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Prasant Pattajoshy Vs. Principal, Lingaraj Law College - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtOrissa High Court
Decided On
Case NumberOriginal Jur. Case No. 922 of 1976
Reported inAIR1977Ori107
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 15, 29(2) and 226
AppellantPrasant Pattajoshy
RespondentPrincipal, Lingaraj Law College
Appellant AdvocateP. Palit, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateB.B. Rath, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredWiseman v. Borne
.....of natural justice is manifest. what exactly would be the content of the principles of natural justice to apply to a given case would very much depend upon the facts of the case, the circumstances in which making of the order has become necessary and the extent of prejudice indicated on account of failure to comply with the rules of natural justice. the legal position seems to be well settled that the right to study in a public institution maintained out of the state exchequer is not absolute and is subject to regulation and appropriate control. palit, we have not been able to satisfy ourselves that in the facts of the case, we can hold that the petitioner's is a case where the withdrawal of admission can be said to be bad. in the greater interests of the institution, we the case of registrar, university of madras v. sundara shetti, air 1956 mad 309, a student got admitted into the intermediate course of the madras university on the basis of entries made by the board of secondary education in his s.s.l.c. book that he was eligible for admission to university course of studies, andhra, madras or annamalai universities. when the student was studying in the senior intermediate class, he was told that he was not eligible for a course of study of the university of the madras and, therefore, his name had been removed from the rolls of the college with immediate effect. it is said that the entry in the s.s.l.c. book authorising him for admission was also scored out. the court found that the entry which authorised him for admission may be.....

R.N. Misra, J.

1. Petitioner applied to the Principal Lingaraj Law College located at Berhampur, for admission to the Pre-Law class of the Bachelor of Law Degree Course for the 1976-77 session. Petitioner possessed the requisite qualification and was selected for admission. On payment of Rs. 105/- he was duly admitted to the Pre-Law class on 26-7-1976 and started attending to the lectures regularly thereafter. He received a communication from the Principal on 23-8-1976 running to the following effect:--

'On further consideration, admission allowed to you into Preliminary Law class, vide Receipt No. 27580 dated 26-7-1976 is cancelled.........'

The fees collected from the petitioner were refunded by a cheque and the documents submitted by the petitioner at the time of admission were returned (vide Annexure 2). Petitioner challenges this Act of the Principal as grossly violative of the rules of natural justice and denying the petitioner the right to study in a college maintained at the expenses of the State exchequer.

2. In the counter-affidavit, the Principal of the Law College has claimed that the petitioner had not disclosed prior to his admission relevant and material facts relating to his conduct nor had he disclosed the fact that he was accused of a charge of murder and in the trial he has been convicted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for two years, in addition to the said conviction, petitioner is undergoing trial in six different criminal oases, as detailed in paragraph 3 of the counter-affidavit. It is further asserted toy the Principal that the RevenueDivisional Commissioner of Southern Division reported against the petitioner on the 'basis of his antecedents and on the basis of these materials, the Principal was satisfied in the interest of the institution to cancel the admission of the petitioner.

3. Petitioner has filed a rejoinder to support his original stand.

4. There is no dispute that the Lingaraj Law College maintained by the Berhampur University is a public educational institution maintained at State expenses and every citizen has a right subject to appropriate restrictions and control to be admitted into the college for study. There is no dispute that the petitioner possesses requisite qualification for admission and had duly been admitted into the college. There is equally no dispute that without affording any opportunity of being heard, the Principal cancelled the admission of the petitioner. Nor is there any dispute that the petitioner was tried on a charge of murder and has been convicted for a lesser offence and sentenced to two years' imprisonment and this conviction is now assailed in an appeal- pending before this Court. There is no dispute on the side of the petitioner that at the relevant time petitioner was accused of criminal charges in six cases and one of them has in the meantime terminated in his favour. It is thus clear that the petitioner has a conviction to his credit and he is undergoing trial in five more criminal cases.

