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Murti Devi Vs. Punjab University, Through the Registrar, Punjab University, Chandigarh - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ No. 2232 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1968P& H432
ActsConstitution of India - Article 226
AppellantMurti Devi
RespondentPunjab University, Through the Registrar, Punjab University, Chandigarh
Appellant Advocate R.S. Amol, Adv.
Respondent Advocate D.S. Nehra, Adv. for Adv. General
DispositionPetition allowed
Cases ReferredMasya Devi v. Punjab University
Excerpt:
.....suggest that show-cause notice to the candidate concerned must also necessarily be given by the standing committee appointed by the syndicate of the university in which the executive government of the university vests' 8. after referring to the observations of their lordships in the case of baghleshwar prasad 1963 all lj 676 =(air 1966 sc 875) (supra), that it is not reasonable to import into enquiries like the present all considerations which govern criminal trials in ordinary courts of law, the learned judge (dua, j. --the legal position seems to me to be clear that failure to examine the witnesses itself does not necessarily invalidate its proceedings or vitiate its conclusions. there is no doubt that one of the cardinal rules of natural justice is that a person, against whom an..........entire material, including the reply of the petitioner to the questionnaire, was submitted to the standing committee dealing with the cases of use of unfair means. the registrar and other two members of the standing committee, on due consideration of the matter, came to the unanimous conclusion that the charge against the petitioner was established, and, 'in accordance with regulation 13 (b), she was disqualified from appearing in any university examination for 2 years, including that in which she was found to have used unfair means. this decision of the university was communicated to the petitions by the letter (annexure 'c'), dated september 27, 1966, and she was informed that she was disqualified from appearing in any university examination for four sessions during the years 1906,.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Gurdev Singh, J.

1. This is a petition under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution by Kumari Murti Devi for quashing the order of the Punjab University, dated 27th September, 1966, whereby she has been disqualified and debarred from appearing in any University examination for four sessions of the years 1966 to 1967.

2. The petitioner appeared in the Punjab University Matriculation Examination held in March, 1966, as a regular student from the Government High School, Lehra Gaga, district Sangrur. Her roll number was 221038. After her examination was over, on 14th April, 1966 a complaint regarding use of unfair means by some examinees, including the petitioner, at the Lehra Gaga centre was received by the University. Thereupon the answer books of the various examinees, including those of the petitioner, were scrutinized and the opinion of the Head Examiner in English paper, Shri Jagdish Chander, and an expert in the subject, Dr. Mrs. Nirmal Mukerji, Reader, Punjab University was obtained. Both these educationists reported that the petitioner had used unfair means in re-attempting question No. 3, as her first attempt was very poor while the second one was found to be 'brilliant, almost faultless'. Similar was the position with regard to the petitioner's answers to Parts (b) and (c) of question No. 5. Thereupon, the Assistant Registrar, Punjab University, served the notice, dated 2nd June 1966 (Annexure 'B' to the petition), informing her that a complaint of using unfair means had been received against her and requiring her to appear before him on 30th June, 1966 for an enquiry in that connection.

3. When the petitioner appeared before the Assistant Registrar in response to this notice, she was given a questionnaire to which she was asked to reply. The petitioner gave written answers to the questionnaire. She denied the accusation and stated that she never used any unfair means while appearing in the Matriculation Examination in 1966. According to the return filed by the Registrar of the Punjab University the entire relevant material and the record prejudicial to her, including the complaint and the reports of the Head Examiner and the Expert, were shown to the petitioner at that time, and she was asked to explain her position. Later, the entire material, including the reply of the petitioner to the questionnaire, was submitted to the Standing Committee dealing with the cases of use of unfair means. The Registrar and other two members of the Standing Committee, on due consideration of the matter, came to the unanimous conclusion that the charge against the petitioner was established, and, 'in accordance with Regulation 13 (b), she was disqualified from appearing in any University examination for 2 years, including that in which she was found to have used unfair means. This decision of the University was communicated to the petitions by the letter (Annexure 'C'), dated September 27, 1966, and she was informed that she was disqualified from appearing in any University examination for four sessions during the years 1906, 1967.

4. The petitioner has now approached this Court for quashing this order by a writ of certiorari and also for a writ of mandamus commanding the University to declare the petitioner's result of the Matriculation Examination in which she appeared in March, 1966. In attacking the impugned order, it is urged:--

(1) that no enquiry into the petitioner's alleged misconduct was held by the Standing Committee which alone is competent to decide a case of use of unfair means, and the enquiry conducted by the Assistant Registrar being without jurisdiction, could not form the basis of the order disqualifying the petitioner;

(2) that the enqiury conducted against the petitioner was in violation of the principles of natural justice inasmuch as

(i) the Standing Committee, which is the only authority to deal with such matters, never heard the petitioner, nor afforded any opportunity to explain her case to it,

(ii) no adequate opportunity was given to her by the Assistant Registrar to reply to the allegations of the use of unfair means made against her.

