In the present case, the writ was filed by one of the student involved in the ragging who was suspended from the current academic year by the disciplinary committee of the institution. In the writ the student plead that being the bright student such suspension would ruin his future.
The court concluded that it is the duty of the authorities, in charge of the educational institutions, to ensure that the discipline is maintained in the institution and the head of the institution in such cases is required to be armed with sufficient powers so that those who are keen to study and improve their carrier should not be the victims of a handful of persons who may spoil the academic atmosphere by indulging in anti-social activities.
The court held that where no mala fides or other motives have been alleged against the management of the institute in the passing of the impugned order, the Court should not normally interfere in the punishment imposed upon the delinquent.
Gujarat HC termed ragging a ‘barbarous practice’ and concluded that if anybody is found guilty of ragging, he shall be immediately expelled from the institution and debarred from entering any other educational institution thereafter.
Number of students were involved in the ragging of junior students at the Institute of Infrastructure Technology Research & Management. The students so involved in ragging were divided into following three category –
Category A: the students who were involved in planning and executing the whole indecent activities.
Category B: the students who were observing, enjoying and encouraging the other students in the whole indecent activities and failed to inform the authorities.
Category C: the students happened by chance or curiously to be there at venue but failed to stop these indecent activities and also failed to inform the authorities.
Disciplinary committee concluded, following –
(i) Category A students be suspended from the current academic year and be permitted to continue with academics from August, 2019. However, they be not admitted into the Hostel in future.
(ii) Category B students be suspended from the current semester and be permitted to continue with academics from January, 2019. However, they be not admitted into the Hostel in future.
(iii) Category C students be suspended from academics for 3 weeks and be permitted to continue with academics from 22nd October, 2018 in the current semester.
One of the student filed writ petition based on the disciplinary committee conclusion with a view that the applicant, being a bright student such a punishment would ruin his future.
The case on hand is not one in which the writ applicant and the other students were not given any opportunity of hearing. It is also not a case in which the writ applicant has been taken by surprise with the charges levelled against him.
So long as an inquiry is held to be fair and it affords a student an adequate opportunity of defending himself, the matter should not ordinarily be examined by the courts with the same strictness as applicable to the criminal charges.
The writ applicant may be a very brilliant student with a good academic record but if a brilliant student is found to have involved in ragging, he will have to bear the consequences of the same.
FULL TEXT OF THE HIGH COURT ORDER / JUDGEMENT
By this writ application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the writ applicant, a student pursuing his studies with the institute of Infrastructure Technology Research & Management, has prayed for the following reliefs;
“(A) be pleased to allow this petition.
(B) be pleased to issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction by quashing and setting aside the impugned communication/order dated 22.10.2018 at Annexure-A and further be pleased to direct the respondents to permit the petitioner to carry on the study in the fourth semester and or further direct the respondents to permit the petitioner to appear in the retests which may be taken at the later stage for the third semester.
(C ) Pending admission, hearing and final disposal of this petition, be pleased to stay further operation, implementation and execution of the impugned order dated 22.10.2018 at Annexure-A and direct the respondents to permit the petitioner to carry on the study in the fourth semester and further direct the respondents to permit the petitioner to appear in the retests which may be taken at the later stage for the third semester.
(D) be pleased to pass such other and further orders may be deemed just and proper looking to the facts and circumstance of the case and in the interest of the justice.”
