S. RAMACHANDRA IYER, C.J.
1. The appellant who is a student-trainee in the Central Foot-wear Training Centre at the Industrial Estate, Guindy has filed this appeal against the judgment of Veeraswami J. dismissing his petition for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Director of Small Industries Service Institute, Madras, terminating his training at the Centre. The Central Foot-wear Training Centre has been started by the Government of India with the idea of developing footwear industry in the country by giving technical training to youngmen in the manufacture of footwear. The period of training is eighteen months; during the period the trainee is to be paid a stipend of Rs. 60 per mensem; there is also a hostel attached to the centre. The appellant was one of those selected for training for the course between September 1960 and the end of February 1962. He was also admitted as a member of the hostel attached to the training centre. At the time of his selection, the appellant executed an agreement in favour of the Director of Small Scale Industries Service institute, agreeing to refund the stipends received by him in case he were to leave the institute before his training was completed. The rules under which training is given in the institute provide for the termination of the training at any time if the candidate absents himself from training for more than 35 days during the entire period of training or if he does not evince interest or show progress in spite of warnings. The rules also provide for an examination at the end of the period of training and for the award of certificate to successful candidates at such examination.
2. On the 4th of August 1961, the Deputy Director of the Centre received a complaint from a certain girl living in a house close to the hostel that the appellant had at about 10 a.m. on the 28th of July 1961 trespassed into her house while she was alone with a young girl, servant, and behaved in an indecent manner by trying to hand over to her a letter. It appeared that such an at-tempt was not his first misbehaviour. It was alleged that about ten days earlier, he had sent a letter addressed to the same girl conveying expressions of love and using objectionable language. The Deputy Director of the Institute took action on the complaint forthwith, and on the same day issued a written notice to the appellant informing him of the substance of the complaint and calling upon him to show cause within 24 hours, as to why his training should not be terminated, as his conduct was such that it brought discredit not only to him as a student, but to the training centre as well. Pending further investigation into the charges, the appellant was suspended. On the following day, the appellant replied; he demanded that the charges against him should be precisely and clearly stated by giving the name of the complainant, her full address and other particulars. Strangely enough there was nothing in the letter protesting innocence. From what one can see, there was really nothing vague in the charges made. Reference to a college girl living close to the hostel was sufficiently specific; further the gravamen of the charge was the unworthy conduct as a student and it did not depend upon the fact whether it was one girl or another. There was, however, no denial in the appellant's reply of the offence of misbehaviour at all.
3. On receipt of the reply, the Deputy Director, after taking advice of the Director of the Institute, sent for the appellant and confronted him with the letter alleged to have been sent by him by post to the girl. The appellant at first denied knowledge of the letter and also of the trespass into her house. He did not, however, stop there. He suggested the names of some trainees in the centre as the possible culprits. This was proved to be false on enquiry. Later, the appellant made an admission to the Deputy Director, the genuineness of which is not denied now, and stated that he had visited the house of the complainant on the 28th July as alleged by her. He, however, gave an explanation which has no substratum of truth behind it, in that the letter and his visit there is the course of exchanges of love between the particular girl and himself. This insinuation which has no factual basis only reveals the depravity of the appellant and the extent to which he can go. The appellant was then taken to the Director of the Institute on the 10th August, 1961 who again showed him the letter referred to above, But he completely went behind the admission before the Deputy Director. He repudiated his authorship of the letter and also denied any knowledge of the girl to whom it was addressed. But this plea need not detain us long as it is not now in dispute that the admission made by the appellant before the Deputy Director was free and voluntary and was also a truthful one. The Director of the Institute decided that he should take disciplinary action against the appellant. He terminated his training. This decision was communicated to the appellant by a letter of the Deputy Director dated 11-8-1961. The appellant was also directed to leave the hostel immediately.
4. Thereupon the appellant filed an application under Article 226 of the Constitution to quash the order of the Director terminating his training on the ground that it was arbitrary and opposed to the principles of natural justice.
5. The writ petition was filed on 23rd August 1961. Along with it, was a petition for stay of implementation of the order of the Director. Veeraswami J. issued a rule nisi. The learned Judge also directed by his order dated 28-8-1961 that the order terminating the training of the appellant should be suspended till the disposal of the writ petition. Judgment in the writ petition was delivered bythe learned Judge on 5-2-1962 upholding the decision of the Director and dismissing the appellant's writ petition.
6. The appellant who was allowed to continue his training by virtue of the interim order has filed this appeal. At the time when the appeal came up for admission it was represented on behalf of the appellant that fly virtue of the order of stay granted by Veeraswami J. which was in force during the pendency of the writ petition, the appellant was enabled to complete the unexpired portion of his training and that he had only to sit for the examination. It was submitted that the status quo should be allowed to continue pending disposal of the writ appeal This request was acceded to and by our order dated 13-2-1962 we permitted the appellant to sit for examination; but we directed the authorities not to publish the result till the appeal was disposed of.
