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R.C. Thampan and ors. Vs. the Principal, Medical College, Calicut - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.P. No. 2740 etc. etc. of 1978
Reported inAIR1979Ker171
ActsCalicut University Act, 1968 - Sections 23; Calicut University Rules - Rule 3; Constitution of India - Article 226
AppellantR.C. Thampan and ors.
RespondentThe Principal, Medical College, Calicut
Appellant Advocate T.P.K. Nambiyar,; S.A. Nagendran,; V. Bhaskaran Nambiyar
Respondent Advocate K.P. Radhakrishna Menon and;Govt. Pleader
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredHira Nath v. Rajendra Medical College
constitution - ragging - section 23 of calicut university act, 1968, rule 3 of calicut university rules and article 226 of constitution of india - disciplinary action taken by managing committee of medical college against students of college for indulging in 'ragging' - by impugned action students suspended from college for varying terms - appeal - no ground on which court can interfere with punishment inflicted on petitioners - established that management committee dealt with matter leniently - accepted policy was to visit such incidents with outright expulsion from college - held, question of clemency must be for government or concerned authorities and not for court. - - and having inflicted physical and mental harm by forcing them to do violent exercises to the point of.....gopalan nambiyar, c.j.1. these writ petitions. are directed against the disciplinary action taken by the managing committee of the medical college, calicut, against the writ petitioners, students of the college, resulting in their suspension from the college for varying terms. the reason for the action was the 'ragging' indulged in by the petitioners who may be broadly referred to as the senior students of the college, against the 'freshers' or the junior students. 'ragging' has passed so much into popular parlance that we feel that any elucidation of the term would be unnecessary. the petitioners were charged with 'ragging' of different grades and varieties ranging from abusing in filthy and obscena language or demanding the repetition of obscene language by the freshers, to beating,.....

Gopalan Nambiyar, C.J.