2. The case of the writ applicant, in his own words, as pleaded in the writ application, is as under;
“The petitioner herein is a 10 year old bright student having excellent career record. The petitioner got 9.6 out of 10 CGPA in standard 10th, 95.6% in standard 12th (Science C.B.S.E), 8.62 out of 10 CPI in B.Tech, (Mechanical), Semester-1 with the Respondent No.1 and was a Batch topper in the second semester in May 2018 (9.86 out of 10 CPI) with the Respondent No.1. A complete bio data of the petitioner is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure-B to this petition. A bare look at the same will prove it beyond a shred of doubt that since admission in the Respondent No.1 University, the Petitioner has utilized every day for the constructive, educational and positive activities, in addition to being a batch topper. The petitioner submits that the mid-semester exam for the second year (third semester) began from 01.10.2018. As the petitioner was in the midst of the examination, the learned Registrar came and announced that 23 students should report to him after the examination is over. After the examination was over, the petitioner along with other students reported as per the instructions. To utter shock and surprise, these students received 2 notices dated 01.10.2018 (by email) at 5:23 p.m. Informing that these 23 students were suspended from classes and other academic resources on account of their misconduct and they were required to vacate the Hostel within 48 hours. The second notice of the same date informed that these 23 students were to remain present at 11:30 a.m on 03.10.2018 with respect to their misconduct at Hall No.G-5 at the University. Copies of both the notices dated 01.10.2018 received via email are annexed herewith and marked as Annexure-C to this petition. It is pertinent to note that 02.10.2018 was a public holiday and the petitioner and other students were not permitted to appear in the exam on 03.10.2018. No material or information regarding what misconduct the students have committed was given. The students were also not informed as to before whom they were to remain present. However, when the petitioner along with other students remained present at 11:30 a.m. they were informed not to carry the mobile phones with them. One by one student was called in the hall and after brief interaction each student was told to leave the premises without any interaction with other remaining students. When the petitioner entered the committee hall, an entire committee of 9 people started asking questions furiously. In fact a Fresher party was organized by about 130 students of Second Year (by contributing Rs.1,500/- each) to welcome about 140 students of the First Year (no contribution), on 16.09.2018 at Marigold Banquet, EKA Club and approximately 270 students enjoyed the party willingly and no untoward incident happened during the party. In fact, the students have requested the office by email dated 15.09.2018 for bus service for pick up and dropping the students. A copy of the email dated 15.09.2018 is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure-D to this petition. The committee was informed by the students that as per the tradition since last three years such party was organized and a contest to select Mr. Fresher and Ms. Fresher was organized by the entire group of the second year students (130 students). A questionnaire was prepared by some of the students but the petitioner has not finalized and prepared the same, and the same was filled up by 150 first year students on their free will and without any pressure. Out of these 150 students who filled in the questionnaire, 50 students were selected for the next stage of interaction, but, the petitioner has not played any role in in such selection. The petitioner was never a part of the students who actually interacted with the students. The interaction was held on different dates at different placed within the Campus. One such interaction was held in the sixth floor Reading room for 2 days. On the first day the petitioner requested the assistant Librarian (since the Librarian was not available on that day0 to open the reading room for interaction. On the second day, the same request was made to the Librarian who sent the Peon with keys to open the reading room. The petitioner has not interviewed any student of the first year. The entire process of interaction was recorded by the CCTV of the reading room. Nothing untoward happened during these two days in presence of the petitioner. No student has lodged any complaint against the petitioner. However, the committee kept on asking the petitioner as to who set the questionnaire which the petitioner was not knowing The petitioner was asked to leave the premises. Nothing happened between 03.10.2018 to 21.10.2018. Suddenly, the petitioner received order dated 22.10.2018 via email that the petitioner is debarred for one year (Annexure-A). Without any specific show-cause notice, without specifying the misconduct or the role of the petitioner, without supplying any material regarding the finding of the disciplinary committee and without a specific show cause notice on quantum of punishment, the impugned order was passed which is also unreasoned (non speaking). It came to the knowledge of the petitioner that in all 26 students are handed over different punishments in the same illegal and arbitrary manner in gross violation of principles of natural justice. On receipt of the impugned order the parents personally went to the respondent no.1 on 24-10-2018. On 25-10-2018 the petitioner’s father sent a representation by email, a copy of which is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure -E to this petition. On 26-10-2018, one of the student Anjali Pitroda sent a mail to the Respondent no. 1 in detail along with a signed Memorandum of first year students stating that they have no complaints against any one as there was no ill treatment, a copy of which is annexed herewith and marked as Annexure -F to this petition. One more detailed representation was sent on behalf of all the students to the Board of Governors (but till today the same is not considered), a copy of which is annexed herewith and marked as AnnexureG to this petition. The Board of Governors consists of eminent personalities in whom all the students have immense trust but it appears that the true facts are not presented before them by the office bearers. Several attempts were made by the parents to meet the Board of Governors but, these attempts were nullified by the office bearers for some alien purpose. In fact the parents and the students are told that if they try to challenge the punishment they will have to face criminal proceedings. The Learned Director General of the institute behaved cordially with the parents but it appears that correct facts were not placed before him and only twisted version was placed before him. The petitioner has no specific role in any specific conduct which may amount to misconduct. The petitioner submits that the aforesaid impugned order is non speaking, illegal, arbitrary, mala tide and in gross violation of principles of natural justice and is therefore violative of Art. 14 and Art. 21 of the Constitution of India. The impugned order will tarnish and leave a huge black spot on the otherwise Brilliant Career of a sincere Student like petitioner who is absolutely innocent. The petitioner submits that out of 26 students five students are suspended for 3 weeks, 16 students are debarred for one semester and 5 students are debarred for two semester (one year). No reason is given for such different treatment to different students without specifying individual roles / charges or a specific misconduct. The final exams of the third semester has already started and thus students have already lost one semester (the University has the power to take exam for this 26 students during the fourth semester). Hence, the present petition.”
