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Miss Vimla Chaudhari Vs. the Punjab University, Chandigarh - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ No. 2629 of 1967
Judge
Reported inAIR1968P& H555
ActsConstitution of India - Article 226
AppellantMiss Vimla Chaudhari
RespondentThe Punjab University, Chandigarh
Appellant Advocate Rajinder Sachar, Adv.
Respondent Advocate A.S. Sarhadi, Senior Adv. and; N.S. Bhatia, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredSham Sunder v. Punjab University
Excerpt:
.....well established. ghanshyam das gupta, air 1962 sc 1110, that an administrative body like an examination committee while performing its quasi-judicial duties can prescribe its own procedure so long as the principles of natural justice are followed and adequate opportunity of presenting his case is given to the examinee. so far as i am aware, it has never been held that in the absence of any statutory rules and regulations to that effect, enquiry proceedings by an examination committee of a university or a board of education must be held like a trial in a criminal court. whether it is necessary in a given case to allow the request of a candidate for calling the witnesses whose statements are relied upon against him for cross-examination would depend on the facts and circumstances of..........of papers found on the person of or in possession of a candidate in the examination hall during a university examination is not punishable under regulation 13(b) (supra); and (2) the non-production of the supervisor and of the superintendent of the examination centre by the university before its standing committee has in the circumstances of this case resulted in the breach of principles of natural justice. 2. the university's version of what happened at the d. a. v. college, abohar. centre no. 1, in the morning session of april 21 1967 where the petitioner was taking the examination in question is contained in annexure 'r-1' wherein the statements of the supervisor, the deputy superintendent and the superintendent of the centre recorded in the examination hall on the date of.....
Judgment:
ORDER

R.S. Narula, J.

1. The order of the respondent-University dated August 16, 1967 (Annexure 'R-8') published in the supplementary notification of the University, dated September 6, 1967 (Annexure 'A-I') disqualifying Miss Vimal Chaudhary petitioner for a period of two years, i.e. 1967 and 1968 (four sessions) under regulation 13 (b) of Part 'D' of the Punjab University Calendar 1066 (Volume I), page 106, for using unfair means at the Three Year Degree Course Part III examination in Sanskrit paper on April 21, 1967, has been called in question in this petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution on two grounds, namely:

(1) Mere swallowing of papers found on the person of or in possession of a candidate in the examination hall during a University examination is not punishable under regulation 13(b) (supra); and

(2) The non-production of the Supervisor and of the Superintendent of the Examination Centre by the University before its Standing Committee has in the circumstances of this case resulted in the breach of principles of natural justice.

2. The University's version of what happened at the D. A. V. College, Abohar. Centre No. 1, in the morning session of April 21 1967 where the petitioner was taking the examination in question is contained in Annexure 'R-1' wherein the statements of the Supervisor, the Deputy Superintendent and the Superintendent of the Centre recorded in the examination hall on the date of occurrence have been reproduced verbatim. The statement of Pushpa Suneja, Supervisor, is that while she was working as such in the room in which the petitioner was taking her examination, she found the petitioner 'in possession of two printed papers in English script possibly translation of Sanskrit. These papers were hidden in her hanky ............

I smelled something wrong and went near her. As I approached near her, she swallowed these papers. In spite of my best efforts I could not recover these papers. Then I reported the matter to the Superintendent. The candidates were searched and warned before (they) entered ...........' Below that isthe statement of the Deputy Superintendent to the effect that the petitioner 'was detected as a case of unfair means by Pushpa Suneja, in charge supervisor (and) was immediately reported to the Superintendent by the Supervisor. The Deputy Superintendent has further written that she was a witness to the case and that the candidates had been searched before entering the hall.

3. Then follows the report of the Superintendent of the Centre. She first referred to the report of the Supervisor and then observed:

'Apparently she (the petitioner) had brought the paper for copying purposes. As far as I understand after talks with the concerned Supervisor, it was brought for translation piece set in the paper.

XXX XXX The candidate refused to give her statement even in spite of repeated persuasionon our part. Hence it is a clear case ofunfair means although she did not copy.Apparently, her intention was to copy.'

The report culminates with the followingpassage:

'The candidate refused to give her statement even in spite of repeated persuasion on the part of the Supervisor Bibi Pushpa Suneja and myself. She was handed the new answer book. After the termination of the examination, she was again requested to give her statement but in vain.'

