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Kurukshetra University Vs. Vinod Kumar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetters Patent Appeal No. 639 of 1975
Judge
Reported inAIR1977P& H21
ActsConstitution of India - Article 226
AppellantKurukshetra University
RespondentVinod Kumar
Appellant Advocate J.L. Gupta,; G.C. Gupta and; Vipan Kausal, Advs.
Respondent Advocate H.L. Sibal,; S.C. Sibal and; K.K. Aggarwal, Advs.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredSukhbinder Singh v. Punjab University
Excerpt:
.....were applied. it appears that the committee was not quite satisfied with this explanation of vinod kumar. --the petitioner failed in his matriculationexamination once and passed the sameas a private candidate at the age ofnineteen in 1971 obtaining a mere 3rddivision. in pre-university examinationalso he secured very poor marks and passed the same in third division. he mighthave done, well in b. 20. why the answers in the supplementary answer-books were written leisurely was sought to be explained by the common knowledge that every student begins to attempt the questions to which he is able to give best answers first. in the second place, the four members of the committee, who are academicians, were the best judges of the behaviour of the examinee in answering the questions. ' a..........university in april, 1975. the examination centre was s. a. jain college, ambala city of which vinod kumar was the student. examination of english paper a was held on 4th april, 1975. vinod kumar received notice (annexure p-l) on 23rd june, 1975, from the university accusing him of use of unfair means and misconduct by making deliberate previous arrangement to cheat in the examination by smuggling in another answer-book. as directed by the university, vinod kumac sent explanation on the following 25th. on 27th june, 1975, he appeared before the unfair means committee (hereinafter referred to as the committee). vinod kumar was given opportunity and heard by the committee. thereafter on 28th july, 1975, the committee gave its decision (annexure p-11) finding vinod kumar guilty of.....
Judgment:

S.C. Mital, J.

1. Vinod Kumar appeared in the B. A. examination (Part III) held by the Kurukshetra University in April, 1975. The examination centre was S. A. Jain College, Ambala City of which Vinod Kumar was the student. Examination of English Paper A was held on 4th April, 1975. Vinod Kumar received notice (Annexure P-l) on 23rd June, 1975, from the University accusing him of use of unfair means and misconduct by making deliberate previous arrangement to cheat in the examination by smuggling in another answer-book. As directed by the University, Vinod Kumac sent explanation on the following 25th. On 27th June, 1975, he appeared before the Unfair Means Committee (hereinafter referred to as the Committee). Vinod Kumar was given opportunity and heard by the Committee. Thereafter on 28th July, 1975, the Committee gave its decision (Annexure P-11) finding Vinod Kumar guilty of resorting to unfair means and debarring him from passing the above mentioned examination. The decision was notified by the University vide Annexure P-10.

2. Feeling aggrieved Vinod Kumar filed Civil Writ Petition No. 5004 of 1975. The learned Single Judge allowed it and quashed the aforesaid decision (Annexure P-11) and the notification (Annexure P-10). The University then filed the present Letters Patent Appeal. It was heard by a Bench of this Court. The learned Judges expressed the view that the learned Single Judge whilst allowing the writ petition did not conclude that the findings arrived at by the Committee were not supported by any evidence at all. Instead he himself adverted to the relevant evidence, including examination of answer-books and the writing of Vinod Kumar made on the dictation of the Committee. The learned Single Judge proceeded to examine the issue from the angle whether the conclusion arrived at by the Committee from the evidence before it, was warranted and justifiable andalso opined that the Committee had not recorded specific findings on certain issues of fact. With these observations the learned Judges have made this reference to a larger Bench for clearly defining the scope of interference under Article 226 of the Constitution with the order of a domestic Tribunal like the Committee.