3. Thus, the present litigation is one, in which, the institute has taken disciplinary action against the writ applicant and twenty five other students. The writ applicant has been discontinued by way of punishment from all the academic activities for the current academic year and will be permitted to continue with the academics with the academic year 2019-20. In addition to the same, he will not be admitted in the hostel in future.
4. Being dissatisfied with the action taken by the institute against the student, this writ application has been filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
5. Let me go straight go to the charges levelled against the writ applicant and the other students.
6. The report on the proceedings of the Disciplinary Committee meeting held on 3rd October, 2018 at the IITRAM, is as under;
“On 25th September, 2018 a suspected case of indiscipline of students was brought to the notice of Registrar, Director and Director General through the CCTV coverage from Reading Room area situated on 6th Floor of the Institute.
In view of above, a meeting of Director General, Director, Registrar, Dean of Academic and Student Affairs, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and warden of boys’ AMC hostel was arranged on 27th September, 2018. The CCTV footage was shown to the members present in the meeting. The responsibility of the identification of the students involved in the disciplinary action was given to Warden, Associate dean and Dean. The identification was done very cautiously so as to be quadruple sure. The students were identified. List of identified students is given in Annex 1.
The 06 fresher students, Ms. Banasri Dalal, Ms. Mudra Patel, Ms. Harshini Kolte, Mr. Mohammad Arif, Mr. Abhay Upadhyay, Mr. Kushagra Nanglot, as found in the footage were called to know more about the incident in the office of Director on 1St October, 2018 at 1 pm. Mr. Kushagra was absent in the meeting as he was not available in the Institute at that time. Remaining 05 students attended the meeting in Director’s office in the presence of the Director, Dean of Academics and Student Affairs and Associate Dean of Student Affairs. These students initially were reluctant to speak about the incident, but eventually they opened up and said that they were asked to perform exercises (sit-ups), a dance or some mock activities. Mr. Upadhyay was asked to imitate a mock fight. Mr. Arif was asked to perform some yoga exercises. Ms. Bansari was asked to show some steps of dance and Ms. Mudra and Ms. Bansari were asked to perform the plank form and an internal competition between them was also made to happen. After the interaction was over Ms. Bansari came back and broke into tears and said that the dare she was given at the Fresher party was very indecent and made her feel very low. Ms. Mudra also came back to say that she had received a message to ramp-awalk with a senior boy in the party but decided to ignore the message.
Mr. Kushagra Nanglot who was absent from the interaction on 1st October, 2018, met Director, Dean of Academics & Student Affairs and the Registrar on 4th October, 2018 at 12.30 pm in the Director’s Office. He admitted that all the things like sit-ups, and bottle etc. had happened with him He also said that as he is a football player and had been in the hostel since his 5th standard, he was able to bear the things. The severity of the incident was such that somebody at his place might have broken down.