4. Because of the abovesaid report of the Superintendent of her examination Centre, the result of the petitioner was withheld. In pursuance of a notice sent to her, the petitioner appeared in the University on June 8 1967, when she was shown all the relevant records including the abovesaid statements and report of the supervisory staff, and was given a questionnaire for answering the same No copy of the questionnaire and answers of the petitioner has been filed in this case by either side. The original questionnaire in English and the replies of the petitioner in Hindi were, however, read out to me. The crux of the replies given by the petitioner was:--

(i) that in fact no papers had been found on her and the whole story had been concocted by Supervisor Pushpa Suneja due to some previous enmity:

(ii) that the alleged papers in English could not be of any use to her in Sanskrit examination as her medium of instruction for Sanskrit was Hindi and not English;

(iii) that she would like to call and examine the Supervisor and Superintendent of the examination Centre as witnesses; and

(iv) that she would like to appeal in person before the Standing Committee,

5. The petitioner was duly informed of the date of hearing before the Standing Committee. She did not at that stage request for the assistance of the University in calling any witnesses. She herself appeared before the Standing Committee consisting of Shri G. L Chopra (a retired Judge of this Court), Shri Narinder Singh (a retired I. A. S. Officer, who was till late Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission), and Shri Sujan Singh, Registrar of the respondent-University. They gave her an opportunity of saying what she liked.

She made a detailed statement (copy Annexure 'R-2') denying the allegations against her and added that 'Pushpa Suneja was the Supervisor that day. My relations with her were strained for some time, She was a student of D. A. V. College, Abohar, and was reading in the final or second year class. I was then a student of the same College in the first year. Above a year before, I had a quarrel with her. The Superintendent made a case against me at the instance of Pushpa Suneja. I was not feeling well when I was taking the examination. I had an attack of cholera a few days earlier. I produce two medical certificates and endorsement by the Principal on one of them. I do not want to say anything more.'

Though she repeated almost everything that she had stated in reply to questionnaire, she did not at that time repeat the request for any witness being called As she stated that she did not want to say anything more, the enquiry proceedings were concluded on August 16, 1967, and the impugned order (Annexure 'R-3') was passed by the Standing Committee on the same day. After referring to the rival versions about the actual incident, the Standing Committee laid emphasis on the fact that 'the candidate refused to give any statement at examination Centre' and then proceeded to observe that mere denial of the charges by the candidate at the time of her statement in the University office on June 8, 1967, and then before the Standing Committee, did not in any way help her in getting herself absolved of the charges. Her plea about her having suffered from cholera a few days before the occurrence and her claim that she could not possibly have swallowed the incriminating papers on that account was brushed aside by the Standing Committee as unsound.

After examinine the case from all aspects, the Committee found 'no hesitation in coming to a unanimous conclusion that the candidate was in possesion of incriminating helpful material duringthe T. D. C., Part II examination (should be Part III examination) in the subject of Sanskrit paper on April 21, 1967.' The Standing Committee then recorded the finding to the effect that the petitioner had swallowed those papers and thus destroyed the material evidence against her. On that basis she was held to be guilty under regulation 13(b) referred to above and was disqualified for a period of two years as already stated.

6. I find no logic in Mr. Sachar's way of interpreting regulation 13(b) which is quoted below for facility of reference:--

'If an answer-book shows, or it is otherwise proved, that the candidate has received help from or given help to another candidate or if he is found copying or to have copied from any paper, book, or note, or to have allowed any other candidate to copy from his answer-book or to have taken the examination with notes written on any part of his clothing or body of table or desk or instruments (allowed in the Engineering examination) like set-squares, protractors, slide rules, etc., or is guilty of swallowine or of destroying any note or paper found on him, or of consulting notes or books, while outside the examination hall during examination hours before he has handed over his answer book, he shall be disqualified from appearing in any University Examination for two years, including that in which he is found guilty if he is a candidate for an examination held once a year, or for four examinations, including that in which he is found guilty, if he is a candidate for an examination held twice a year.'

