1. This appeal raises, if we may so term it, a vexed question, which had arisen several times before courts, including the Supreme Court The question is, when action is taken against a student-examinee, for alleged malpractice in the examination hall, what is the nature of the enquiry that is contemplated by the authority entitled to punish the student by either withholding his result of the examination for which he sat or by withholding his result of the examination as well as by debarring him from future examinations.
2. In the case before us the appellant, an engineering graduate, sat for the Engineering Service examination. On 4-8-1976, one of the days on which the examination was held, the invigilator in charge of the row in which the appellant sat, suspected that the appellant was using unauthorised manuscripts, hidden under the handkerchief held by him and so questioned the appellant. It is the case of the invigilator that before he could get at the manuscripts the appellant managed to transfer the manuscript into his mouth and went out of the hall, and, though he returned to the examination hall, he had by that time swallowed the papers. The appellant was asked about this incident and he denied what the invigilator stated as having taken place. Nevertheless the invigilator sent up & report about the incident as indicated above. There was a further report from another invigilator and also by a supervisor in the examination hall. The appellant was informed of the alleged malpractice by a show cause notice end he gave his reply totally denying the incident. The show cause notice and the reply, as well as the statements of the invigilators and the supervisor were sent to the Union Public Service Commission. In his reply to the show cause notice the appellant had stated that the points made by him "may be strictly considered at the time of enquiry, if any, before arriving at any decision."
3. Learned Government Pleader, who appeared, made available to us the file pertaining to the action taken against the appellant. From page 40 of the file, we find the decision of the Union Public Service Commission stated in these terms-
"Agreed business for mentioned in Commission's meeting to be held on ...... ... ... Engineering Services Examination, 1976. Shri T. C. Peter (Roll No. 1252)--Used unfair means and misbehaved in the examination hall. Candidate over 21 years of age. Decided to debar him for 10 years from Commission's examination and selections and to cancel his candidature for the current examination".
Counsel on behalf of the appellant contended that in matters of this nature the action to be taken must result from a quasi-judicial enquiry and that therefore the principles of natural justice should be followed. According to the appellant the authority had not acted in a quasi-judicial manner, not only because no opportunity was granted to the appellant, but also because the decision which we have extracted in full did not indicate that the authority had applied its mind to the questions involved before taking the drastic action of not only canceling his candidature for the examination for which the appellant sat but also of debarring the appellant for a long period of ten years, which would practically ruin his entire career in regard to seeking betterment of his lot by sitting for competitive examinations such as that applicable to Engineering Services Examination.
4. The questions arising in such cases have always been difficult ones to decide, and we cannot do better than quote from a decision of the Supreme Court in Board of High School and Intermediate Education, U. P. v. Bagleshwar, , where Gajendragadkar J. (as he then was) observed thus-
"In dealing with writ petitions against the orders of the Universities or Education Boards, canceling the examination results of candidates who were declared to have been passed, it is necessary to bear in mind that educational institutions like the Universities or the Boards set up Enquiry Committees to deal with the problem posed by the adoption of unfair means by candidates and normally it is within the jurisdiction of such domestic tribunals to decide all relevant questions in the light of the evidence adduced be- fore them. In the matter of the adoption of unfair means, direct evidence may sometimes be available, but cases may arise where direct evidence is not available and the question will have to be considered in the light of probabilities and circumstantial evidence. This problem which educational institutions have to face from time to time is a serious problem and unless there is justification to do so, courts should be slow to interfere with the decisions of domestic tribunals appointed by educational bodies like the Universities. In dealing with the validity of the impugned orders passed by the Universities under Article 226, the High Court is not sitting in appeal over the decision in question; its jurisdiction is limited and, though it is true that, if the impugned order is not supported by any evidence at all, the High Court would be justified to quash that order. But the conclusion that the impugned order is not supported by any evidence must be reached after considering the question as to whether probabilities and circumstantial evidence do not justify the said conclusion. Enquiries held by domestic tribunals in such cases must, no doubt, be fair and students against whom charges are framed must be given adequate opportunities to defend themselves and in holding such enquiries the tribunals must scrupulously follow rules of natural justice; but it would not be reasonable to import into these enquiries all considerations which govern criminal trials in ordinary courts of law." 5. A few years later, Hegde J. dealing with a similar case in Suresh Kosey v. University of Kerala, , relied on the well-known decision in Byrne v.