At 4:30 pm on the same day, i.e., on 1st October, 2018, Twenty Three -2nd Year students found in footage were called in room no.L-105 and were served the suspension notice intimating them;
I) they have to vacate the hostel within 48 hours and
II) they are suspended from all the academics (Annex
2: Suspension notice)
A meeting of Disciplinary Committee members was convened on 3rd October, 2018 at 1:30 am. The Disciplinary Committee consisting of;
1. Dr. A. U. Digraskar; Director, IITRAM .
2. Dr. Shanti Prasanna- Dean of Academics and Student Affairs
3. Dr. Meera Vasani- Associate Dean of Student Affairs
4. Dr. Gautam Borisagar-Warden AMC Boys Hostel
5. Dr. Mamta Shanna- Warden Girls’ Hostel.
6. Dr. Mahuya Bandhyopadhaya- Assistant Professor, Chemistry
7. Dr. Veerbhadra Rotte- Assistant Professor Civil Engineering
8. Dr. Harshad Patel- Librarian IITRAM
9. Ms. Bharatiben Patel- Administrative Officer, IITRAM
10 Mr. Hiren Halvadia- Parent representative
11. Mr. Deven Sheth- Parent representative
12. Mr. Chhatwani Naresh- Student representative
13. Mr. Mukul Jangid- Student representative.
The CCTV footages were shown to the committee:;
1) Footage 01: In this footage Mr. Kushagra Nanglot, 1st Year student, was seen being bullied by a group of 18 students of 2nd Year: Mr. Ashish Raj, Mr. Pushpendra Singh, Mr. Prashant Gupta, Mr. Himesh Panchal, Mr. Prabhat Tyagi, Mr. Hiren Chaudhary, Mr. Arnav Biswas, Mr. Dipen Patel, Mr. Jwalant Wadhwa, Mr. Praveen Dhaker, Mr.Yash Vardhan Omar, Mr. Rakshit Kaul, Mr. Akash Shanna, Mr. Kishan Zafadiya, Mr. Pranshu Soni, Mr. Monish Yadav, Mr. Kunj Shah and Mr. Abhilash Maurya. He was asked to perform large number of sit-ups. While sit-ups were being done, a bottle was also placed on the ground and he was asked to lift it with his butt (as reported by the 2nd Year boys in front of Disciplinary Committee Meeting). Here it was seen that the boys from 2nd Year were aggressive and it was also seen that a 2nd year boy jumped over the table and bounced on the junior. The scene went on for around 20 minutes. Suddenly Mr. Jwalant Wadhwa, in the group realized about the camera and asked Mr. Hiren Chaudhary sitting below it, to tilt it, thereby preventing any further action from being recorded.
2) Footage 02: In the footage of the second camera on 4lth September, 2018 shows the 2nd Year girls students namely Ms. Ashvi Shah, Ms. Anjali Pitroda, and Ms. Aayushi Prasad coming or going out of the Reading room i.e. incident place. In this footage, Ms. Bansari Dalal and Ms. Mudra Patel of 1st Year are seen doing the plank pose. (Annex. 03).
The committee then interacted with the First year students to take their feedback about the incident and met the boys and girls separately.
A few students had given in writing about the misconducts suffered by them due to the 2nd Year seniors. (Annex 4: The students’ feedback) Also they reported that a questionnaire was circulated to them in the seminar room in the Institute premises in the month of August/September. They were instructed by the 2nd Year seniors to fill and submit it to them. Further the students reported that the questionnaire contained some objectionable and vulgar questions. While interacting with the students, they intimated that the purpose of the questionnaire was to choose so called Mr. & Ms. Fresher. (Annex 5: The questionnaire as received from Mr. Jwalant Wadhwa & Mr. Gajendra Jain)
The committee met the suspended students one by one and asked them to present their say and were given fair chance to speak in his/her defense. Out of the 23 suspended students, 01 student Mr. Abhilash Mourya remained absent because of his reported ill health.
All the 22 suspended students accepted that they were involved in doing the indecent act and also accepted their guilt. During the interaction names of three more students: Mr. Pranshu Soni, Mr. Subhnao Singh Dixit, Mr. Rohit Singh were surfaced. The committee met them on the same day and the suspension notice was also served to them later. During the interaction all of them confessed that they have circulated a questionnaire to the juniors and on being asked Mr. Gajendra Jain and Mr. Jwalant Wadhwa brought the questionnaire and handed over it to the Committee.
The statement of students are given in Annex 6.