1. These writ petitions. are directed against the disciplinary action taken by the Managing Committee of the Medical College, Calicut, against the writ petitioners, students of the College, resulting in their suspension from the College for varying terms. The reason for the action was the 'ragging' indulged in by the petitioners who may be broadly referred to as the senior students of the College, against the 'freshers' or the junior students. 'Ragging' has passed so much into popular parlance that we feel that any elucidation of the term would be unnecessary. The petitioners were charged with 'ragging' of different grades and varieties ranging from abusing in filthy and obscena language or demanding the repetition of obscene language by the freshers, to beating, manhandling and other debasing forms of behaviour. The incidents are stated to have happened in the College and the hostel campus during the ragging season from 13-11-1977 to 3-12-1977. We shall state the facts in O. P. No. 2740 of 1978, with respect to which the principal arguments, were advanced. Ext. P-1 dated 19-6-1978 is the memo of charge. The petitioner is a student of the IV Year M. B. B. S. Class. The charge was for having manhandled, beaten, illtreated and abused the seven named students; and having inflicted physical and mental harm by forcing them to do violent exercises to the point of exhaustion, making them do obscene acts like masturbation, exposure of private parts of the body, forcing them to take bath in filthy water in the dead of night, teasing, making them dance naked, sing obscene songs and the like. It was recited that the petitioner had threatened the victims with dire consequences for non-compliance with their demands and forced them (threatened?) to do the indecent acts against their will. The acts complained of are stated to have been committed during the period between 14-11-1977 and 3-12-1977, either alona or in company with senior students. The notice indicated that it was meant to give the petitioner an opportunity of defending himself and that no further opportunity for such defence would ba afforded. The abstract of evidence at the foot of Ext. P-l set down the names of the seven victims referred to earlier in the body of the notice, and indicated against each, the acts of humiliation or embarrassment visited on him. For instance, one of them was beaten on the back, the second was beaten, the third was asked to masturbate, the fourth was asked to do vigorous exercises, and so on. We have set out the contents of Ex. P-l to afford as picture of the charge and the show cause notice served on the petitioner. Ext. P-2 is a copy of the explanation submitted by the petitioner. He took up the stand that the charges were vague and indefinite, that the students had not adduced any evidence in support of the charge, and so on. Ext. R-1 is the enquiry report submitted by a Committee of three Professors of the College, namely, Dr, P. Jacob Abraham, Professor of Anatomy, Dr. P. N. Neel-kantan Achary, Professor of Physiology, and Dr. M. S. P. Nair, Professor of Biochemistry. Ext. R-2 filed with the additional counter affidavit, is the affidavit of Dr. M. S. P, Nair, detailing the procedure followed at the enquiry. The Committee collected evidence from the 1st Year students (male and female). Each of them was first called and asked to narrate his experience of ragging by the senior students. The facts disclosed were recorded by the Committee. Ext; R-2 records that the freshers gave sufficient evidence to establish the identity of the wrong-doers, Those whose evidence was considered concrete and tangible, were called again by the Committee and asked to identify the miscreants from a group of photographs. The photographs did not contain any name, and were mixed and kept separately for identification. As the next step the delinquent students were called and were informed of the gist of the evidence in respect of their reported involvement in the ragging activities. They were also specifically questioned. In the light of the evidence, the Committee found Ext. P-1 charges proved. This is the gist of Ext. R-2, Ext. R-1 enquiry report confirms the affidavit Ext. R-2. It records that a good number of the freshers were unhelpful, or shy, or afraid of undesirable consequences, despite being assured to the contrary. A sufficient number gave the details of the wrong-doers and enough evidence to establish their identity. Ext. R-1 recorded that the evidence given by the lady students was not serious enough to warrant a detailed enquiry. That goes out of the picture. The nature of the evidence of the students was then discussed. It was recorded that on the occasion of the first questioning, the victims were more informative than on the second. The Committee was of the view that during the interval, the senior students either threatened juniors with dire consequences, or were able to win over their affection and good will; and hence, some of those who had given positive evidence on the first occasion abstained from co-operating with the enquiry during the stage of identification of the photographs. The Committee also recorded that the time-lag had somewhat cooled the ardour of the victims and their initial revulsion against the incidents. The Committee recommended stern action. Based on this report came Ext. P-3 order by the Managing Committee of the College composed of 29 persons including the Principal. It rejected the statements of the victims of ragging at the later stage, as attributable to acts of cajolery or intimidation from the senior students, or to the development of a sense of comradeship and fellow feeling between the victims and the miscreants, since the date of the incident. The Management Committee preferred to rely on the earlier statements of the victims. The Committee recorded that the action complained of warranted dismissal of the concerned students from the College; but taking into consideration the petitions of the Parents' Association, and tempering justice with mercy, the Committee, inflicted in the case of each of the petitioners in these writ petitions the punishment of suspension for varying terms.

2. The action has been impugned on two principal grounds: that the Principal of the College (or, we believe, for that matter, the Managing Committee) had no jurisdiction to take disciplinary action against the petitioners and order their suspension; and that, the minimum requirements of natural justice had not been complied with in inflicting the punishment. To find against the jurisdiction of the Principal or the Committee, our attention was called to the provisions of the Calicut University Act, and in particular to Sections 2(2), 2(7), 2(11), 2(15), 2(24), 2(30), Section 4 and Clauses (xiii) and (xix) of Section 23, of the Act. We were also referred to the First Statutes passed under the Calicut University Act, and the provisions of Chap. 6, Rule 3 and Chap. 26 thereof. We skip the definition section, of the Act. Section 4 generally defines the jurisdiction of the University as extending to the specified Revenue districts. Section 23 deals with the powers of the Syndicate, and provided that the Syndicate shall have the powers listed therein. Among them is the power under Clauses (xiii) and (xix) which read:

'23. Powers of Syndicate-- Subject to the provisions of this Act and the Statutes, the executive powers of the University including the general superin-dence and control over the institutions of the University shall be vested in the Syndicate and subject likewise the Syndicate shall have the following powers, namely:--

x x x x x(xiii) to exercise supervision and control over the residence and discipline of students;

x x x x x(xix) to delegate any of its powers to the Vice-Chancellor or to a committee appointed from among its members;

x x x x xAttention was then called to the First Statutes, Chap. 6, Rule 3 which provides that in addition to the powers and duties conferred by the Act, it shall exercise certain powers and functions. Among them is the power under Sub-rule (xxvi) which is as follows:

'3 Powers and duties

The Syndicate shall, in addition to the powers and duties conferred and imposed on it by the Act and subject to the provisions thereof, have and exercise the following further powers and functions:--

x x x x x(xxvi) the Syndicate shall be competent to take cognizance of any grave misconduct or persistent idleness or breach of discipline by a student within or outside the precincts of the University or College or Institution or University Centre or in a hostel or at a University Examination. Centre or by any student who seeks admission to a University course of study brought to the notice of the Syndicate by the head of the institution or by a member of any authority of the Syndicate or by the Registrar of the University or by a Chairman of a Board of Examiners or by a Chief Superintendent at any centre of examination or by the Controller of Examinations and to punish such misconduct by exclusion from any University examination or from any University course in a college or in the University or from any convocation for the purpose of conferring degrees either permanently or for a specified period, or by the cancellation of the University examination for which he appeared or by the deprivation of any University Scholarship, held by him or by cancellation of any University prize or medal awarded to him or by such other penalty as it deems fit:

Provided that any penalty referred to above shall be awarded only after giving a show cause notice to the person concerned and conducting an enquiry in the matter.

x x x x xThese provisions only enable the Syn-dicate to exercise powers of supervision and control under certain circumstances and conditions specified in them. But they do not, (in our view), in any way destroy the authority and jurisdiction inherent in the Principal of a College, as the head of the institution, to deal with matters affecting the discipline of the College. That is inherent in the nature of his authority and the performance of his functions. We may recall the well-known observations of Menon C. J., in Rt. Rev. Aldo Maria Patroni v. E. C. Kesavan, 1964 Ker LT 731 : (AIR 1965 Ker 75) (FB) regarding the unique position of the head of an educational institution -- in that case the Headmaster of a school.

'14. The post of the headmaster is of pivotal importance in the life of a school. Around him wheels the tone and temper of the institution; on him depends the continuity of its traditions, the maintenance of discipline and the efficiency of its teaching.....'

The position should be a fortiori so in the case of the Principal of a College.

3. The inherent right and the quasi-parental authority of a teacher to proceed by way of disciplinary action against a pupil under his charge has been well-recognised over the years; and we should think it is ingrained in the habits of thought and philosophy of our country. One of the well-known early cases in which the quasi-parental authority of the Principal of a College was expounded, was Sankunny v. Swami-natha Pattar, ILR 45 Mad 548 : (AIR 1922 Mad 200). The English decisions were surveyed. We wish to cite the following passage from the judgment of one of the Judges (Venkatasubba Rao, J.) :

'According to the law of England the authority of the schoolmaster is, while it exists, the same as that of the parent It is stated that the parental authority is delegated to the schoolmaster and that the schoolmaster represents the parent for purposes of correction. This proposition is borne out by ample authority (see Regina v. Hopley (1860) 2 F & 7 202) and Fitzgerald v. Northcote ((1865) 4 F & F 665); Halsbury's Laws of England, Vol. 27, page 876, Vol. 12, p. 124 and Vol. 17, page 107).

The power of the English father over his children was never so wide as that of the Roman father. Under the ancient Roman laws the father had the power of life and death over his children. But this doctrine of paternal authority was gradually relaxed, though it was never under the Roman Law, wholly abandoned. The common law however gives the parent only a moderate degree of authority over his child's person and the parental chastisement must be moderate and must be exercised in a reasonable manner, and if the parent exceeds the bounds of moderation and inflicts cruel and merciless punishment he is liable to be punished (see Scholer's Domestic Relations, 5th Edition, Section 244, and Ever-sley on the Law of Domestic Relations, 3rd Edition, pages 509 and 510).

It follows therefore that for purposes of correction the schoolmaster may inflict a moderate and reasonable corporal punishment. Cockburn, C. J., says in Regina v. Hopley [(1860) 2 F & F 2021 above referred to:

'If it be administered for the gratification of passion or of rage, or if it be immoderate and excessive in its nature or degree or if it be protracted beyond the child's powers of endurance or with an instrument unfitted for the purpose and calculated to produce danger to life or limb, in all such cases the punishment is excessive, the violence is unlawful.'