7. On the merits of the case there can be no doubt that the appellant was guilty of writing the objectionable letter in question to the girl who happened to live close to the hostel in which the appellant was staying. Nor could there be any doubt as to the appellant having trespassed into the house of the girl when she was practically helpless and having attempted to hand over another letter the contents of which are not known to us, as that letter has not been preserved. Indeed there was no controversy before the learned Judge who disposed of the writ petition or before us, on that question. But it has been contended by Mr. F. S. Vaz, learned counsel for the appellant, that the complaint made against the appellant did not disclose the commission of any offence, and that the punishment meted out was arbitrary; and that secondly the procedure followed by the respondent for terminating the training of the appellant by way of punisnment, did not conform to the principles of natural justice.
8. The first part of the contention is sought to be sustained on a rather surprising line of argument. Learned counsel said that there was really nothing improper in principle, for a student of an educational institution to write a love letter to a girl or even to unauthorisedly enter a house to deliver such a letter. We cannot but strongly repel this contention. Learned counsel then contended, we can only hope that he was not serious about it, that nice rules of moral behaviour amongst students would not apply to the pupils of an institute like the present case which is ad hoc one and with no need to build up a reputation. The argument can only be characterised as a desperate one. Maintenance of moral standards among students is inherent in the very idea of education, and does not depend on the fact whether the institution that offers instruction is an ad hoc or permanent one. The reputation of an institution is not mere commercial asset depending on the length or duration of its existence. It has its position on the moral plane, secured mostly by the moral stature of its alumni, and in this respect it would make no difference whether the institution is ad hoc or a permanent one. Any educational institution worth its name should have for its purpose, the improvement 01 the moral and intellectual standards of its students. Enforcement of discipline helps to maintain the standards; laxity in such enforcement, will defeat the very purpose of the institution and bring it to disrepute.
9. The writing of love letters by a student even to a girl who reciprocates his feelings will, if permitted, undoubtedly demoralise him. It will render him unfit for the company of the rest of the students for it would have the effect of corrupting their morals as well. That will inevitably bring down in its wake the fair name and reputation of the institution. To say the least, it will bea disgraceful conduct on the part of a student who had entered an institution for the purpose of his studies, to indulge in such activities. But in the present case the offence is graver still. The objectionable letters were written to an innocent girl who was a perfect stranger to the appellant. There can be no doubt, that it annoyed her, and the writer must have intended them to annoy her. It was nothing short of a criminal trespass for the appellant to have entered the house of the girl to deliver such a letter. Such conduct is unworthy of a student in any circumstances. To condone such conduct would be subverse the high standards, that should govern any educational institution.
10. We are unable to find any substance in the second contention either. The memorandum dated 4-8-1961 from the Deputy Director Central Footwear Training Centre, Madras explicitly states that the appellant was harassing a college girl living close to his hostel by writing objectionable letters and that on one occasion he attempted to hand over a letter in person by trespassing into her house when she was alone and helpless. In view of these specific allegations, no further details such as the name of the girl, etc., was at all necessary. The conduct referred to in the memorandum will be nonetheless objectionable whether the identity of the girl was known or not. But in the instant case there was sufficient information given about the girl. Further discussion on the question has been rendered unnecessary in view of the admissions made by the appellant himself before the Deputy Director that he had written the letter and that he entered into the house of the girl in the manner complained of. The Director and the Deputy Director have given full opportunity as to the appellant to explain his conduct; and the record reveals that they had enquired into the matter as fully as can be desired. Veeraswami J. upheld the punishment meted out to the appellant on the well-known principle relating to the authority of the head of an educational institution to maintain and enforce discipline, among the students.
11. Learned counsel for the appellant has, however, contended that that principle will not apply to an institution like the Central Footwear Training Centre, where persons were being trained only for a vocation or trade. According to him the training given is analogous to the case of an apprentice under a trader who goes to him to learn a trade or craft. In such a case, it is said, the relationship between the trainee and the institution will be governed only by the terms of the contract and there would be no inherent power in the employer or teacher to take disciplinary action outside the terms of the agreement.
