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Rana Pratap Singh Vs. the Vice Chancellor, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Writ No. 1796 of 1959
Judge
Reported inAIR1960All579
ActsConstitution of India - Article 226; Banaras Hindu University Act, 1915; Banaras Hindu University (Amendment) Act, 1958
AppellantRana Pratap Singh
RespondentThe Vice Chancellor, Benares Hindu University, Varanasi and ors.
Appellant AdvocateR.S. Pathak, ;M.A. Ansari and ;K.P. Agarwal, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateG.N. Kunzru, ;Rajeshwar Prasad and ;A.N. Kaul, Advs.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....shown to them nor allowed to be criticised. , the question which immediately arises is whether the academic council was bound to do so and has this failure on their part vitiated the resolution adopted by them, 14. the learned counsel for the petitioner has submitted that it is one of the essential principles of natural justice that no person shall be condemned unheard. in view of it the courts have naturally shown a tendency to insist that the person affected is not condemned without being heard. an opportunity ot explanation cannot always be the same thing as the) right assured by the principle of natural justice not to be condemned unheard. an opportunity of ex-planation necessarily carries with it the right to explain the material against the person charged but the opportunity of..........action against me. yours faithfully, sd/- rana pratap singh.' 4. the standing committee of the academic council in its meeting held on 25-11-1958 decided to rusticate the petitioner for a period of two years from the date of the resolution for misconduct attri-butcd to him in the charge-sheet. as a result ofthe rustication he was debarred from joining any institution of the university or to appear at any of the university examinations. consequent upon the passing of the above resolution the petitioner filed a petition in this court under article 226 of the constitution being writ petn. no. 356 of 1959, rana pratap singh v. banaras hindu university, air 1960 all 256, impugning the order of rustication on a number of grounds out of which one was that the standing committee of the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

J.K. Tandon, J.

1. The petitioner was a student in B. A. (Final) of the Banaras Hindu University. There was some prolonged unrest in this institution during the second half of 1958. It may not be very necessary to give details of this unrest which lasted for several weeks, but sonic of the facts about which there can be no doubt are that there was agitation by the students of the University, they took out processions, also displayed temper against the University authorities and even surrounded certain places which happened to be occupied by officers and authorities of the University. The normal working of the University was thus not possible and in the end, because law and order was threatened, help of the local authorities and police had to be taken. It is neither necessary nor even relevant for deciding this petition to assess or apportion the responsibility of the two sides engaged in this unfortunate episode.

It will suffice for the present purpose to observe that the demonstrations etc., which were organised by a group of persons betrayed rudeness and a sense of want of discipline also. The detailed events which have been described in the counter affidavit of Sri S. C. Das Gupta, the Chief Proctor of the said University sufficiently pointed to this conclusion. The demonstrations did riot remain confined to the University Campus but displayed beyond those limits also in the shape of processions and shouting of slogans. The target of these slogans, whoever others might have been were some of the officers and authorities of the University.

2. These unseemly incidents were soon followed by initiation of disciplinary action against a number of students of the University of whom Rana Pratap Singh petitioner was one. On the 29th October, 1958, the Chief Proctor of the University handed over the following charge-sheet to the petitioner:

'It has been reported to the notice of the University authorities that:

I. You took active part in unauthorised procession, meetings and picketing organised in defiance of the University authorities and shouted vulgar and offensive slogans to spite the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar, and inciting breach of peace and indiscipline and calculated to cause disaffection and disrespect amongst students and University Authorities.

II. You incited the students to resort to unlawful and anti-University acts, and thus disturbed the disciplined and peaceful atmosphere of the University.

III. You along with others beat Shri Tandon and often came in conflict with students in Cafe-taria and thus disturbed the peace and tranquillity of the University.

2. Your action, conduct and behaviour have been reported to be undisciplined and disrespectful towards the University authorities and quite unbecoming of a student of the University.

3. Please, therefore, show cause why disciplinary action such as may be deemed proper by the University authorities, should not be taken against you.

4. Your explanation must reach the Proctor's office within five days of the receipt of this letter by you. If no reply is received by the date prescribed, it will be deemed that you have no explanation to offer.'