3. The leading authority on the subject, mentioned in the order of reference, is Board of High School and Intermediate Education, U. P. Allahabad v. Bagleshwar Prasad, AIR 1966 SC 875. In paragraph 12 of the report at page 878 their Lordships ruled :--

'In dealing with petitions of this type, it is necessary to bear in mind that educational institutions like the Universities or appellant No. 1 (Board of High School and Intermediate Education, U. P. Allahabad) set up Enquiry Committees to deal with the problem posed by the adoption of unfair means by candidates, and normally it is within the jurisdiction of such domestic Tribunals to decide all relevant questions in the light of the evidence adduced before them. In the matter of the adoption of unfair means, direct evidence may sometimes be available, but cases may arise where direct evidence is not available and the question will have to be considered in the light of probabilities and circumstantial evidence. This problem which educational institutions have to face from time to time is a serious problem and unless there is justification to do so, Courts should be slow to interfere with the decisions of domestic Tribunals appointed by educational bodies like the Universities. In dealing with the validity of the impugned orders passed by Universities under Article 226, the High Court is not sitting in appeal over the decision in question; its .jurisdiction is limited and though it is true that if the impugned order is not supported by any evidence at all, the High Court would be justified to quash that order. But the conclusion that the impugned order is not supported by any evidence must be reached after considering the question as to whether probabilities and circumstantial evidence do not justify the said conclusion. Enquiries held by domestic Tribunals in such cases must, no doubt, be fair and students against whom charges are framed must be given adequate opportunities to defend themselves, and in holding such enquiries, the Tribunals must scrupulously follow rules of natural justice; but it would, we think, not be reasonable to import into these enquiries all conside-rations which govern criminal trials in ordinary Courts of law. Jn the present case, no animus is suggested and no mala fides have been pleaded. The enquiry has been fair and the respondent has had an opportunity of making his defence. That being so, we think the High Court was not justified in interfering with the order passed against the respondent.'

4. Earlier in State of Mysore v. Sivabasappa, AIR 1963 SC 375, the Supreme Court observed as follows:--

'Domestic tribunals exercising quasi-judicial functions are not Courts and, therefore, they are not bound to follow the procedure prescribed for trial of actions in Courts nor are they bound by strict rules of evidence. They can, unlike Courts, obtain all information, material for the points under enquiry from all sources, and through all channels, without being fettered by rules and procedures which govern proceedings- in Court. The only obligation which the law casts oh them is that they should not act on any information which they may receive unless they put it to the party against whom it is to be used and give him a fair opportunity to explain it. What is a fair opportunity must depend on the facts and circumstances of each case, but where such an opportunity has been given, the proceedings are not open to attack on the ground that the enquiry was not conducted in accordance with the procedure followed by Courts.'

5. These observations were quoted with approval in K. L. Shinde v. State of Mysore, 1976 (3) SCC 76 = (AIR 1976 SC 1080).

6. A Full Bench of this Court dealt with a case of an examinee, said to be guilty of mal-practice, in Ramesh Kapur v. Punjab University, AIR 1965 Punj 120. The learned Judges ruled that in the absence of any regulations having been framed by the University prescribing the procedure to be followed in such cases, it can certainly prescribe and follow its own procedure, so long as the rule of natural justice has been complied with. An examinee must be adequately informed of the case he has to meet and given a full opportunity in this regard.

7. In a similar case a Bench of this Court in The Punjab University, Chandigarh v. prem Chand Handa, AIR 1971 Punj & Har 177, laid down that educational institutions like the Universities have to be left to themselves in the matter of enforcing discipline, and unless a patentcase of violation of principles of natural justice or contravention of some statutory provision is made out, the Court should be loath to interfere with the orders of educational authorities punishing students for their serious defaults.

8. Triambak Pati Tripathi v. The Board of High School & Intermediate Education, U. P., AIR 1973 All 1 (FB), was also a case of use of unfair means by an examinee. In the light of the observations made by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Bagleshwar Prasad's case a Full Bench of the said Court held that it is open to the authority dealing with such a case to evolve its own procedure for acquainting the examinee with the charges and the material on the basis of which they are founded, and also for affording him an opportunity of screening those charges and putting forward his case. The authority has to observe the principles of natural justice in quasi-judi-cial manner. As to the power of interference of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, the learned Judges expressed the view that in dealing with the validity of the orders passed by the authorities the High Court does not sit in appeal over the decisions of the authorities. If the order in question is not supported by any evidence at all, the High Court may quash it.

