain his conduct before passing the order his order was liable to be quashed. As we have already said, in (S) AIR 1956 All 539 (supra), it had nowhere been laid down that the opportunity of hearing should be given by the punishing authority itself. That decision did not therefore support the view which the learned Judge was taking.

12. In AIR 1958 All 792 (supra) while the petitioner was sitting for an examination the inviliga-tor found in has possession a chit of paper from which he was copying. The paper was taken possession of by the inviligator who asked the petitioner to say what he wanted to say in respect of it. The petitioner declined to make a statement. The invigilator submitted his report to the University which made an enquiry from the examiner who had examined the petitioner's answer book.

His report was that the petitioner had utilised the writing on the piece of paper in making his answers. After considering the reports of the examiner and the invigilator the Vice-Chancellor cancelled the examination and debarred the petitioner from appearing at the following examination also. The petitioner then applied for the quashing of the order of the Vice-Chancellor. Mr. Justice Tandon who was dealing with the petition found that the nature of the explanation which had been called from the petitioner was not clear and that the examiner's comment or the report of the Assistant Superintendent was never communicated to the petitioner.

He was therefore of opinion that the so-called opportunity given by the Assistant Superintendent at the time of the discovery of the chit could not he considered to be an opportunity which could meet the requirements of natural justice and the order passed by the Vice-Chancellor was an the circumstances really an ex parte order which could not be sustained. He therefore allowed the writ petition. He thus decided the case on the basis that the opportunity given to the petitioner was not sufficient in the circumstances of the case and not on the basis that the opportunity should have been given to him by the Vice-Chancellor himself. He did not lay down that the Vice-Chancellor would not have been justified in passing the impugned order even if a reasonable opportunity had been given to the petitioner by the Assistant Superintendent.

13. In Jogendra Rai v. University of Allahabad, (S) AIR 1956 All 503 which is a Division Benchdecision the petitioner had been expelled as a disciplinary measure by the Vice-Chancellor because the proctors had made a report that he had been guilty of subversive activities and had delivered undesirable speeches. The order was questioned on the ground that tbe Vice-Chancellor had only acted on the report of the proctors and had passed the order of expulsion without making an enquiry into the matter and without giving the petitioner an opportunity to show cause against the misconduct alleged against him. The contention was rejected. After considering a number of authorities it was observed:

''From an examination of all these authorities, therefore, at is clear that in cases where an authority acts administratively, unless the order affects the fundamental rights of a person, it is not necessary in every case to give an opportunity to the person affected by the order of the authority to explain his conduct, particularly in cases where an order has been passed by an authority for the purpose of maintaining the discipline of an institution.'

14. There thus appears to be no warrant for the proposition urged on behalf of the appellant that in every case in which action is taken by an administrative or disciplinary authority it must itself give the person concerned an opportunity to be heard and that it cannot act on the basis of the materials submitted by a subordinate enquiring body which had given the person concerned a reasonable opportunity at the stage at which the facts were being enquired into. Two of the three cases which are relied upon in support of the contention do not support it. If the learned Judge, who was dealing with the case of 1957 All LJ 213 (supra) intended to lay down that every order of an administrative or disciplinary body is liable to be quashed if it has not itself given an opportunity of hearing to the person concerned, with great respect we are unable to share that opinion.

15. There is another reason also why the petition of the appellant was bound to fail. It has to be kept in mind that the power which the Academic Council was exercising in the case of the appellant was disciplinary power. Unless the circumstances are exceptional, Courts as a rule do not interfere in the exercise of such powers. As Lord Goddard, C. J. put in in R. v. Metropolitan Police Commr., Ex parte Parker. (1953) 2 All ER 717 and again in Ex parte, Fry (1954) 2 All ER 118 :

'...... where a person, whether he is a military officer, a police officer, or any other person whose duty it is to act in matters of discipline, is exercising disciplinary powers, it is most undesirable in my opinion that he should be fettered by threats of orders of certiorari and so forth, because that interferes with the free and proper exercise of the disciplinary powers which he has.'

16. This same principle was stated in the case of Ram Chander Roy v. University of Allahabad, (S) AIR 1956 All 46 in which the order of the Vice-Chancellor rusticating a student was being questioned in these words:

'Further, this Court has always held that, in matters of discipline of educational institutions, it will not exercise its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution unless some legal right of student has been violated.'

In the present case there could be no question of the violation of any legal right.

17. It may be said on the basis of the decision in Ramesh Chandra Sahu v. N. Padhy, AIR 1959 Orissa 196 that even disciplinary orders or heads of educational institutions can be questioned in writ proceedings. That case arose under Arti-cle 107 of the Orissa Education Code and in view of the provisions of that article it was held that the Principal who had passed the expulsion order impugned in that case was acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. The order was quashed because it was found to have been passed on the basis of ''enquiries made without giving intimation to the boy and admittedly behind his back. Tbe learned Judges, however, took pains to make it clear that they did not intend to lay down that

'against every order of punishment passed as a disciplinary measure by the head of an educational institution the aggrieved pupil must be given an opportunity to defend himself.'

The case was thus decided on its own special facts and cannot be treated as an authority for the proposition that all disciplinary orders can be questioned in writ proceedings.

18. In the present case the petitioner, in our opinion, totally failed to establish that the Academic Council had acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner or that it had omitted to follow any rule of fair play or natural justice which it was bound to observe.

19. No case had therefore been made out by the appellant for any of bis reliefs he had prayed for. His appeal is accordingly dismissed with costs. The stay order shall stand discharged.


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