Based on the statements of the students the committee observed the following
1. The questionnaire circulated to the First Year Students contains vulgar and inappropriate material.
2. The clipping which the Institute CCTV has captured show some physical and mental torture done on 1stYear students.
3. Meddling with the security device i.e. tilting the CCTV camera is an offense.
4. Obtaining key of the Reading Room on 6th floor from Assistant Librarian on false proposition.
Based on the statements made by the students and the CCTV footage, in the meeting the committee concluded that:
(i) A few students played a major role in planning and executing the whole indecent activities
(ii) A few were observers and enjoyed the whole scene, and
(iii) Some had just happened to be there by chance or curiosity.
Accordingly the committee recommends the following:
1) The culprit students be categorized in three different categories. The detailed description of categories of offence by 2nd Year students are given in Annex 07.
Category A: the students who were involved in planning and executing the whole indecent activities.
1. Prabhat Tyagi
2. Prashant Gupta
3. Gajendra Jain
4. Parixit Singh
5. Jwalant Wadhwa
Category B: the students who were observing, enjoying and encouraging the other students in the whole indecent activities and failed to inform the authorities.
1. Himesh Panchal
2. Hiren Chaudhary
3. Ashish Raj
4. Aashvi Shh
5. Dipen Patel
6. Kishan Zadafiya
7. Arnav Biswas
8. Pushpendra Singh
9. Pranshu Soni
10. Aayush Prasad
11. Anjali Pitroda
12. Praveen Dhakar
13. Yash Vardhan Omar
14. Raxit Kaul
15. Akash Sharma
Category C: the students happened by chance or curiously to be there at venue but failed to stop these indecent activities and also failed to inform the authorities.
1. Kunj Shah
2. Abhineet Singh
3. Monish Yadav
4. Rohit Singh
5. Shubhano Singh Dixit
2) The committee unanimously recommends the following action;
(I) Category A students be suspended from the current academic year and be permitted to continue with academics from August, 2018. However, they be not admitted into the Hostel in future.
(ii) Category B students be suspended from the current semester and be permitted to continue with academics from January, 2019. However, they be not admitted into the Hostel in future.
(iii) Category C students be suspended from academics for 3 weeks and be permitted to continue with academics from 22nd October, 2018 in the current semester.
Note; The committee would meet Mr. Abhilash Mourya, the student who remained absent, after his recovery and decide appropriately;
Mr. Mukul Jangid
Mr. Chhatwani Naresh
Mr. Hiren Halvadia
Ms. Bhartiben Patel
Administrative officer, IITRAM
Dr. Veerbhadra Rotte
Dr. Mamta Sharma
Warden Girls’ Hostel, IITRAM
Dr. Gautam Borisagar
Warden, AMC Boys’ Hostel,IITRAM
Dr. Meera Vasani
Associate Dean of Student Affairs
Dr. Shanti Prasanna
Dean of Academic & Student Affairs “
7. Submissions on behalf of the writ applicant ‘
7.1 Mr. Hardik Raval, the learned counsel appearing for the writ applicant vehemently submitted that the impugned order at Annexure-A is liable to be quashed and set aside as the same is a non-speaking, illegal, arbitrary and a malafide order. Mr. Raval would submit that the action initiated against the writ applicant and the punishment imposed is in gross violation of the principles of natural justice. He would submit that no show-cause notice was issued by the institute specifying the allegations and the role played by the writ applicant.
7.2 Mr. Raval submitted that the haste with which the management of the institute conducted the inquiry, will indicate that there was complete breach of the principles of natural justice The writ applicant was not given any formal show-cause notice indicating as to on what charges, the inquiry was being conducted. They were not given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.
7.3 According to Mr. Raval, the action, being in the nature of a quasi-judicial inquiry, the principles of natural justice would apply. Mr. Raval would submit that the punishment imposed is quite harsh and not incommensurate with the nature of the charge. Mr. Raval further pointed out that his client is a bright student and the punishment imposed would tarnish his image in the society and would also spoil the future prospects of higher studies. In such circumstances, referred to above, Mr. Raval prays that there being merit in this writ application, the same be allowed and the order of punishment be quashed.