9. Learned counsel for the parties cited at the Bar rulings relating to industrial disputes and cases of Government servants. I do not consider it necessary to deal with them because the authorities referred to above have clearly settled the law on the subject referred to this Bench.

10. Adverting to the merits of the present case, Regulation 11 of Ordinance 28 of the Calendar of the University provided that the Academic Council of the University shall appoint annually the Standing Committee to deal with cases of misconduct and use of unfair means in connection with the examinations, and if the Committee is unanimous, its decision shall be final except as given in the proviso, which, it may be clarified, has no application to the facts of the present case. It deserves mention at the outset that Vinod Kumar did not attribute mala fides to any of the four members of the Committee. Nor was it urged before us that the Committee violated any prescribed procedure. Thus the Committee, like any domestic tribunal, was free to evolve its own procedure, the only condition being that the principles of natural justice were applied.

11. Having regard to the limited scope of interference under Article 226 of the Constitution with the decision of the Committee, the question for determination is whether the case in hand is of no evidence at all. For arriving at the correct conclusion the Court is required to examine the whole case as considered and decided by the Committee. Even in so doing, the Court has not to sit in appeal over the impugned decision (Annexure P-11). A perusal thereof and of the proceedings shows that there were certain reports against Vinod Kumar alleging resort to unfair means in the examination by smuggling in supplementary answer-books (also described as continuation sheets) and attaching them to the original answer-book. Particular reference was to the answer-book of English Paper 'A'. A notice (Annexure P-l) was sent to Vinod Kumar. He was required to submit his explanation and to appear before the Committee on 27th June, 1975, Vinod Kumar did appear before the Committee. He was questioned with regard to the material against him. His explanation was given due consideration. Independently the Committee looked into the answer-book of Vinod Kumar. Finally the impugned decision was given.

12. The material upon which the Committee acted was the main answer-book of Vinod Kumar, to which were attached supplementary answer-books (continuation sheets) by Vinod Kumar. The whole of the main answer-book was written with the same pen and ink. Its last page was left blank, which is not normally done. Then the supplementary answer-books were found to have been written with different pen and different ink. Not only that, upon a comparison of the main answer-book with the supplementary answer-books, the Committee formed an opinion that the latter were written in spare or leisure time.

13. Annexure P-8 is the statement of Vinod Kumar recorded by the Committee on 27th June, 1975. When questioned Vinod Kumar stated that the supplementary answer-books were in his handwriting. With regard to the use of different pen and ink, Vinod Kumar explained that he had two pens and one ink-pot. As the ink of the first pen finished, he started using the other pen. In view of the fact that this happened lust when the main answer-book, but for the last page, had been written, it appears that the Committee did not accept his explanation. For its satisfaction the Committee fur-ther questioned Vinod Kumar. His reply that he could write 15 pages in an hour and that he took nearly 1 1/2 hours to write the answers of questions 5 and 9 in the supplementary answer-books was recorded. The Committee is presumed to have taken into account the fact that the main answer-books comprised of 24 pages whereas the supplementary answer-books were of 8 pages each. Vinod Kumar solved three questions in the main answer-book approximately in one and a half hours. As is his own stand, he took the rest of 1 1/2 hours in answering the other two questions in the supplementary answer-books. It appears that the Committee was not quite satisfied with this explanation of Vinod Kumar.

14. Another test applied by the Committee was that Vinod Kumar was asked to write any portion of the answers given by him but he replied, 'No. I had mugged all these answers which I do not remember now.' When asked if he remembered any of the quotations used in his answers, Vinod Kumar replied in the negative. These questions were obviously put to know whether Vinod Kumar was in reality the author of the answer-books.