3. Thereafter within the time allowed to the petitioner he submitted his explanation on the charges. As considerable attention has been devoted on behalf of the petitioner on the stand taken by him on this document I have preferred even at the cost of being lengthy to quote it in full in the judgment;

'To The Proctor,

Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

Sir,

With reference to a typed letter dated 29-10-1958 bearing your seal, signature, containing some charges against me was received by me at my address in Arrah on 30-10-1958. In reply of the same I beg to submit as follows:

I am really surprised and very much pained at the false and baseless charges which are on account of quite wrong information and reports given to your office. I may be permitted to assure you that the reports on which the charges levelled against me arc based must have been furnished by some persons who are either not on good terms with me or this might have been due to some incorrect planning by persons interested.

With reference to charge No. 1, it is absolutely incorrect that I took active part in any unauthorised procession or meeting or picketing and it is also false to say that I shouted vulgar and offensive slogans and so is also false the remaining part of the charge No. 1.

With reference to charge No. 2, I may submit that I never incited any student to resort to unlawful and anti-University Act, nor I disturbed the discipline and peace of the University.

With reference to charge No. 3, I am surprised to learn my implication in the alleged beating of some 'Tandon' which I do not know at all and which is nothing but a news for the first time when I received the letter under reply and as such the charge is also baseless.

I may humbly assure you that my action, conduct and behaviour towards all University authorities have been all along in my student life quite disciplined and respectful and there has never been any complaint whatsoever. After the University was closed I went to rny home place and there T received the letter under reply and after that I proceeded to Varanasi, I request you that you will be pleased to consider the entire matter in the light of my submissions and be further pleased to withdraw the charges levelled against me on wrong reports as there is no ground or justification for disciplinary action against me.

Yours faithfully, Sd/- Rana Pratap Singh.'

4. The Standing Committee of the Academic Council in its meeting held on 25-11-1958 decided to rusticate the petitioner for a period of two years from the date of the resolution for misconduct attri-butcd to him in the charge-sheet. As a result ofthe rustication he was debarred from joining any institution of the University or to appear at any of the University examinations. Consequent upon the passing of the above resolution the petitioner filed a petition in this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution being Writ Petn. No. 356 of 1959, Rana Pratap Singh v. Banaras Hindu University, AIR 1960 All 256, impugning the order of rustication on a number of grounds out of which one was that the Standing Committee of the Academic Council had no jurisdiction to pass the order of rustication and another was that though it had passed the resolution it never applied its mind to the facts and that, therefore, it was not a conscious decision of the Standing Committee.

A learned single Judge who heard the above petition accepted the said two objections and quashed the resolution of the Standing Committee dated 25-11-1958. A mandamus was also granted against the respondents in that case to refrain from giving effect to the resolution. This happened on 15-4-1959. (See AIR 1960 All 256). The conclusion to which the learned Judge came was that the Academic Council alone was under the Banaras Hindu University Act and the Statutes and Ordinances, competent to mete out the punishment and that the Standing Committee which did so was not authorised under the law; hence the resolution awarding- the penalty of rustication was without authority and jurisdiction. He also found that the Standing Committee did not apply independent judgment to the facts. Accordingly he granted the relief above mentioned. The following day, i.e., on 16-4-1959, the petitioner approached the University authorities asking them that he should be admitted to the University in view of the decision of this Court dated 15-4-1959 (see AIR 1960 All 256). The next day, i.e., on 17-4-1959, the Vice Chancellor passed the following order:

'Shri Rana Pratap Singh, IV Year Arts is guilty of serious acts of indiscipline and he is expelled from the University pending the decision of the Academic Council.'

A meeting of the Academic Council was then held on 30-4-1959, and one of the items on the agenda was:

'To confirm the order of the Vice Chancellor dated 17-4-1959, under Statute 9 of the Banaras Hindu University Act, Act No. XVI of 1915 (amended upto 15-10-1958), expelling the undermentioned students pending decision of the Academic Council:

1. Shri S. P. Ghoshal, M. A. (V) Politics

2. Shri Girija Shankar Singh, VI Yr. Geography

3. Shri Dharmsheel Chaturvedi, Ph. D. Scholar

4. Rana Pratap Singh, IV Yr. Arts.

5. Shri Kalp Nath Singh IV Yr. Arts.

6. Shri Dharmendra Pratap Singh, IV Yr. Ayurveda.

7. Shri V. S. Nautiyal, L.L.B. (Prev.).' Another item on the agenda of the same meeting was to consider the cases of indiscipline by students during the period August 2 to October 7, 1958.