At page 563 will be found the caution administered against the infliction of grotesque and out-moded forms of punishments against which the Courts would not hesitate to step in against the teacher. Reference is made to the well-known treatises, and to the dictum of Cock-burn, C. J. in, Fitzgerald v. Northcote ((1865) 4 F & F 665), that, on the one hand, it is for the general benefit of the society and of its youth that the authority of those charged with the care of scholastic establishment should be maintained, and that, on the other, it is of equal importance that it should not be exercised arbitrarily. The principle of this decision was followed by the Bombay High Court in Ghatge v. Emperor (AIR 1949 Bom 226) in the background of different facts and circumstances. It was observed:

'When a child is sent by its parent of its guardian to a school, the parent or guardian must be held to have given an implied consent to its being under the discipline and control of the school authorities and to the infliction of such reasonable punishment as may be necessary for the purposes of school discipline or for correcting the child. This principle has been accepted by the Rangoon High Court in King-Emperor v. Maung Ba Thaung, ILR 3 Hang 659 : (AIR 1926 Rang 107 : 27 Cri LJ 636).'

Reference was made to Sankunny's case ILR 45 Mad 548 : (AIR 1922 Mad 200) and the principle was accepted that a schoolmaster as a delegate of the parent, may, for the purpose of correction, inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment on the child. In Rex v. Newport (Salop) Justices ((1929) 2 KB 416) the powers of supervision and control of teachers over the pupil was considered by Lord Hewart C.J. noticing the decision in Mansell v. Griffin (1908) 1 KB 160, 947 and the observation of Walton J, in that case, the learned Chief Justice observed:

'He also said: 'It seems to me that the authority to administer, moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, which any parent who sends a child to school is presumed to give to the authorities of the school, extends to the mistress occupying the position which the defendant occupied in this school'. (1908) 1 KB 166 (169). That is a clear statement of the legal proposition that any parent who sends a child to school is presumed to give to the teacher authority to make reasonable regulations and to administer to the child reasonable corporal punishment for breach of those regulations. So far from holding a view contrary to that statement of the law, the justices have almost in terms expressed the same view of the law as is there set forth. To refer to another case, in Cleary v. Booth, (1893) 1 QB 465, Collins J., as he then was said: 'It is clear that the relation of master and pupil carried with it the right of reasonable corporal chastisement. As a matter of common-sense, how far is this power delegated by the parent to the schoolmaster? Is it limited to the time during which the boy is within the four walls of the school, or does it extend in any sense beyond that limit? In my opinion the purpose with which the paternal authority is delegated to the schoolmaster, who is entrusted with the bringing up and discipline of the child, must to some extent include an authority over the child while he is outside the four walls. It may be a question of fact in each case whether the conduct of the master in inflicting corporal punishment is right.' (1893) 1 QB 465 (468). He further said: 'It cannot be that such a duty or power ceases the moment that the pupil leaves school for home; there is not much opportunity for a boy to exhibit his moral conduct while in school under the eye of the master; the opportunity is while he is at play or outside the school; and if the schoolmaster has no control over the boys in their relation to each other except when they are within the school walls, this object of the Code would be defeated'. (1893) I QB 465 (469). These observations seem to me to express very clearly the principles applicable to the present case.'

See also Ganesh Chandra v. Jiu Raj (AIR 1965 Cal 32) and Laxmikant Shri-pat Bhandara v. C. R. Gerrard (AIR 1947 Bom 193), In Ramaswamy Iyer's Law and Torts, Seventh Edition, at pages 548, 549; while discussing parental and quasi-parental authority, it is stated that a schoolmaster has the power of chastisement over a pupil committed to his charge, arising from delegation by the parent or guardian.