5. There is no force in the stand of the Principal that the petitioner had made any suppression of facts. Mr. Palit for the petitioner rightly contends that the petitioner furnished all particulars as required of him sand for not saying that he had a conviction to his credit or that he was being tried on criminal charges in several cases, petitioner cannot be accused of suppressing material facts. An application form has been prescribed and certain documents are required to be appended to the application when made. It is not the case of the Principal that the application form provided for information regarding conviction or pending criminal charges. There is, therefore, no support for the plea that petitioner can be accused of suppression of facts.

6. Relying on a series of authorities, Mr. Palit for the petitioner claims, in the circumstances indicated above, that the order of cancellation of admis-sion which seriously affects the right that had already accrued in favour of the petitioner, without affording an opportunity of hearing, is unsupportable. We may now briefly refer to the five authorities cited by him in support of the proposition.

In the case of Registrar, University of Madras v. Sundara Shetti, AIR 1956 Mad 309, a student got admitted into the Intermediate course of the Madras University on the basis of entries made by the Board of Secondary Education in his S.S.L.C. Book that he was eligible for admission to University Course of studies, Andhra, Madras or Annamalai Universities. When the student was studying in the senior intermediate class, he was told that he was not eligible for a course of study of the University of the Madras and, therefore, his name had been removed from the rolls of the College with immediate effect. It is said that the entry in the S.S.L.C. Book authorising him for admission was also scored out. The Court found that the entry which authorised him for admission may be established to be a mistake and, therefore, it was open to the University to establish that the admission was not justified. But in view of the inconvenience to all concerned in the matter of admissions by waiting for the publication of list of eligible candidates in the Gazette months hence, a practice was in vogue of endorsing the declaration of eligibility on the S.S.L.C, Book of the candidate by the Secretary of the Board. This function must be understood as being exercised by the Secretary of the Board on behalf of the University and not in the capacity as the Secretary of the Board. The University did hold out that the eligibility endorsement on the certificate was prima facie proof of the declaration of eligibility of the candidate concerned and it was on the strength of that endorsement that the student had been admitted into the University course. There was, therefore, 3 legal or equitable estoppel against the University and the cancellation made was not justified. This decision, therefore, proceeded not on breach of rules of natural justice but on pleas of estoppel. What impressed the learned Judges was that the student had already read a substantial part of the course and within a few months hence was to take the Intermediate examination.

The next case relied upon is a Bench decision of this Court in the case of Ra-mesh Chandra Sahu v. N. Padhy, AIR 1959 Ori 196. A student was admitted into the Khallikote College at Berhampur subject to an undertaking to the following effect:--

'I undertake to see that my son/ daughter/ward abides 'by the rules of the College and the hostel attached to it. I also undertake to withdraw him/her from the College and/or hostel should the Principal decide that such withdrawal is necessary in the interest of the institution.'

This undertaking was in terms of Article 107 of the Orissa Education Code. The Principal passed the following order:--

'The undersigned has come to know that Sri Ramesh Chandra Sahu of the First Year Class, Arts, has been misbehaving towards lady-students in and outside the college. It is most undesirable to have him as a student in the College. So, his name is removed from the rolls of the College from 25-3-57.'

This expulsion was assailed before the Court and it was contended that the word decide in the undertaking was very significant and contemplated of a hearing before the decision of the Principal was taken. It was further claimed that the authority of the Principal in the disciplinary matter was not absolute and the aggrieved student has a right of being heard. These contentions were accepted by the Court and the order of expulsion was quashed.

The next case is from the Rajasthan High Court in the case of Banshidhar v. University of Rajasthan, AIR 1963 Raj 172. It was laid down:--

'In case of colleges maintained by the State so long as there are vacancies all persons who fulfil the requisite qualifications for admission have got a right to be admitted and not to be discriminated against or shut out from being admitted on arbitrary grounds. It is the duty of the principal to run it in accordance with law and he cannot ignore the rules and the instructions toy a mere refusal to admit a student at his sweet will. It is not for the University to which such colleges are affiliated to decide as to what students should be admitted to such colleges. When the University fails to carry out its duty according to law, it can be compelled to do so by a writ of mandamus,'

(quoted from Headnote)

The dispute which led to the litigation arose on account of a restriction imposed'by the affiliating University that a candidate who had graduated as a private candidate from other Universities would not be entitled to admission. Nothing has been said in this case which directly supports the petitioner in his present stand.