5. With this agenda the report of the Chief Proctor and of the Committee which the ViceChancellor had appointed to scrutinise the cases of indiscipline was also circulated amongst the members. One day before the Academic Council was to meet, the petitioner addressed a letter to the Vice Chancellor briefly pointing out that the Academic Council was expected to meet the next day to consider the above agenda, hence he and other students against whom, action was proposed in the agenda might be provided opportunity for being heard by the Academic Council. It was also pointed that if this was not permitted their interest was likely to suffer. Admittedly, no such opportunity, as asked by the petitioner, was given to him. or to anyone of the students against whom action was proposed in the Academic Council, but the Academic Council adopted the resolution as a result of which the petitioner was held guilty of indiscipline and also rusticated for a period of two years from the date of the resolution.

This was communicated to him on 14-5-1959. On 30-7-1959, the present petition again under Article 226 of the Constitution was then moved by the petitioner challenging thc legality of the action taken by the Academic Council. The reliefs asked, as previously, is a writ of certiorari quashing the decision of the Academic Council dated 30-4-1959, as also a mandamus directing the Council to withdraw its resolution. A prayer has also been included to stop the respondents from interfering with the petitioner's right to pursue his studies in the University.

6. Although a number of grounds were stated in the petition Sri Pathak the learned counsel for the petitioner has not urged them except the two following. One is that the charges which had been delivered to the petitioner suffered from vagueness and were indefinite with the result that the petitioner was unable to meet the accusations against him. In its connection the objection also is that the Academic Council, though the petitioner had made a specific request also in that behalf, denied him. the opportunity to appear before it and explain his conduct and that the above action On the part of the Council vitiated the resolution which in the result offended the rule of natural justice. The second ground is that according to the agenda before the Academic Council it had. to consider the question of confirming the order of thc Vice Chancellor by which the petitioner had been expelled, in adopting the resolution rusticating the petitioner it overstepped the agenda thereby rendering the resolution as being one without authority.

7. Before I proceeded to examine the above grounds, it might be pointed out that this petition along with four others being Civil Misc. Writ NOS. 2002, 2358, 2359 and 2360 of 1959 all of which are by students and in which they have impugned disciplinary action taken by the University against them have been heard as one bunch. To the extent, therefore, the findings on the above two grounds are relevant in these other cases also the conclusions here will govern them as well.

8. There is very little to be pointed out so far as the second ground is concerned. The agenda for the meeting of the Academic Council held on 30-4-1959 contained two items to which referencehas been made a little earlier. By one item the action of the Vice Chancellor by which he expelled the petitioner and other students pending decision of the Academic Council came up for confirmation. Under the -second item which was to consider the cases of acts of indiscipline committed by the students during the period 2nd August to 7th October, 1958, the Council was required to take independent decision on the cases of the students who were reported to be guilty of acts of indiscipline etc. In view of this other item on the agenda of the Council in its meeting on 30-4-1959, it will not be accurate to claim that the Academic Council was incompetent to decide disciplinary action against the petitioner and the other students on their alleged breach of discipline.

The charges against the petitioner were that he was guilty of indiscipline through demonstrations etc,, during the perod of unrest from August to October, 1958, in the University. The second item effectively covered the case of award of punishment to the petitioner for. any alleged breach of discipline by him. The petitioner is not correct to urge that the Academic Council exceeded its authority by adopting the resolution rusticating him in its meeting of 30-4-1959, it being not disputed that the Academic Council was otherwise competent under the Act and the Rules etc., to do so.

9. I may now revert to the first ground which raises a rather important question concerning the administration of educational institutions, particularly universities established by law. It is common ground that prior to commencing disciplinary action against the students a committee had been appointed to report on the ugly incidents which from time to time happened in the University Campus between August and October 1958. It also is not controverted that the Chief Proctor, who is charged with the duty of looking after the day to day discipline of the students too submitted a report on those incidents. These reports formed, if not wholly, to a substantial degree at least, the basis of disciplinary action against the students including the petitioner.