15. Before proceeding further it deserves particular mention that this Court has before it the record of proceedings conducted by the Committee and other relevant material. All the same, the big handicap in deciding this writ petition is that the Court has absolutely no means to know the demeanour of Vinod Kumar and the impression created by it on the minds of the members of the Committee. In the case in hand there is still an indication that in his zeal to defend himself, Vinod Kumar could not conceal his guilty conscience. In reply to notice Annexure P-l, Vinod Kumar on 25th June, 1975, wrote Annexure P-2 to the University denying the charge against him. On the 26th he made application Annexure P-3 requesting the University for inspection of record. The file of the case was actually shown to him when he appeared before the Committee on 27th June, 1975. Vinod Kumar had taken along with him written application Annexure P-9, which he placed before the Committee. In Annexure P-9 Vinod Kumar had requested for an opportunity to lead evidence, including that of a handwriting expert, to prove that the supplementary answer-books (continuation sheets) were in his hand-writing. In Annexure P-9 Vinod Kumar wrote:--

'Today I was shown the relevant papers of the file and I have noticed that continuation sheet No. (1) is in my handwriting.'

Having regard to the fact that the file was actually shown to Vinod Kumar when he appeared before the Committee and also the fact that in notice Annexure P-1 there was no mention of any continuation sheet, the Committee asked Vinod Kumar to explain what made him write the lines quoted above in Annexure P-9. Vinod Kumar replied that on receipt of Annexure P-l he thought that he had used another ink also and because of the difference in ink suspicion might have arisen against him. He was again asked specifically but the reply given by him was wholly unsatisfactory.

16. Another important circumstance is that the supplementary questions were put to Vinod Kumar in English but he chose to write their answers in Hindi. In his representation (Annexure P-2) Vinod Kumar stated that he got First Division in B. A. Part I but lost the First Division by two marks in B. A. Part II. Learned counsel for the University contended that this tall claim of Vinod Kumar, which was pressed before the learned Single Judge also, was not evidently acceptable to the Committee. The learned counsel also invited our attention to the following unrebutted averment made by the Registrar in his writtenstatement:--

'.....

the petitioner failed in his MatriculationExamination once and passed the sameas a private candidate at the age ofnineteen in 1971 obtaining a mere 3rdDivision. In Pre-University Examinationalso he secured very poor marks and passed the same in Third Division. He mighthave done, well in B. A. Part I and IIwhich again is a case of suspicion that hemight have resorted to unfair means eventhen.....'

17. For the foregoing reasons it is evident that the impugned decision of the Committee was based on the cumulative effect of the circumstances discussed above.

18. Learned counsel for Vinod Kumar vehemently urged that there was not an iota of evidence to show that he left the examination hall at any time during the course of the examination. It was also emphasised that the supplementary answer-books (continuation sheets) bore the Seal and signatures of the Controllerof Examinations, indicating that Vinod Kumar got them from the staff supervising the examination. The argument ignored the fact that it was a case not of direct but circumstantial evidence and the Committee considered the circumstances in the light of probabilities.

19. The impugned decision was then assailed on the ground that in the main answer-book Vinod Kumar solved three questions and secured 7 marks out of 10 each. In the supplementary answer-books two questions were solved, the marks awarded to him were 5 1/2 and 7 out of 10 respectively. If it were a case of use of unfair means, urged the learned counsel, Vinod Kumar should have secured higher marks in the two questions answered by him in the supplementary answer-books. The plausibility of the argument could be appreciated only if this Court were to sit in appeal over the decision of the Committee.

20. Why the answers in the supplementary answer-books were written leisurely was sought to be explained by the common knowledge that every student begins to attempt the questions to which he is able to give best answers first. Having attempted the three questions in the main answer-book, Vinod Kumar had almost li hours left to answer the remaining two questions in the supplementary answer-books. In the first place, this argument too could have received consideration if this Court were to act as a Court of appeal. In the second place, the four members of the Committee, who are academicians, were the best judges of the behaviour of the examinee in answering the questions. This contention, therefore, too is not tenable.