The regulation has been succinctly analysed by Pandit, J. while preparing the Full Bench judgment of this Court in Krishan Kumar Malhotra v. Punjab University, (1967) 69 Pun LR 871 = (AIR 1968 Punj 14 FB). It was held in that case that regulation 13(b) provides for three main contingencies, namely: --

(i) If the answer-book shows - - - -

(ii) or if the candidate is found - - -

(iii) or if he is guilty (a) of swallowing or of destroying any note or paper found on him or (b) of consulting notes - - -

In the face of the abovesaid authoritative pronouncement of the Full Bench, it is wholly futile for the petitioner to contend that mere swallowing or destroying of any note or paper found on a candidate is not covered by regulation I3(b) and that the necessary ingredient of guilt under that regulation is that the note or paper in question must be proved to have contained material relevant for answering the question paper of the day. For obviously good, sound and logical reasons, the mere swallowing or destroying of any note or paper found on a candidate during his examination has been made punishable by regulation 13(b). If this were not so, a candidate in possession of incriminating material would always exonerate himself of any possible liability for use of unfair means by merely succeeding to destroy the incriminating paper either by swallowing it or in any other manner.

Once the paper is destroyed, no possible evidence can normally be forthcoming to show as to what it contained. The necessity of some deliberate, conscious, and overt act for constituting an offence under regulation 13(b) referred to in the judgment of the Full Bench can possibly lead to a moot Point in some of the other contingencies referred to in that regulation; but so far as the swallowing or destroying of any note or paper found on a candidate is concerned, the proof of that particular fact itself automatically envisages a deliberate and conscious overt act on the part of the candidate.

I have not been able to imagine a case where a candidate would swallow a paper found in his possession during an examination otherwise than deliberately or otherwise than by an overt act. I do not think Mr. Sachar can derive any strength in support of his proposition from certain observations made by me in my judgment, D/- 1-12-1966, in Som Nath Kataria v. Vice-Chancellor of the Punjab University, Civil Writ 680 of 1966 (Punj), on which counsel relied, as the expression 'relating to the subject of the examination' which was being interpreted in that judgment was the one that occurs in Clause (a) of regulation 12, and it was in that view of the matter that I held that Som Nath Kataria could not be punished under Regulation 12(c) proceedings in the absence of a finding to the effect that the paper could be of some possible assistance to him in the examination which he was taking at the relevant time. No such expression occurs in the relevant part of Regulation 13(h).

There is, therefore, no force at all in the first contention of Mr. Sachar which fails.

7. On the second question the learned counsel for the petitioner placed reliance on the following cases :--

(i) Ram Chander v. Punjab University, (1963) 65 Pun LR 632=(AIR 1963 Punj 480);

(ii) Jai Narain v. Vice-Chancellor, Punjab University, (1966) 68 Pun LR (SN) 19;

(iii) Chuni Lal v. State. (1966) 68 Pun LR (SN) 60;

(iv) Suresh Kumar v. Punjab University, (1965) 67 Pun LR 693=(AIR 1966 Punj 152); and

(v) University of Ceylon v. Fernando. (1960) 1 All ER 631 (PC);

and argued that the proceedings for punishment of a candidate for the alleged use of unfair means being quasi-judicial in nature, any order passed therein must be set aside, if it is shown that the enquiry resulting in the impugned order was not conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

There is no quarrel with this proposition and it is indeed well established. Each case, however, depends on its own facts. It has been held by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Board of High School and Intermediate Education, U.P., Allahabad v. Ghanshyam Das Gupta, AIR 1962 SC 1110, that an administrative body like an Examination Committee while performing its quasi-judicial duties can prescribe its own procedure so long as the principles of natural justice are followed and adequate opportunity of presenting his case is given to the examinee. So far as I am aware, it has never been held that in the absence of any statutory rules and regulations to that effect, enquiry proceedings by an Examination Committee of a University or a Board of Education must be held like a trial in a criminal Court. Nor am I prepared to hold that in order to satisfy the principles of natural justice, it is always necessary for a quasi-judicial Tribunal to orally examine witnesses whose statements in writing are available before it. Whether it is necessary in a given case to allow the request of a candidate for calling the witnesses whose statements are relied upon against him for cross-examination would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and the exercise of judicial discretion by the punishing authority in accordance with the well-known principles of natural justice. The observations of their Lordships of the Privy Council in (1960) 1 All ER 631 (supra), on which Mr. Sachar relied, were these :--

'It remains to consider whether, in the course they (the punishing authority) took, the interviews must be held to have fallen short of the requirements of natural justice on the ground that the plaintiff was given no opportunity of questioning Miss Balasingham. She was the one essential witness against the plaintiff and the charge in the end resolved itself into a matter of her word against his, In their Lordships' view, this might have been a more formidable objection if the plaintiff had asked to be allowed to question Miss Balasingham and his request had been refused. But he never made any such request, although he had ample time to consider his position in the period of ten days or so between the two interviews. There is no ground for supposing that, if the plaintiff had made such a request, it would not have been granted.'