Submissions on behalf of the Institute;
8. On the other hand, this writ application has been vehemently opposed by Mr. Dipen Desai, the learned counsel appearing for the institute. Mr. Desai would submit that the case on hand is one of ragging. He would submit that ragging is a worst kind of humiliation which takes a serious toll on the mental and emotional health of the student subjected to it. He further submitted that the menace of ragging is growing in proportion and degrading or worsening in terms of form and method. Such instances should be dealt with firmly. Mr. Desai would submit that the matter on hand is one of open and shut case. The report of the Disciplinary Committee is self-explanatory. The C.C.T.V. Footage makes the picture abundantly clear as regards the misconduct of the students found guilty of ragging.
9. Mr. Desai submitted that the writ applicant is one of the students who has been found involved in the planning and the execution of the entire indecent activities.
10. Mr. Desai further submitted that once the charges against the students, which are serious enough are proved, the punishment that could be imposed also is within the discretion of the disciplinary authority and this Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India may not interfere with the same. Mr. Desai would submit that the case is one in which the students could have been rusticated from the institute for all times to come. However, the management of the institute has shown some mercy and has imposed the penalty which could definitely be said to be incommensurate with the charges. Mr. Desai would submit that the judicial review by this Court in exercise of extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not directed against a decision but is directed against the “Decision making process”;that the question of appropriate punishment, both in its choice and quantum, being within the discretion of the Disciplinary Authority, this Court may not interfere with the same.
11. Mr. Desai, the learned counsel appearing for the institute has placed strong reliance on the following averments made in the affidavit-in-reply filed on behalf of the institute;
“15. Thereafter, considering the severity of the misconduct, the Institute decided to immediately suspended 23 second year students and they were served suspension order on 01.10.2018 and they were asked to vacate the hostel within 48 hours. A copy of communication dated 01.10.2018 is annexed hereto and marked as Annexure-R2 to this reply.
16. It is submitted that thereafter, the disciplinary committee meeting was convened on 03.10.2018. 13 members consisted of the disciplinary committee which includes two parent’s representatives and two student’s representatives. The disciplinary committee first viewed the CCTV footages from which it was found that the group of 18 students of the second year including the present petitioner) were bullying a first year student Mr. Kushagra Nanglot He was asked to perform large number of sit-ups Thereafter, the bottle was placed on .the ground and he was asked to lift with his butt. It was seen that the second year students were very aggressive and they were pouncing on the junior students and this incident went on for about 20 minutes.
17. It was then that the petitioner herein in the group realized about the CCTV Camera and asked another student Mr. Hiren Chaudhary who was sitting below the CCTV Camera to tilt the Camera so that the Camera is not able to further view the action going on. The same is clearly caught on the CCTV Camera. The respondents crave leave to produce and rely upon the footage of CCTV Camera as and when required by the Hon’ble Court for viewing the same.
18. It is submitted that thereafter, the footage No.2 of the second CCTV Camera was seen by the disciplinary committee, which shows that various second year girl students were coming and going out of the reading room, where another incident had happened, where various girl students of the first year were asked to do the plank pose. The respondents crave lave to produce and rely upon the said CCTV footage as and when required by the Hon’ble Court.
19. The Committee then called various first year students to take their feedback about the incident. The first year students have given in writing about the misconduct suffered by them and they had stated before the committee that the kind of harassment that was done was really bad and vulgar and objectionable. The students also reported that the questionnaire was circulated in the seminar room of the Institute in the month of August-September to the students of first year by the second year students to fill and submit the same to the second year students. It was reported that the questionnaire contained very objectionable and vulgar questions.
20. The committee asked the junior students as to why such questionnaire was asked to be filled up to which the junior students said that the purpose of questionnaire was to choose Mr. and Ms. Fresher. Copies of statements of the first year students taken by the disciplinary committee are annexed hereto and marked as Annexure-R3 Collectively to this reply.
21. The committee then called the suspended students one by one to present their case. 22 out of 23 suspended students including the petitioner herein were asked to give their version and their defense. The committee heard each and every students patiently and individually and gave fair chance to speak to every student. All the 22 students including the petitioner herein accepted that they were involved in doing the indecent act and also accepted their guilt. Names of 3 additional students also emerged during hearing of the students and they were also called. When the committee asked about the questionnaire, the petitioner herein and one Mr. Gajendra Jain provided copy of the questionnaire to the committee and on seeing the contents of the questionnaire, the committee was shocked. A copy of questionnaire is annexed hereto and marked as Annexure-R4 to this reply.