12. As we have pointed out earlier, the conditions under which students are admitted to the centre do not expressly reserve a power to its head, to take disciplinary action against a misbehaving student. We shall consider presently whether such a power is not inherent in the head of the institution. But before doing so, we must refer to the contention that a person who agrees to serve another for learning a trade, can continue to do so even if he were guilty of misconduct. The argument, in support of it is entirely based on a statement contained in the Preliminary Note relating to apprenticeship in 'Indian Conveyancer' by P. C. Mogha (4th Edn. p. 81), where it has been stated that a master cannot dismiss an apprentice even for misconduct without an express contract. But this statement of the law which is confined only to apprenticeship properly so-called (i.e., analogous to a service agreement), cannot be accepted, as wholly correct. It will be sufficient for the present purpose to refer to the decision in Learoyd v. Brook, (1891) 1 QB 431, where the question whether in the absence of a provision to that effect in the articles of apprenticeship, it was open to an employer to terminate the apprenticeship of a person who was proved to be a habitual thief, was answered in the affirmative. It is not, however, necessary for the purpose of this case to consider whether it would be open to a master who takes an apprentice, to terminate his services by an unilateral act, for the misconduct of the latter. Cases where the apprenticeship agreement is in the nature of a service agreement involving mutual obligations on the part of the employer to instruct and to give facilities to learn, the employee being bound to serve the employer, are obviously different, from those where apprenticeship is in the nature and for the purpose of an educational training. In the former class of cases the employer himself will be carrying on some business or trade, and the apprentice works more or less as a servant but who at the same time gets training in the trade carried on by his master. But in the latter as in the present case the position will be different. Indeed in establishing the training centre, the Government did not carry on any business. The centre was designed purely with a view to equip its trainees for their work in life. That is obviously an educational course. Education means a systematic Instruction, schooling or training given to the young boys or even to adults in preparation for the work of life. It need not necessarily be confined to (though it is so contended by the learned counsel for the appellant), science and arts. Vocational training will be an educational training. Therefore, the Central Footwear Training Centre in the instant case which provides instruction only for learning a craft of trade will undoubtedly be an educational institution. The head of such an institution will have all those powers which a headmaster or principal of a school or college has over his students.
13. The power of the head of an educational institution to correct erring pupils is generally stated to be the same as that of a parent. Thus, he will have a moderate degree of authority in the matter of punishing or even chastising (subject of course to the rules etc. made in that behalf) his pupils whenever he finds them misconducting themselves. But the responsibility of the schoolmaster or the head of an educational institution is not confined to the pupil who errs. He has a greater responsibility of protecting the morale of the other students. He further owes a duty to maintain the reputation of the institution. Cockburn C. J. in Fitzerald v. Northcote, (1865) 176 ER 734 observed that it was for the general benefit of the society and especially of its youth that the authority of those charged, with good order and peace of the establishment should be maintained.
14. In Sekkilar v. Krishnamurthi, : AIR1952Mad151 , Subba Rao J. upheld the right of a principal of a college or head of any other educational institution to maintain discipline and to do such act as is reasonable for the upkeep of the necessary tone and standards of behaviour in a body of students. In Laxmikant Shripat v. C. R. Gerrald : AIR1947Bom193 , the principle that the headmaster of an educational institution while taking disciplinary action against a student who had mis-behaved should take into account not only the interests of the particular pupil concerned but also that of the other pupils was recognised. But it goes without saying that such a right cannot arbitrarily be exercised. Punishment proposed or imposed should reasonably be related to the offence committed. It should be aimed with aview to maintain discipline and to keep up the necessary tone and moral standards amongst the students and cannot be imposed with an ulterior object or prompted by an indirect motive. We agree with Veeraswami J. that the Deputy Director f the Central Footwear Training Centre had the power to expel the appellant for his proved misconduct.
15. The learned Judge has, however, towards the endof his judgment indicated his view that the respondentshould consider whether it was necessary to insist uponthe expulsion of the appellant at this stage when he hadalmost finished his training, and there were only a fewmore days left to complete the entire course and whethera lesser punishment would not serve the purpose of maintaining the moral standards of the other pupils and thereputation of the institution. We are with great respectunable to share in these observations. The terminationof the training of the appellant took place as early as11-8-1961 and it was only by virtue of an interim orderof this court with a view to avoid prejudice to the appellant in case he were to succeed in his writ petition thathe was allowed to continue his course. The circumstancethat he had de facto completed his training cannot, therefore, be taken into account for making any recommendation for a lenient treatment. Secondly it is only incase where there is no real moral lapse on the part of thestudent and where it can be said in the circumstancesthat the punishment imposed, though within the boundsof the authority of the head of the institution, is severethat the court will be justified in expressing its views.In the present case the offences committed by the appellantare such that it cannot be said that termination of histraining was unreasonable or even an excessive punishment.To suggest a lesser degree of punishment will be to requirethe authorities to adopt a less serious view of the deviationfrom moral standards than the one which they have adopted.If the Director or the Government thought that the maintenance of moral standards of the institution required aparticular punishment, it will not be for the court to adviseor suggest a lesser punishment, as to do so would tantamountto require them to lower the standards. The appeal failsand is dismissed with costs.