4. In addition to these authorities, we would also call attention to the College Calendar. It commences by stating that the College is administered directly by the Government through the Principal who is responsible to the Government for everything connected with the College, and that the administration and internal management of the College is vested with the Principal. Rule 11 at page 6 of the Calendar again repeats that the Principal will be in charge of the administration of the College; and page 11 Rule 23 provides that 'students of the College conducting themselves in any activity in such a way as to interfere with the corporate life and educational work of the College will be liable to be suspended or expelled from the College by the Principal......' In the face of these, there is little force or merit in the plea, strongly urged, that the Principal had no disciplinary powers over the students. We may close this aspect of the discussion with the following passage about the authority of teachers from the judgment of the Supreme Court in Hira Nath v. Rajendra Medical College, Ranchi (AIR 1973 SC 1260) (at p. 1262):

'These authorities were in loco paren-tis to all the students-- male and female who were living in the Hostels and the responsibility towards the young girl students was greater because their guardians had entrusted them to their care by putting them in the Hostels attached to the college. The authorities could not possibly dismiss the matter as of small consequence because if they did, they would have encouraged the male student rowdies to increase their questionable activities which would, not only, have brought a bad name to the college but would have compelled the parents of the girl students to withdraw them from the Hostel and, perhaps, even stop their further education. The Principal was, therefore, under an obligation to make a suitable enquiry and punish th' miscreants.' (para 7)

5. Next, we shall proceed to consider the plea of violation of natural justice, To set the background we shall refer to Ext. R3 G.O. No. M.S.441/60/Health dated 1-7-1960 of the Government which will show the state of feeling that ragging had roused in this State. We quote the said G.O.

'Copy of the G.O. No. MS.441/60/Health dated 1-7-1960 from the Health and Labour (B) Department.

Abstract: Medical College -- ragging --practice of, prohibited.

Read: The proceedings of the Second Meeting of the Joint Councils of Administration of the Medical Colleges held on 27-5-1960.

It was resolved at the Second Joint ' Meeting of the Councils of Administration of the Medical Colleges held at the Medical College, Calicut, on 27-5-1960 that the extreme practised in the Medical Colleges in the form of ragging should be prohibited. Government have also noticed the strong resentment expressed by a section of the press against this uncivilised practice. Considering the magnitude of the evils involved and the immediate necessity of preventing this practice, Government order that there shall be no ragging in any of the Medical Colleges in the State. Any violation of this order will be seriously dealt with. Persons who are found responsible for organising ragging activities will be expelled from the institution and suitable criminal proceedings will also be launched against them.

2. The Principals of the Medical Colleges are requested to bring the above facts to the notice of all concerned.



The Principal, Medical College, Calicut etc. etc. We shall note the observations made by one of us (myself) sitting with Krishna-moorthy Iyer J., in the judgment dated 31-3-1970 in. O. P. No. 352 of 1970 (Ker) relating to the ragging incidents in the Medical College, Kottayam. In the course of my judgment (Iyer J. concurring separately) I observed:

'It is an interesting and a sad commentary on the rules of natural justice that while the free flow of its stream is poisoned and even arrested at its fountain source itself, the cry for natural justice and about its violation should continue unabated -- (whether by the very persons who raise the cry or their sympathisers, we need not decide in the present context).'

The learned Government Pleader stated before us that Ext. R3 G.O. still remains current, and reflects the current attiiude of the Government towards ragging. Two other considerations we would call attention to: that ragging is not a case of an. individual attack by one student against another, but a concerted or group action by the seniors against the freshers; and that there is evidence in these cases that some of these acts at least, were done in the dead of night (see Ext. R1 that 'the beating of the 1st year boys was done either in darkness or after they were blind-folded by a towel').

6. The proverbial fable reminds us of the cry in distress of the mute and helpless creatures in the pond on being teased by the pranks of playful youngsters, that it was all fun and frolic on the one side and humiliation, torture and suffering on the other. Maybe, that with the rapidly changing pattern of thought and ideas, or the evolution of the times, or change in outlook these may pass as acts of socialisation, to chisel the recluse freshers and to draw them forth to mix and mingle with the stream of the corporate life in the campus. We do not cavil at the Managing Committee or the Principal for the view they took of the incidents; and our power of correction under Article 226, does not, we are afraid, extend to correcting the said view on the facts disclosed.