21. As regards the inability of Vinod Kumar to reproduce or repeat part of the answers given by him or the quotations contained therein, his learned counsel contended that the Committee put the question in a very casual manner, in that Vinod Kumar was not specifically asked to repeat the answer to any particular question either in the main or the supplementary answer-books. This argument too does not appear tenable because the trend of the questions put to Vinod Kumar indicated that the members of the Committee had the supplementary answer-books in mind (vide Annexure P-8). In any case it was open to Vinod Kumar to reproduce anything from the main answer-book but he did not choose to do so.

22. With respect to the spelling mistakes of 'scene' and 'philosophy' committed by Vinod Kumar before theCommittee, his learned counsel argued that in the main answer-book he had spelt them correctly. Be that as it may, the fact remains that Vinod Kumar did commit the mistakes and the Committee was fully justified in taking into account this circumstance.

23. It was next contended by learned counsel for Vinod Kumar that in the impugned decision (Annexure P-11) the Committee did not record a finding that he was guilty of smuggling in the supplementary answer-books, therefore, the punishment awarded to him was not warranted. The criticism is not acceptable, for, in the notice (Annexure P-1) served on Vinod Kumar it was alleged that he had resorted to the use of unfair means and misconduct in the manner given below :--

'Making deliberate previous arrangement to cheat in the examination by smuggling in another answer-book.'

A perusal of Annexure P-8 leaves no room for doubt that in the questions put to Vinod Kumar the Committee focussed his attention to the supplementary answer-books (continuation sheets). The fact that Vinod Kumar himself knew full well that the accusation against him was of smuggling in the supplementary answer-books is further evident from the contents of his application (Annexure P-9) which he had written prior to his appearance before the Committee. In these circumstances the mere fact that in the impugned decision the Committee concluded that Vinod Kumar was guilty of resorting to use of unfair means, without repeating the abovesaid mode thereof, cannot be of any consequence. Above all in Bagle-shwar Prasad's case their Lordships of the Supreme Court referring to the various matters, observed in paragraph 11 at page 878 that the fact that the Inquiry Committee did not write an elaborate report, did not mean that it did not consider all the relevant facts before it came to the conclusion that the respondent had used unfair means.

24. Sukhbinder Singh v. Punjab University, (1969) 71 Pun LR 296, was pressed into service on behalf of Vinod Kumar, but that was a case of the use of unfair means in which the learned Single Judge quashed the order of the Standing Committee of the University on the ground that the candidate was not given an opportunity to explain that he hadcopied his answer to a particular question from somewhere. The ruling is, therefore, distinguishable.

25. The impugned decision (An-nexure P-11) of the Committee was next assailed on the ground that it could only be sustained if it was proved that Vinod Kumar used unfair means 'during the examination hours'. On the other hand, learned counsel for the University pointed out that this argument rested on Ordinance III (3) in Volume II of the University Calendar of 1976. In the 1976 Calendar the various kinds of unfair means were remodelled and consolidated. In the scheme the words 'during the examination hours' were incorporated. Since the present case related to the examination held in April, 1975, therefore, the Calendar (Volume I) of 1970 of the University was applicable. Ordinance XXVIII therein dealt with the various kinds of unfair means, one of them defined by Clause 5 (a) read:

'A candidate, found guilty of deliberate previous arrangment to cheat in the examination, such as smuggling in another answer-book or taking out or arranging to send out an answer-book, or impersonation, shall be disqualified for three years.'

This argument is thus of no avail to Vinod Kumar.

26. In the result this being not a case of no evidence at all, I would accept the appeal, set aside the judgment of the learned Single Judge and dismiss the writ petition. No order as to costs.

Prem Chand Jain, J.

27. I agree.

Ajit Singh Bains, J.

28. I also agree.


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