As a matter of fact, reference to these reports is to be found in the agenda of the Academic Council also for the meeting of 30-4-1959, in the form that their copies were circulated to the members for their advance information. In view of these facts there should be no difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the two reports had, as they were bound to, influenced the decision of the Academic Council in awarding to the students concerned the penalties given to them.

10. A question which also, therefore will require consideration is whether it was necessary under the circumstances for the Academic Council to give copies of these reports to the students and has it by not doing so, since it is common ground that these documents were not shown to the students, been guilty of a fundamental error which vitiated its resolution. I shall revert to this question a little later. Just now the blame laid against the three charges framed against the petitioner which is that they were vague and indefinite, may be disposed of.

11. It is true that in delivering the first and the second charges neither the particular meetings nor the processions with reference to their dates and situation were given in them, nor were the precise acts by which the petitioner was accused of having incited the students to resort to unlawful and anti-University acts recited in detail. Sri Pa-thak has contended that the absence of these particulars from the two charges made them indefinite and vague, in any case placed his client in the most difficult position to uphold his innocence etc. Ordinarily this argument would have had its due value but what is substantially different in the present case is that there was a train of incidents spreading over a period of several months in which the peace and tranquillity and the peaceful working of the University became impossible. There were processions by students in which various slogans were employed. There were acts of violence also. The situation deteriorated to the extent even that some of the authorities and officers of the University were made unable to function because of the obstruction, physical or otherwise placed in their way by the demonstrators.

It is in this background that these charges will require to be read. Since there were repeated demonstrations and like displays by the students, a fact about which there does not appear any controversy, the mere omission from the two charges of any particular procession and demonstration in which the petitioner participated will not make them vague such as to render them invalid also. The petitioner was a student of the University. He does not deny his presence in the University in those days. He was accused of taking active part in those processions, meetings and picketing organised by the students. When large scale demonstrations are made repeatedly by a crowd it is not possible reasonably to expect the individual act of each member in the crowd to be described separately. Not that this cannot be done but the question is whether it is reasonably possible to do so. It is, I think, sufficient to convey to the person charged the responsibilities saddled on him if he is told as having taken part in the demonstrations etc.

A charge for indiscipline cannot be viewed! with the same strictness as a charge for an offence triable under the criminal law. Disciplinary matters are a class by themselves and any action taken in the process of enforcing discipline or upholding it cannot be judged by the standards applicable to judicial or quasi-judicial trials. In disciplinary matters it should be sufficient if the person proceeded against is told what in substance the accusation against him is. If the accusation relates to some solitary event reference to that event may be important and even necessary; but if the incidents are many but can be said to be parts of the same transaction, as happened to be the case here, a reference to the transaction will ordinarily be sufficient. I am unable to find any circumstance which made it obligatory on the University authorities to separately describe the several incidents in which the petitioner took part in order to convey to him the blame laid on his shoulders. The petitioner who was well acquainted with the course of events which occupied the unhealthy period of three months in the University life cannot complain thatthe charges delivered to him were vague or indeed caused him some real prejudice. It is nobody's sug-gestion that the display made in the course of processions etc., was not an instance of indiscipline. The question which alone was of importance was as to the active participation in it of the petitioner.

12. A grievance was also made that the Academic Council though it had before it the report of the Inquiry Committee and also of the Proctor when it decided the action against the students, didnot give an opportunity to the petitioner and others similarly placed to offer their comments on these documents. The agument consequently is thatthey had been condemned on the basis of a document which was never shown to them nor allowed to be criticised. This defect is held to be further aggravated by the fact that the students had asked for permission to appear personally before the Council but their request was turned down.

13. Since the respondents too had not claimed that these documents were given to the petitioners or that they were afforded an opportunity to look into them and offer their criticism etc., the question which immediately arises is whether the Academic Council was bound to do so and has this failure on their part vitiated the resolution adopted by them,

14. The learned counsel for the petitioner has submitted that it is one of the essential principles of natural justice that no person shall be condemned unheard. The Academic Council by not permitting the students to be heard or these documents to be criticised by them offended against the above principle. In view of the fact that in each of the five cases now before the Court charges were admittedly delivered to the petitioners and they were also asked to show cause against them the question which indeed arises is not whether any opportunity was given to them but whether the opportunity which these charges afforded to them was such as fulfilled the above requirement of the principle of natural justice. It may not be disputed that the rustication order is an order which affects not only the present position of a student but also his future career.