Next is the decision in the case of Gajadhar Prasad Misra v. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Allahabad, AIR 1966 All 477 (FB). The question for consideration before the Full Bench was whether the Vice-Chancellor of the Allahabad University was required to perform quasi-judicial function in inflicting punishments upon students for breach of discipline. A student had been expelled by the Vice-chancellor from the University with immediate effect and he was disqualified from being admitted to the University in future. Before the Full Bench it had been contended that the student had not been given an opportunity of being heard before the order of expulsion had been made. The Statute of the University prescribed that the Vice-Chancellor should be responsible for maintaining discipline in the University and he was conferred with appropriate powers for the purpose. Two of the learned Judges took the view that the Vice-Chancellor was required to perform a quasi-judicial function in inflicting punishment while Mathur, J. came to hold that the Vice-Chancellor was not so required.

The last case is the decision of this Court in the case Deba Prasanna Misra v. Principal, S.C.B, Medical College Cut-tack, ILR (1971) Cut 433. Disciplinary punishments had been imposed on several students of the S.C.B. Medical College at Cuttack and the- main question for consideration was whether in awarding punishments, principles of natural justice were relevant. The Court quashed the punishments by holding:--

'(i) There was no unfettered en absolute discretion vested in any of the College authorities in the matter of awarding disciplinary punishments like rustication and expulsion for acts of misconduct;

(ii) ......... .........

(iii) The subject-matter of the inquiry was of a serious nature involving a series of acts of criminal misconduct;

(iv) There was no mass indiscipline on the part of the students as a whole. Disturbances were confined to the members inter se of the rival groups whose number was small compared with the total number of boys;

(v) The situation was not so emergent as to justify an abandonment of the plainest principles of justice and very much so since individuals had been sorted out to be proceeded against on charges of criminal misconduct inside the campus; (vi) to (viii) ......... .........

(ix) No notice in any form was given of any specific accusation. The question during interrogation covered a wide range of incidents..........

(x) ...............

(xi) ...............

(xii) The petitioners never had a prop per chance to defend themselves nor to explain the circumstances if ,any against them;

(xiii) Failure in the observance of the principles of natural justice is manifest.'

An analysis of the facts and law presented above would show that some of these precedents support petitioner's stand. The problem in this case is somewhat different from those that came before the Courts for consideration in the cases referred to above and, therefore, in our view it would not be fully appropriate to dispose of this case on elementary principles.

7. Rules of natural justice are not embodied rules, as was pointed out in the case of Suresh Koshy George v. University of Kerala, AIR 1969 SC 198. The question whether the requirements of natural justice have been met by the procedure adopted in a given case must depend to a great extent on the facts and circumstances of the case in point, the constitution of the Tribunal and the rules under which it functions. What exactly would be the content of the principles of natural justice to apply to a given case would very much depend upon the facts of the case, the circumstances in which making of the order has become necessary and the extent of prejudice indicated on account of failure to comply with the rules of natural justice.

Judicial notice should be taken of the fact that in the recent past a very unruly atmosphere came to prevail in most of the educational institutions of the country and more so in institutions connected with College education. With a view to maintaining discipline in the educational institutions and allowing a congenial atmosphere for study, greater control in the matter of selection of students and exercise of discipline over students became necessary. In the immediate past, greater attention has 'been givento this aspect of the matter and educational institutions seem to have substantially benefited. The legal position seems to be well settled that the right to study in a public institution maintained out of the State exchequer is not absolute and is subject to regulation and appropriate control. Such regulation and control would certainly permit keeping away undesirable students by refusal of admission.