The appeal of the University of Ceylon against the judgment of the Supreme Court of Ceylon (reversing a decree of the District Court of Colombo by which a claim by Fernando for a declaration that the Ceylon University had wrongfully suspended him for all examinations for an indefinite period, was dismissed) was allowed by the Privy Council on the basis of the above quoted observations in so far as violation of principles of natural justice had been found by the Supreme Court of Ceylon on the ground of Fernando not having been allowed an opportunity to question Miss Balasingham.

In the case before me, it has been categorically stated in the return of the University that it is totally incorrect that the petitioner mentioned anything about her alleged enmity with Pushpa Suneja Supervisor on the day on which she was detected using the alleged unfair means. In fact it is admitted by the petitioner that she did not come out with any such version on that day. It is also not disputed on behalf of the petitioner that the report of the Superintendent of the Centre is correct to the effect that the petitioner consistently refused to make any statement in spite of having been persuaded to do so by the Supervisor and the Superintendent on the eventful day. Though I am not sitting in appeal over the decision of the respondent-University on merits, and my personal view of the inference raised by the Standing Committee being correct or incorrect on the material which was before that Committee is wholly irrelevant, I must observe that if the petitioner had really done nothing at all and the complaint of Miss Pushpa Suneja was a mere cock and bull story, the petitioner would have immediately reacted strongly to the allegation made against her in the examination hall and would not have hesitated for a moment from telling the Superintendent either at that very time or later in the day that she was being falsely implicated by the Supervisor on account of her previous enmity.

It is also significant that if Miss Pushpa Suneja had thought of falsely implicating the petitioner without her having really had any papers with her, Miss Suneja might as well have accused the petitioner of having some Hindi or Sanskrit writing with her and would not have falsely alleged that she had papers on which typed or printed material was in the English script when Miss Suneja knew fully well that the petitioner was taking her Sanskrit examination in which Hindi or Sanskrit writings would in any case be relevant and English writing may or may not be. Be that as it may, the reason for not calling the Supervisor and the Superintendent at the hearing of the case against the petitioner by the Standing Committee ascribed in the return of theUniversity is that (paragraph 8 of the return) 'she never asked the Standing Committee for the presence of the Superintendent or Deputy Superintendent for cross-examining them' Reference has been made by the University to the statement of the petitioner given before the Standing Committee (Annexure 'R-2') and I have already reproduced its relevant contents. The statement of the petitioner at the end of that deposition to the effect that she did not want to say anything more is wholly inconsistent with the complaint which she has now tried to make out in the writ petition to the effect that she should have been allowed to question the Supervisor and the Superintendent.

The law laid down by a Division Bench of this Court (Capoor and Dua, JJ.) in Charanjit Singh v. Punjab University, Chandigarh, (1965) 67 Pun LR 518, to the effect that a candidate who had not asked for an opportunity to lead particular evidence in his defence cannot be allowed to challenge the order passed against him on the ground that he had not been afforded adequate opportunity to lead evidence is applicable to this case. The University has stated and I agree with the same that the petitioner had been given full and ample opportunity to explain the charges against her I have already held in Mohinder Lal Jain v. Vice-Chancellor, Punjab University (1966) 68 Pun LR 735, a case to which reference was made by Mr. Ajit Singh Sarhadi, the learned counsel for the University that the merits of the enquiry and its result in such cases areentirely and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the University authorities and that their decision based on relevant material and not motivated by any animus or mala fide has to be treated by the High Court as final subject to only one exception and that is where it is proved that the enquiry has not been conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice. It has been repeatedly held that the High Court cannot sit in appeal over the decision of the University authorities on merits and howsoever much the High Court may be inclined to feel in a particular case that if it was holding the enquiry, it would not have held a candidate guilty of unfair means on the material on which the University so held, the High Court is not expected to interfere in the finding of the University merely on that ground in writ proceedings. As to what are the relevant requirements of the principles of natural justice the matter has been already dealt with in detail in the judgment of Grover, J. in Sham Sunder v. Punjab University etc., 1963 Cur LJ 537 (Punj). After carefully considering the case from all its aspects, I am satisfied that the opportunity allowed by the University to the petitioner in this case was fair and adequate and the enquiry against her was conducted strictly in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

8. No other point having been arguedin this case, the writ petition falls andis dismissed with costs.


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