7. With the above background we approach the consideration of the question whether the minimum requirements of the Rules of natural justice have been observed in this case. Treatises and Writings of Jurists, and judicial decisions galore, were cited to us to emphasize the fundamental aspects of the principles of natural justice. We think that the matter is now settled beyond doubt that the norms of natural justice are not to be encased in the strait-jacket of any rigid rule or formula, but must be tailored to suit the requirements of the situation and the exigencies of the case. That is why we have set out the atmosphere, the background, and the modus operandi of the ragging activities in the Medical Colleges of this State. These should supply the limits and the extent of the applicability of the principle of natural justice. It is enough to refer to the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Hira Nath v. Rajendra Medical College, Ranchi (AIR 1973 SC 1260). It was observed by the Supreme Court (at p. 1264):

'11. Rules of natural justice cannot remain the same applying to all conditions. We know of statutes in India like the Goonda Acts which permit evidence being collected behind the back of the goonda and the goonda being merely asked to represent against the main charges arising out of the evidence collected. Care is taken to see that the witnesses who gave statements would not be identified. In such cases there is no question of the witnesses being called and the goonda being given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. The reason is obvious. No witness will come forward to give evidence in the presence of the goonda. However, unsavoury the procedure may appear to a judicial mind, these are facts of life which are to be faced. The girls who were molested that night would not have come forward to give evidence in any regular enquiry and if a strict enquiry like the one conducted in a court of law were to be imposed in such matters, the girls would have had to go under the constant fear of molestation by the male students who were capable of such indecencies. Under the circumstances the course followed by the Principal was a wise one. The Committee whose integrity could not be impeached collected and sifted the evidence given by the girls. Thereafter the students definitely named by the girls were informed about the complaint against them and the charge. They were given an opportunity to state their case. We do not think that the facts and circumstances of this case require anything more to be done.'

The case related to the action taken against students for misconduct committed by them by entering into the compound of the women students' hostel and harming them. The enquiry was entrusted to the three members of the staff. The miscreants were directed to be present in the Principal's room on a notified date and time, when they were called one fay one, and the contents of the complaint put to them, without disclosing the names of the girls who had made the complaint. The charge was also given. Before they were so called, ten girls of the hostel who were complainants were examined and their statements in writing had been recorded. These statements were not recorded in the presence of the miscreants, as, the Committee felt that it is unfair to do so. On the result of the enquiry, the charge was found, against three of the miscreants and they were expelled from the college and from the hostel for a term of two years. The Supreme Court upheld the correctness and propriety of the enquiry and the legality of the action taken.

8. Judged by the analogy of the principles laid down by the Court in the above decision and in the background of facts and circumstances disclosed, we cannot say that the rules of natural justice have been violated or that the minimal requirements of the same had not been observed. We have further satisfied ourselves by calling for the files from the learned Government Pleader, which were shown to counsel for the petitioners before we examined them ourselves. They do disclose the questioning of the victims and the code-type of enquiry conducted by the Committee and an almost similar type of depositions given by the victims, which is sufficiently communicative, to be connected with the incident disclosed by the charge. The file also shows fairly detailed notes of the evidence of the petitioners.

9. A complaint was made for the petitioners that the incidents were between 14-11-1977 and 3-12-1977, and that the enquiry and the proceedings followed much later. The delay was stressed--rather feebly -- to make out that the action was motivated. There is no basis for this complaint. The file affords sufficient indication that the questioning of the victims had taken place even on 6-12-1977 and 7-12-1977. Thereafter came the stage for identification of the miscreants with the aid of the photographs, and then followed the enquiry into the complicity of the petitioners. We see no force or merit in the complaint made that the rules of natural justice had not been conformed to.

10. It was finally pleaded that the punishment inflicted on the petitioners was too drastic, that they had already undergone suspension for a period of nearly one month and over, and that their careers had already been sufficiently blighted. We do not see any ground on which we can interfere with the punishment inflicted on the petitioners, especially when we find it recorded in Ext. P1 that the Management Committee had dealt with the matter leniently, and when we see from Ext. RS that the accepted policy was to visit such incidents with outright expulsion from the College. In this region, the question of clemency must be for the Government or the authorities concerned, and not for this Court.

We dismiss these writ petitions, but make no order as to costs.

Interim petitions dismissed.

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