(iii) the material on which the impugned order is based was collected behind the petitioner's back and she was not afforded an opportunity to cross-examine the Head Examiner and the Expert whose opinion was used against her, and

(iv) the refusal of the University to supply her with copies of the relevant documents and reports prevented the petitioner from making an effective reply to the allegations against her;

(3) that Regulation 13 (b), under which the impugned order purports to have been passed by the Standing Committee, does not entitle the University to cancel the petitioner's result, not can the petitioner be disqualified from passing the examination as the only punishment provided therein is disqualification from appearing in an examination to be held in future and

(4) that the order disqualifying the petitions was never passed by the Syndicate, and in the absence of any such decision by that authority cancelling the petitioner's result and disqualifying her, the petitioner's result of her Matric Examination held in March 1966 could not be withheld and had to be declared,

5. In the return filed by the Registrar of the Punjab University, it is admitted that the enquiry was conducted by the Assistant Registrar, Punjab University, who served the notice (Annexure 'B') on the petitioner and had asked her to reply to the questionnaire when she appeared before him on 30th June 1966. It is, however, asserted that this enquiry was fully consistent with the rules of natural justice, full opportunity was given to the petitioner to reply to the allegations made against her, and that the entire material available against her, including the reports of the Head Examiner and the Expert, was placed before her to enable her to explain her position. It is not denied that when the record of the proceedings taken by the Assistant Registrar, along with the reports of the Head Examiner and the Expert, were sent to the Standing Committee no further opportunity of personal hearing was afforded to the petitioner and the Standing Committee did not have the benefit of hearing her. It is, however, asserted that the petitioner having never asked for any further personal hearing or an opportunity to examine evidence to disprove the allegation against her, cannot now complain that she did not have adequate opportunity to rebut the allegations made against her. It is further maintained by the respondents that the decision of the Standing Committee disqualifying the petitioner is based upon ample evidence and was made on the consideration of the entire material that had been brought to the petitioner's notice when she appeared before the Assistant Registrar on 30th June 1966.

The petitioners complaint that she was not supplied with copies of all the relevant documents has not been denied, but the conduct of the University in refusing to supply the relevant copies is defended on the plea that there is no provision in the University Regulations for issuing such copies and that the petitioner had been afforded ample opportunity for inspection of documents with liberty to prepare her own copies thereof, except the office-noting portion of the file which is not open to inspection. It is not disputed that the decision to disqualify the petitioner was not taken by the Syndicate but by the Standing Committee The respondents plea, however, is that the Standing Committee appointed by the Syndicate under Regulation 21 of the Punjab University Calendar. Volume I was fully competent to deal with such matters and no order or decision of the Syndicate was required.

6. In view of the Regulation under which the Standing Committee was appointed to deal with the cases of use of unfair means by examinees, the petitioner's learned counsel has not pressed his objection regarding the competency of the Standing Committee to make the impugned order and its authority to withhold the result of the examination at which the petitioner is alleged to have used unfair means.

7. The objection to the authority of the Assistant Registrar to conduct the enquiry and the requisites of a valid enquiry in such cases came for consideration before a Division Bench of this Court in Shri Bharat Indu v. Punjab University, Civil Writ No. 379 of 1966, D/-27-10-1986 (Punj). On a consideration of the various authorities, including the decisions of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Board of High School and Intermediate Examination, U. P. v. Ghanshyam Das Gupta, 64 Pun LR 575 = (AIR 1962 SC 1110) and Board of High School and Intermediate Education, U, P. v. Baghleshwar Prasad, 1963 All LJ 676 = (AIR 1966 SC 875), and the Full Bench decision of this Court in Ramesh Kapur v. Punjab University, 67 Pun LR 101 = (AIR 1965 Punj 120 FB), Dua, J., with whom Pandit, J., agreed, summed up the legal position in these words-

'Turning to the legal position, it is obvious that before the Full Bench in the case of Ramesh Kapur, 67 Pun LR 101 = (AIR 1965 Punj 120 FB), on behalf of the candidate it was not contended--and it was observed by the Court that the counsel could not contend--that oral hearing should necessarily have been given before the Standing Committee. It was further conceded there that only adequate opportunity of presenting his case is under the law to be given to the candidate concerned. On behalf of the University also, it was ultimately conceded --and the concession was described to be fair and proper--that if the candidate, after being informed of the charge or the allegation, made a request for the supply of any information relating to the material or evidence against him, the University authorities, in all fairness, would have supplied the requisite information. The answer given by the Full Bench to the question referred leaves each case to be determined on its own facts. It is no doubt true that the University authorities when dealing with cases of misconduct and use of unfair means in connection with examinations perform quasi-judicial functions. But Regulation 19 does not suggest that show-cause notice to the candidate concerned must also necessarily be given by the Standing Committee appointed by the Syndicate of the University in which the Executive Government of the University vests'

