1. This is a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution made by four candidates, who appeared for the LL.B. Pass Examination of the Punjab University held in May, 1956, at Jullundur centre (Boaba College, Jullundur). On 38-5-1956, at 8 A.M., the question paper on the Law of Evidence was distributed among the candidates assembled in the hall, including the present petitioners.
A pandemonium ensued, presumably because some of the candidates thought that the question paper was unduly stiff. Stools and desks were overturned. Some of the candidates tried to jump out through the windows. Since orderly conduct of the examination became impossible, all the answer-books were collected and the hall was cleared.
2. The matter was reported to the University authorities by the Superintendent of the examination hall. Eventually, the petitioners were disqualified for one year by the University authorities under Regulation 18 (ii) of the University. Hence, this writ petition, wherein I am requested to set aside the order, disqualifying the petitioners, and to issue a writ of mandamus to the respondent to permit the petitioners to appear in paper No. 6 (Law of Evidence) in the examination to be held in September next.
3. Learned counsel for the petitioners urged that the petitioners were in no way responsible for the disturbance that took place in the examination hall on the day in question. He pleaded that the petitioners had done well in the preceding five papers and were anxious to answer paper No. 6 (Law of Evidence) also. He also submitted that had an opportunity been given to the petitioners, they would have satisfied the University authorities that they were not responsible for the disturbances and that the University authorities have erred in holding that the petitioners were the ringleaders.
4. On notice being issued to the respondent, the latter has filed a written-statement, wherein it is affirmed, inter alia, that the petitioners were the ringleaders and were responsible for the disturbances that broke out on that day. The respondent has further contended that action taken by it was perfectly within its powers and legal and it was under no obligation to issue a show cause notice to the petitioners before taking action against them under the regulations. It was also submitted that considering the gravity of the conduct, the petitioners were very leniently dealt with.
5. Arguments of the learned counsel for the parties were heard yesterday. For reasons to be stated shortly, I am of the opinion that this writ petition cannot succeed.
6. I shall refer to the arguments advanced by learned counsel for the petitioners seriatim.
7. In the first place, Mr. Malhotra submitted that the University authorities have not acted in accordance with Regulations 18 and 18A. His argument was that under Regulation 18, action, if any, should have been taken by the Superintendent and nobody else. Mr. Tek Chand for the respondent pointed out--and in my opinion quite rightly so--that under Regulation 18, the only power vested in the Superintendent was to expel a candidate under the circumstances enumerated therein. If any other action has to be taken against the candidate, then the matter has, obviously, to go to the Syndicate, as is obvious from the perusal of Regulation 18A.
Mr. Malhotra next contended that there is nothing to show that the matter was dealt with by the Syndicate as provided in Regulation 18A. Mr. Tek Chand pointed out that in para. 14 of the written-statement, the respondent has clearly stated that the Syndicate carefully considered the entire matter, including the representations made by the petitioners and unanimously arrived at the conclusion that the petitioners were the ringleaders and, accordingly, decided to disqualify them for one year as provided in Regulation 18 (ii).
He further read out from the minutes of the proceedings of the Syndicate Meeting held on 7-7-1956. A copy of those minutes was supplied to this Court. A perusal of those minutes would show that the Syndicate unanimously came to the conclusion that candidates bearing roll numbers 18, 22, 82 and 107 were the ringleaders responsible for the disturbances on the day of the examination and, accordingly, disqualified them for one year under Regulation 18. Mr. Malhotra invited my attention to a so-called certificate granted by one Jasbir Singh Bir, Supervisor, bearing date 2-6-56 (Annexure 'G').
This purports to show that Arun Kumar Chhabra, petitioner No. 2, roll No. 22, had been wrongly included in the list of miscreants. Mr. Tek Chand rightly pointed out that there is no guarantee that this certificate was actually issued on 2-6-56 (the date appearing on it). In case the supervisor felt that roll No. 22 had been wrongly added to the list of miscreants, he should have sent his report direct to the University authorities.
There was no point in his giving it to petitioner No. 2. In any case, the High Court cannot deal with disputed questions of fact in an application under Article 226. Mr. Tek Chand for the respondent cited Annapoorna Farming and Fishery Ltd. v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1953 Cal 756 (A), where Sinha, j., held that:
'It is not right that the High Court should deal with a disputed question of fact in an application under Article 226.'
I would, therefore, hold that the action taken by the respondent was covered by its regulations. The petitioners have not been able to show that the respondent acted against the regulations.
8. In the second place, Mr. Malhotra urged that the respondent has acted against 'the principles of natural justice'' in not offering the petitioners an opportunity of showing cause before action was taken against them. He relied, in this connection, on Dipa Pal v. University of Calcutta, AIR 1952 Cal 594 (B). There, Bose, J., remarked that:
'One of the functions of the Board of Examiners brought into existence under Ch. XXV of the Regulations framed under the Indian Universities Act, is to consider all cases of breaches of discipline arising in connection with examination but there is no detailed procedure laid down as to how the Board will discharge this function.'
'In cases, where breaches of discipline are detected by the invigilators or other officers present in the examination hall, and candidate concerned are expelled from the hall or are otherwise dealt with, question of any inquiry or investigation upon notice to the candidates may not arise.