Kinematograph Renters Society Ltd., 1958-2 All ER 579 where Lord Harman J. observed-
"What then are the requirements of natural justice in a case of this kind First I think that the person accused should know the nature of the accusation made; secondly that he should be given an opportunity to state his case; and thirdly, of course, that the tribunal should act in good faith. I do not think that there really is anything more." After quoting the above passage in paragraph 11 of the decision referred to above, the learned Judge (Hegde J.) remarked--"The decision of the Judicial Committee in University of Ceylon v. Fernando, 1960-1 All ER 631, appears to go much further than what was laid down in the aforementioned cases".
The learned Judge, however, did not consider it necessary on the facts of that case to decide whether the rule enunciated in Byrne v. Kinematograph Renters Society Ltd., 1958-2 All ER 579, or the rule in University of Ceylon v. Fernando, 1960-1 AH ER 631, should govern matters of this type. No other decision of the Supreme Court laying down emphatically what is the particular form of procedure to be followed in order that the requirements of natural justice may be said to have been satisfied has been brought to our notice.
6. In Board of High School and Intermediate Education U. P. v. Ghanshyamdas Gupta, Wanchoo J.(as he then was), made the following observations (para. 12):--
"As to the manner in which it should give an opportunity to the examinee concerned to be heard, that is a matter which can be provided by Regulations or bye laws, if necessary. As was pointed out in Local Government Board v. Arlidge, 1015 AC 120, all that is required is that the other party should have an opportunity of adequately presenting his case. But what the procedure should be in detail will depend on the nature of the Tribunal. There is no doubt that many of the powers of the Committee under Chapter VI are of administrative nature; but where quasi-judicial duties are entrusted to an administrative body like this, it becomes a quasi-judicial body for performing these duties and it 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".
7. The decisions cited at the Bar clearly establish that enquiries of this type are definitely of a quasi-judicial nature and that therefore the principles of natural justice would be attracted. But what exactly is the procedure to be followed would depend upon the rules laid down, if there are rules, regarding the procedure, and, if there are no rules, it must depend upon what has been decided toy the Tribunal to follow, provided what has been decided by the Tribunal satisfied the essential requirements of law. The minimum certainly required is what has been laid down in Byrne's case, 1958-2 All ER 579, which we have quoted above. Circumstances will, however, vary from case to case depending upon the facts of each case, and it may often be necessary to examine witnesses or to allow the examinee to cross-examine the witnesses, who have given statements against him or have deposed against him. This is a matter in which the authority empowered to take action against a student, which would have very far reaching consequences of very prejudicially affecting his future, should take every care to follow the procedure that would be free from blemish, guaranteeing to the examinee the freedom to state his case fully and also to disprove what is stated against him if he seeks permission to do so.
8, We do notice that in this case the invigilator has clearly stated about the action of the student. The statements of the other invigilator and the Supervisor do not support fully or to a substantial extent the statements made by the particular invigilator. The appellant has denied the whole incident and has given a totally different version. In these circumstances, we are certainly entitled to be satisfied that the authority, with the power to punish the student, has applied its mind to the relevant facts of the case before taking a decision, especially a decision of such a drastic nature as the one in this case. We have extracted the minutes of the meeting which merely states the decision. Whether the authority had applied its mind to the solitary statement of the invigilator, which has been denied by the appellant, and chose, notwithstanding the denial, to rely on his statement, and whether, in the circumstances of the case, a further probe or scrutiny or even an enquiry was necessary in the interests of justice and to satisfy the requirements of the principles of natural justice, we are not able to discern, in view of the manner in which the matter has been dealt with and apparently closed.
This we consider is unsatisfactory, and the decision taken in this manner cannot stand. Principles of natural justice will not exhaust themselves merely by granting an opportunity to the person charged to state his case. Judicial process continues till the end and judicial mind must be applied to the relevant facts in a judicial manner, and we must be able to discern from the records made available to us that this has been done. Then only principles of natural justice will be satisfied. We are not so satisfied in this case and therefore we set aside the decision arrived at by the respondent (Union Public Service Commission).
9. We need hardly state that, whether the matter should be pursued further notwithstanding the fact that the appellant has lost one examination and one year, or perhaps two examinations, because the second examination has already started this month, or whether the appellant has been sufficiently punished by this action and therefore need not be proceeded with against him further, excepting to limit to punishment to the debarring for two years if there is justification for it is a matter for the Union Public Service Commission to consider in the light of the decisions to which we have referred above, and also to the decision in Mushtaq Hussain v. Secy., Board of High School and Intermediate, Education U. P., . We allow the appeal on the above terms with costs to the appellant. Counsel's fee Rs. 250.