8. After referring to the observations of their Lordships in the case of Baghleshwar Prasad 1963 All LJ 676 = (AIR 1966 SC 875) (Supra), that it is not reasonable to import into enquiries like the present all considerations which govern criminal trials in ordinary Courts of law, the learned Judge (Dua, J.) said:--

'I am unable to hold that merely because notice to show cause did not emanate from the Standing Committee, it must be vitiated nullifying all the subsequent proceedings. Nothing has been urged to persuade me to hold that the giving of notice by the Standing Committee was essential and indispensable to justice'.

9. Dealing with the contention that the Standing Committee had no jurisdiction to delegate to the Assistant Registrar the function of examining the candidate and collecting evidence, the learned Judge, after pointing out that the analogy of trial in ordinary Courts ismisleading, said:--

'Looking at the matter in this background, n it be said that the appointment of the Assistant Registrar to collect the evidence is a delegation of the essential basic quasi-judicial duty which is violative of the recognised rules of natural justice vitiating and nullifying the final decision? In my view, merely getting the evidence collected by the Assistant Registrar by itself cannot per se be held to be without jurisdiction or so fundamentally infirm as to nullify or render void the subsequent proceedings'.

10. Dua, J., then considered the fact of the Standing Committee having never examined the person against whom the enquiry was being conducted and confronted him with the material available against him and said:--

'The legal position seems to me to be clear that failure to examine the witnesses itself does not necessarily invalidate its proceedings or vitiate its conclusions. The question really depends on the facts and circumstances of each case'.

Keeping these principles in view, his Lordship then examined the merits of Bharat Indu's case, Civil Writ 379 of 1966, D/-27-10-1906 (Punj), which had been referred to that Division Bench, and quashed the order of the University holding that the procedure adopted was violative of the essential rules of natural justice. The relevant observations of Dua, J., in this connection are as under:--

'It is the Assistant Registrar, as observed earlier, who virtually dealt with the whole case as if he had been appointed by the Syndicate to hold the enquiry. The Head Examiner and the University Expert never examined the candidate and the latter did not even care himself to confront the candidate with the answer-books and to satisfy himself by questioning the candidate for clearing his own doubts. The opinion expressed by the University Expert seems to me to be somewhat casual and careless. It is not even disclosed on the record before us as to what are his qualifications for being an Expert in the line in which he is represented to be one. Again it was the Assistant Registrar who questioned the candidate... On this material, the Registrar is shown to have expressed his opinion under the date 26-10-1965, though this opinion, as observed earlier, also bears the initials of two other officers, one of them presumably being the Assistant Registrar. The impression created on my mind by the record is that for all practical purposes the enquiry was held by the Assistant Registrar and the Registrar signed the typed report'.

These observations are fully applicable to the facts of the case in hand.

11. From the facts set out above and as found in the pleadings of the parties, it is abundantly clear that the material on the basis of which the petitioner has been disqualified was collected by the Assistant Registrar of the University, the enquiry into the complaint of use of unfair means against her was also conducted by the same official of the University, and it was before him that the petitioner was asked to appear, and had appeared, on being charged with the use of unfair means. It is also an undisputed fact that the material so collected by the Assistant Registrar along with the petitioner's reply to the questionnaire which was served upon her as she appeared before the Assistant Registrar on 30th June 1966, was submitted to the Standing Committee, and this Committee without affording a personal hearing to the petitioner or calling upon her to say anything further in her defence had come to the conclusion that the petitioner was guilty of using unfair means and disqualified her from appearing in subsequent examinations for four sessions.

12. It is true that according to the decisions of this Court and the observations made in the cases of Ramesh Kapur, 87 Pun LR 101 = (AIR 1965 Punj 120 FB), and Bharat Indu, Civil Writ No. 379 of 1966, D/-27-10-1966 (Punj), it is not necessary that the Standing Committee should itself have heard the witnesses and it could authorise the Assistant Registrar to collect evidence and to obtain the explanation of the petitioner. In this case the Assistant Registrar had not merely collected the evidence for consideration of the Standing Committee, which alone is competent to deal with the cases of unfair means by examinees, but he has conducted the entire enquiry into the alleged misconduct of the petitioner, and it is only the final order disqualifying the petitioner that has been passed by the Standing Committee. No rule or regulation has been brought to my notice authorising the Assistant Registrar to conduct the enquiry against the petitioner, and the extent of the powers delegated to him for the purpose of enquiry has not been disclosed by the respondents. There may be no objection to the Standing Committee collecting the relevant material through the Assistant Registrar, but that rule cannot be extended so as to permit the Standing Committee to abdicate its functions in favour of the Assistant Registrar. The principles that are to guide the Courts in such cases were laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in 64 Pun LR 575 = (AIR 1962 SC 1110), which were subsequently reiterated in 1963 All LJ 676 = (AIR 1966 SC 875). While emphasising that in petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution relating to these matters the High Court does not sit in appeal, their Lordships ruled that enquiries held by domestic tribunals must no doubt be fair, the students against whom charges are framed must be given adequate opportunity to defend themselves, and that in holding such enquiries the tribunals must scrupulously follow the rules of natural justice. It is common case of the parties that no procedure or rules governing such enquiries have been framed, and in the absence of any such rules the enquiry must be conducted in accordance with the rules of natural justice. There is no doubt that one of the cardinal rules of natural justice is that a person, against whom an enquiry is conducted, must be given adequate opportunity to defend himself and no person should be condemned unheard. In 67 Pun LR 101 = (AIR 1965 Punj 120 FB), Grover, J., delivering the judgment of the Full Bench, observed:--