Mr. Palit does not dispute the position that if a candidate seeking admission into a college is found undesirable from the standpoint of college discipline, the Principal can refuse him admission. In these premises, the relevant question to ask is:--

'Is the position somewhat different, when admission has been granted in ignorance of the disqualifying antecedents of a particular student knowledge of which at the appropriate point of time would have led to refusal of admission to him?'

It is appropriate that we should first refer in brief to the disqualifications of the petitioner. As already narrated, he has a conviction to his credit for an offence punishable under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code which he has asked to be relieved of by preferring an appeal and it is still pending. Of the six criminal cases against the petitioner, he has been acquitted in one and is still undergoing trial in respect of the five cases. From paragraph 3 of the counter-affidavit, we find that in almost every case the petitioner has been implicated in charges involving moral terpitude. It is not for the Court to prescribe what conduct would constitute disqualification for admission. Suffice it to say that after giving our anxious consideration to the contentions of Mr. Palit, we have not been able to satisfy ourselves that in the facts of the case, we can hold that the petitioner's is a case where the withdrawal of admission can be said to be bad. Undoubtedly, when the petitioner was allowed admission and he studied for about a month on payment of appropriate fees, a right had accrued in his favour and ordinarily the Principal should not be permitted to take the stand that petitioner was not qualified for admission. We have not been called upon to consider a plea of estoppel as no specific plea on that score has been raised. In fact, there is no representation as such in this case which may provide an adequatebasis to sustain such a plea. Here again, the Principal has stated on affidavit that he never knew the antecedents of the petitioner and the decision to admit him was in ignorance of these speaking features.

8. Mr. Rath for the Principal, in our view, appropriately claimed that denial of natural justice has not prejudiced the petitioner in any manner because the facts which led the Principal to reach his decision are not disputed. The insistence on grant of a hearing is on the footing that given an opportunity beforethe order was made, the petitioner could have shown to the Principal that the facts were untrue or even if the allegations were true, an order of expulsion was not warranted. Now that the factual basis is found to be true and goes almost undisputed, the question is whether there has been substantial prejudice to the petitioner by denying him an opportunity of showing cause against the expulsion. We think, even if an opportunity had been granted, the position would not have improved and, as we have already said, the antecedents are such that any Principal interested in maintaining appropriate discipline and order within his college-would legitimately feel tempted to keep out a student with petitioner's antecedents from his institution. It is not the petitioner's case that the Principal acted mala fide or with bias and/or prejudice against him. In the greater interests of the institution, we are satisfied that it is a fit case where we should not intervene by exercise of our extraordinary jurisdiction. This seems to be a case where the interest of the institution must rank above individual right, if any. The remedy claimed is discretionary as was pointed out 'by the Chancery Division in the case of Glynn v. Keela University, (19,71) 2 All ER 89. In Reg. v. Oxford University. Ex parte Bolchover, The Times, October 7, 1970, D. C., Lord Parker stated plainly that the Court has a discretion whether to set aside by way of certiorari a decision of a quasi-judicialbody even where there has been a failure in natural justice. Plowman, J. in Buc-koke v. Greater London Council, (1970) 2 All ER 193, quoting the dictum in Fry, ex parte, (1954) 2 All ER 118 said:--

'In my judgment the ratio decidendi of that case is just as applicable to a claim for an injunction as to a claim for an order of certiorari; both are discretionary remedies,'

Lord Willberforce in Wiseman v. Borne-man, (1971) AC 297 (HL) observed:--

'...... The system, intended to befair, might 'be or might be made to appear fairer still, but the roughness in justice does not, in my view, reach the point where the courts ought to intervene.........'

Sachs, L. J. in In re, Pergamon Press Ltd., (1971) 1 Ch D 388, pointed out:--

'In the application of the concept of fair play, there must be real flexibility, so that very different situations may be met without producing procedures unsuitable to the object in hand........'

We do not think, we would be justified in vacating the order of the Principal and restoring the petitioner to the College.

9. The writ application accordingly fails and is dismissed. We, however, make no order for costs of the petition.

Panda, J.

10. I agree.

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