22. It is submitted that the committee took statements of each and every students including the petitioner The petitioner has agreed before the committee that he was involved in the indecent act and that he also admitted that there were vulgar questions included in the questionnaire. He also admitted that he asked other student to rotate the Camera. He also admitted that he was one of the persons who was actively involved in conducting, planning and executing the above acts. Copies of statements of the second year students taken by the disciplinary committee are annexed hereto and marked as Annexure-R5 Collectively to this reply.
23. It is submitted that on the basis of the above referred CCTV footage, statements of the junior students and the statements of the senior students, the committee observed that the questionnaire circulated by the second year students contained very vulgar and inappropriate material. The CCTV footage also showed that physical and mental torture was made on the first year students and there was an attempt to meddle with the security device i.e. CCTV Camera. The committee decided that the students be distributed in three parts and the punishment be given according to their involvement in the act, i.e. (i) students who played major role in planning and executing the whole indecent act be given the maximum punishment, (ii) students who were observers should be given a little less punishment and (iii) students who had happened to be there, but they also did not report the incident should be given the least punishment. The committee on the basis of CCTV footage, statements etc. found that five students including the present petitioner were actively involved in planning and executing the entire incident and therefore, five students including the petitioner were recommended to be suspended for a period of one year and they shall not be admitted in hostel in future lesser punishment was proposed on other students. It is submitted that the committee gave the report to the Institute recommending the above action on 21.10.2018. A copy of report of the disciplinary committee is annexed hereto and marked as Annexure-R6 to this reply.
24, On the basis of the aforesaid report, the Institute decided to accept the report as it is and vide impugned order dated 22.10.2018 passed the impugned order of punishment upon the petitioner so also the other students.
25. From the above, the Hon’ble Court would be satisfied that the Institute has taken all possible care of the entire proceedings conducted by the Institute are after affording opportunity to defend their case to the students, the students were made known about the charge against them during the disciplinary committee proceedings and they categorically accepted the guilt. Therefore, it is not correct that the Institute did not make the petitioner know about the charge or the order was passed without observing the principles of natural justice.
26. It is submitted that the act of the petitioner is very serious and it also involved torturing of minor students (some of the 1styear students are below 18 years of age), which may also be a criminal offence under the Provision of Commission of Sexual Offence Act. The Institute had an option to file complaint before the police however, looking at the age and future of the students and also looking at the career of the victim girls, the Institute thought fit not to undertake the said exercise and only decided to take the route of disciplinary proceedings. The said decision was taken to safeguard the future of the students like the petitioner and to see that their career is not ruined for all times to come.”
12. Mr Desai, the learned counsel appearing for the institute has placed reliance on the following decisions;
“(i) In the case of Kolli Madhav Sairam Reddy vs. Union of India & Ors., 2011(1) GLH 460;
(ii) In the case of Dharampal Satyapal Limited vs. Deputy Commissioner of Central Excise Gauhati, 2015(8) SCC 519;
(iii) In the case of Controller of Examination vs. G.S. Sunder & Anr., 1992(2) GLH 140;
(iv) In the case of Prem Prakash Kaluniya vs. The Punjab University & Ors., (1973) SCC 424;
(v) In the case of Suresh Koshy George vs. University of Kerala & Ors., AIR 1969 SC 198;
(vi) In the case of T. Chakravarthy Yuvaraj & Ors. vs. Principal, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Medical College, AIR 1997 Karnataka 261;
13. Having heard the learned counsel appearing for the parties and having gone through the materials on record, the only question that falls for my consideration is whether I should interfere with the action taken by the Disciplinary Committee of the institute and the punishment imposed upon the writ applicant.
14. Having regard to the materials on record, there is no scope for this Court to take the view that the disciplinary action taken against the writ applicant is tainted with bias or victimization. There is no allegation of such a nature against the Disciplinary Committee/members. It is also not the case of the writ applicant that he had been wrongly implicated. The C.C.T.V. Footage makes the picture abundantly clear in this regard. The charges are extremely serious.