'An examinee must be adequately informed of the case he has to meet and given a full opportunity of meeting it. As to what the extent and content of that information should be at ought to be would depend on the facts of each case.... the University authorities, in order to inform him adequately of the case he has to meet as also to afford him proper opportunity of presenting his case, would supply him the necessary particulars or details of the evidence. This situation may arise at any stage, i. e., at the time when information is given of the charge or the allegation or even at a later stage when the examinee has already furnished the explanation'.

13. Adverting to the facts of the case in hand, I find that in the notice calling upon the petitioner to appear before the Assistant Registrar on 30th June 1966, he was merely informed that a complaint had been received against her that she had used unfair meant while appearing in English Paper B of the Matriculation Examination held in March 1966. Neither the copy of the complaint nor the particulars of the allegations against her were communicated to the petitioner. It was only when she appeared before the Assistant Registrar that she was confronted with the allegation that she had received some outside help in re-attempting certain questions and was confronted with the reports of the Head Examiner and the Expert in the subject. Shri R.S. Amol, appearing for the petitioner, has contended that this was the only opportunity given to the petitioner to reply to the charge of use of unfair means and this opportunity was not adequate as the petitioner, who is a young simple girl appearing for Matriculation Examination, was taken by surprise and could hardly rebut the reports of the Head Examiner and the Expert with which she had been suddenly confronted and could do noting more than deny the allegations which she promptly did. He further urges that there was no material on which the Standing Committee could hold the petitioner guilty of using unfair means and the impugned order disqualifying her proceeds on mere suspicion. Shri R.S. Amol has strenuously contended that the fact of this case are similar to those in Bharat Indu's case, Civil Writ No. 379 of 1966, D/-27-10-1966 (Punj), and in Masya Devi v. Punjab University, Chandigarh, Civil Writ No. 2696 of 1965 (Punj), and, accordingly, the order passed in those cases accepting the writ petitions should govern this case as well. It is true that no two cases are alike on facts, but I find a good deal of force in the submission that applying the rules laid down in Bharat Indu's case, Civil Writ No. 379 of 1966, D/-27-10-1966 (Punj), the petition must, succeed. The entire enquiry was conducted by the Assistant Registrar whose, authority to deal with the matter has not been disclosed and the Standing Committee appears to have abdicated its functions of dealing with the petitioner's case. Though the petitioner was called upon by the Assistant Registrar to reply to the allegations against her and answer a questionnaire without proper notice of the precise charge which she had to meet she was not afforded adequate opportunity of rebutting the material which was sought to be used against her or of making proper defence. Apart from this, on reference to the relevant answer books and other material which Shri D.S. Nehra, appearing for the University, has placed before me, I find that there is no material on the basis of which any reasonable person with a quasi-judicial approach could have come to the conclusion at which the Standing Committee is stated to have arrived. The opinion of the Expert and the Head Examiner that the petitioner appears to have obtained outside help in re-attempting certain questions, is based solely on the fact that in the first attempt these questions were not properly or fully answered by the petitioner, while in the second attempt she gave correct answers. A comparison of the two answers to the relevant questions discloses that this view is not correct. I have no hesitation in holding that the impugned order o| the University authorities proceeds not on any cogent material but on mere suspicion. Such an order, obviously, cannot be sustained. It is true that in dealing with a case under Article 226 of the Constitution this Court does not sit in appeal and is not competent to review the evidence or the correctness of the findings arrived at by the Standing Committee, but, at the same time, it is well established that where there is no material on the basis of which any reasonable person with a quasi-judicial approach could have arrived at the impugned finding the Court will not hesitate to step in and to quash the order.

14. For the reasons recorded above, Ifind that the impugned order of the Universityauthorities cannot he sustained. It is, accordingly, quashed and the necessary writ will issue,In the circumstances of the case the parties areleft to their own costs.


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