But where no case of breach of discipline is actually detected, but subsequently upon examination of the answer papers, the examiners come to entertain suspicion about adoption of unfair means by particular candidate or candidates, and the Examination Board has to consider such cases and come to a determination as to the nature of the offence committed and has to apportion the penalty, which can properly be inflicted upon the delinquents, it is only fit and proper that the party arraigned should have an opportunity to defend himself and to offer an explanation, if any.
To brand a candidate with the stigma of adoption of unfair means at the examination or in other words finding him or her guilty of dishonesty or misconduct, and thereby causing an irreparable injury to the character and reputation of such candidate, without giving him or her any opportunity to explain, is contrary to all notions of justice and good sense.''
9. Mr. Tek Chand pointed out that this is not a case of adoption of unfair means by the petitioners. On the other hand, this was a case of unruly conduct and creation of a disturbance. The matter was reported without delay by the Superintendent to the Registrar and the matter was enquired into by the Syndicate, which unanimously came to the conclusion (after considering the representations of the petitioners) that they were the ringleaders. In Bimla Devi v. Punjab University, (1952) 54 Punj LR 369 (C), which was cited by Mr. Malhotra, a Division Bench of the Punjab High Court indicated that:
'When a delinquent student is punished by the University in accordance with toe regulations framed under the Act of its incorporation, the concept of natural justice does not apply and it is not necessary that a student before he can be punished, should have had a personal hearing before the Committee, appointed by the University to go into the matter.'
In East Punjab University, Solan v. Tarlok Nath, AIR 1953 Punj 3 (D), a similar view was expressed by Falshaw and Kapur, JJ., who expressed themselves in the following terms:
'It is not necessary to give a personal hearing to a student against whom action is intended to be taken and in the very nature of things the Committee cannot hold a trial as it is understood by lawyers nor can they take evidence which lawyers consider to be evidence.
All they can do is to get statements of various persons for and against a complaint; and after considering them it is for them to give their honest and bona fide opinion. Once they do that, it is not challengeable in a Court of law, and there is no offending on the concept of natural justice in the case.'
In Jagdish Chandar Kalra v. University of the Punjab, Solan, 54 Pun LR 485: (AIR 1952 Punj 395) (E), another Division Bench of that High Court remarked that:
'Neither the East Punjab University Act, 1947, nor the Regulations made under it, nor any principle of natural justice, gives to the student the right of personal hearing before he is punished by the University.'
The regulations of the respondent University do not provide for the issue of show cause notice to a candidate before taking action against him in accordance with the regulations of the University. When a candidate offers himself for an examination by the respondent University, he is deemed to have submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the University and to have agreed to be bound by the regulations of that University. It is not possible for this Court to read into the regulations something which is not there on the basis of what is referred to as 'principles of natural justice'. I am, therefore, unable to accept this plea.
10. In the third place, Mr. Malhotra urged that the petitioners have been unfairly discriminated against and, consequently, a case is made out for interference by writ. He submitted that out of 174 candidates, who were present in the examination hall, the four petitioners have been disqualified for one year altogether. Out of the rest, 9 candidates were given the option to appear in the paper on the Law of Evidence at the examination to be held in September 1956, provided they had passed in all the remaining papers. As regards the rest of the candidates, they were to be deemed to have obtained zero marks in that paper and their results declared accordingly.
Mr. Malhotra contended that this amounted to unfair discrimination. In support of his argument, he cited (a) Gopala Chetty v. D. P. I. in Mysore, (S) AIR 1955 Mys 81 (F), (b) Laxmi Narayan v. C. B. Mahajan, AIR 1955 All 534 (G) and (c) Gauhati University v. Sailesh Ranjan, (S) AIR 1955 Assam 9 (H). (a) referred to a circular issued by the Director of Public Instruction of Mysore State prescribing certain text books and copy books to be used in all Primary and Middle schools of that State, (b) referred to the validity of a resolution of the Executive Council of the Agra University cancelling a B.A. degree conferred on a successful candidate, (c) referred to the question whether a B.T. candidate, who had offered, geography under a compulsory subject described as 'Contents and Method of Teaching' was required to obtain 40 per cent. of the marks in each of the two half papers, into which geography was sub-divided. As Mr. Tek Chand for the respondent rightly pointed out, these decisions have no relevancy to the facts of the present case.
11. Surely, it was within the province of theSyndicate to deal with the cases of the various categories of the candidates on their merits. Obviously,those who were led away by the ring leaders or continued to remain in the examination hall and expressed readiness to take the examination could not hetreated in the same way as those who were responsiblefor creating the disturbance. This cannot be said tobe a case of unfair discrimination.
12. In an earlier decision of this Court, reported in Jaichand Rai v. State of Punjab, AIR 1955 Him Pra 9 (I), following 54 Pun LR 369 (C), I had held that:
'If the regulations under which the University acted are intra vires of the Act of its incorporation and the University acted in accordance with those regulations, the High Court has no jurisdiction to interfere with the decision arrived at by the University.'
13. In view of all that has been said above, this writ petition must fail.
14. Accordingly, I reject the writ petition.
15. There remains the question of costs. Thepetitioners have already been adequately punished,since they have been disqualified for one year. Itdoes not appear necessary, in the interest of justice,therefore, to burden them with the costs of this petition. I, therefore, leave parties to bear their respective costs of this petition.