In view of it the Courts have naturally shown a tendency to insist that the person affected is not condemned without being heard. What is the extent and nature of the opportunity which is to be given to a person in a particular case has nevertheless to depend on a number of circumstances including the nature of the fault, the provision under which the proceeding is held and above all the rules which govern the particular action.

15. In the instant case no provision exists,apart from the rule of natural justice, which required the Academic Council to give a hearing tothe students or to give them a copy of the reportsalso. The obligation of the Academic Council inthat behalf will therefore have to be assessed in thebackground of the rest of the facts only. Sri Pa-thak claimed that the opportunity to be heard carried with it not merely the right to urge on thecharge but also the right to a personal hearing andto a criticism of the material in support of thecharge. In other words, he (sic) is right on apar with 'an opportunity of explanation' with which we are accustomed to come across in various statutory provisions. I am, however, unable to agree with him in this proposition. An opportunity ot explanation cannot always be the same thing as the) right assured by the principle of natural justice not to be condemned unheard. An opportunity of ex-planation necessarily carries with it the right to explain the material against the person charged but the opportunity of being heard before being condemned is narrower.

When its requirements will be deemed to have been fulfilled, will always be dependent on the facts of each particular case. This right must in the very nature of things be very limited in scope in the matter of discipline particularly in educational institutions where the welfare of a large section of young boys is to be effected. A distinction has to be drawn where the authority taking action is dong so in the exercise of some statutory power conferred upon it and in cases where the general behaviour of students as such in an institution is in issue. The petitioner cited a number of cases in support of his contention but they were cases primarily where action had been taken against a student because he had been accused of using unfair means at an examination. Two of these cases were Ghanshyam Das Gupta v. Board of High School and Intermediate Education, U. P., Allahabad, (S) AIR 1956 All 539 and Jai Prakash Sharma v. Registrar, Roorkee University, 1957 All LJ 213. It was held in these cases that failure to give an opportunity to the student before awarding him the punishment offended against the rule of natural justice.

They cannot, however, be authority for the proposition that in disciplinary matters, which stand on a different footing than these other matters the criterion must be the same. In the very interest of maintaining discipline and safeguarding the advancement of the whole object for which the institution exists, it may quite often be very undesirable to disclose to the young students the reports which in due course are presented by various authorities on their conduct and general behaviour, In many cases, and it is easily conceivable divulging these documents to boys can defeat the very purpose, viz., the improvement of discipline amongst the students for which disciplinary proceedings are started. The preservation of discipline amongst students is both a delicate and domestic matter with which the University authorities alone are charged. For that reason the High Court will always be extremely reluctant to interfere with any exercise of the power by the Universities unless there has been some very wild departure from the principles of natural justice.

It is clear in the present case that an extraordinary situation had arisen in the University during the period in question. The University had to be closed down. There were wild demonstrations. The Vice Chancellor and other officers of the University were not allowed to move out and ultimately the Government had to intervene in order to restore peaceful conditions. It is not at all difficult to perceive that the giving out to the students concerned of the two reports, which had been brought about by the Chief Proctor and theInquiry Committee should have tended further to endanger the interests of discipline. Under the rules the Chief Proctor is responsible for the maintenance of discipline and he has also the authority to hold inquiries. Both he and the Inquiry Committee were thus authorities which had jurisdiction in the matter. There is no reason to hold that they did not discharge their duty honestly and dispassionately. If in the above background these documents were not made available to the petitioner I do not think a case for interference by this Court has been made out. It cannot also be called to be a case where the said rule of natural justice had failed to be observed. The petitioner was also aware of the blame laid on him. He had also been given an opportunity for stating his case. It is not possible to canvass successfully at the same time that the petitioner had been prejudiced by not being given an opportunity to be heard etc.

16. In the above circumstances it cannot be said that the order of rustication passed against the petitioner was illegal on any such ground. As a result of the above finding the petition ought to be dismissed and I order accordingly. The petitioner shall pay the respondent's costs which I assess at Rs. 200/.


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