15. Mr. Desai, the learned counsel appearing for the institute is right in his submission that the menace of ragging is growing in proportion and degrading or worsening in terms of form and method. It is a worst kind of humiliation to junior/fresh students who come with hope and aspirations and look forward to the seniors for guidance, support and protection and there is critical need to curb the practice which takes a serious toll on the mental and emotional health of the student subjected to ragging. Actually, such instances have to be prevented with great care and vigilance and if at all it occurs, it should be dealt with firmly, and in accordance with law.
16. The case on hand is not one in which the writ applicant and the other students were not given any opportunity of hearing. It is also not a case in which the writ applicant has been taken by surprise with the charges levelled against him. So long as an inquiry is held to be fair and it affords a student an adequate opportunity of defending himself, the matter should not ordinarily be examined by the courts with the same strictness as applicable to the criminal charges. The writ applicant may be a very brilliant student with a good academic record but if a brilliant student is found to have involved in ragging, he will have to bear the consequences of the same.
17. In inflicting appropriate punishment, certain aspects have to be borne in mind. When the relationship of the Head of the Institution and the student is that of a parent and child, the punishment imposed should not result in any retribution or give vent to a feeling of wrath. The main purpose of punishment is to correct the fault of the student concerned by making him more alert in future and to hold out a warning to the other students to be careful, so that they may not expose themselves to similar punishment and the approach is that of a parent towards an erring or misguided child. In order to not to attract the criciticm that the action is a result of arbitrariness, it has to be ensured that the penalty imposed is commensurate with the magnitude of the fault.
18. I am of the view that the writ applicant is otherwise fortunate that the maximum penalty of expulsion from the institute has not been imposed. At least, the institute has taken care to ensure that the career of the writ applicant is not completely ruined. If the writ applicant would have been expelled from the institute, no other college would have granted him admission to enable him to complete his studies, thereby leading to such frustration and disappointment or despondency which may lead even either to suicide or taken him into antisocial elements.
19. I am not impressed by the submission canvassed on behalf of the writ applicant that no opportunity was given to the writ applicant to defend himself. To put it in other words, I am not impressed with the submission that no reasonable opportunity of hearing was given to the writ applicant and that the inquiry conducted by the Committee was not fair. As noted above, there is thumping incriminating materials on record in the form of C.C. TV Footage and the statements of the victims. The duty of any Educational Institution be it a school or college or any other institute in maintaining internal discipline is paramount. When they see any slightest threat to the discipline, the preventive measures are enforced eo-instanti. That necessarily obliterates the extravagance of a full-fledged inquiry. When the courts have recognized the power of the Educational Institute to inflict reasonable corporal punishment on the erring student or students, the holding of a full inquiry like a criminal trial for indiscipline appears to be out of place.
20. The Supreme Court in K. Kraipak v. Union of India, AIR 1970 SC 150, held that the rules of natural justice aims at securing justice or to prevent injustice. They operate only in the areas not covered by any law validly made. In Union of India v. J. N. Sinha, AIR 1971 SC 40, it was laid down that the principles of natural justice do not supplant law but supplement it. If a statutory provision either specifically or by necessary implication excludes the application of any rules of natural justice then the court cannot ignore the mandate of the legislature or the statutory authority and read into the concerned provision of the principles of natural justice. In this view, the Supreme Court held in that case, the principles of natural justice cannot be read into Fundamental Rules and no opportunity can be given before compulsorily retiring an employee as that implication does not arise by reason of the express statutory language. Applying this ratio the Supreme Court in Union of India v. Ex Constable Amrik Sing, AIR 1991 SC 564, held that in cases of special enactments like Army Act all the principles of natural justice cannot be imported. It further held that the same ratio will apply to a petition under Section 117(2) of the Border Security Force Act, 1968. It is also pointed out that the Chapter XIII consisting of Rules 167 to 169 of the B.S.F. Rules deals with petitions filed under Section 117 of the Act and “even in them there is nothing to indicate that a hearing has to be given before disposal of a petition.”
21. I do not find any reason to detract in extending the ratio in Union of India v. J. N. Sinha, AIR 1971 SC 40 (supra), and Union of India v. Ex Constable Amrik Singh, AIR 1991 SC 564 (supra), to the academic bodies like the schools and colleges, where the prevalence of discipline is asseverated. It cannot therefore be said that the opportunity of hearing to the delinquent student or his guardian is always an invariable attribute in a disciplinary proceeding. I am fully conscious of the position that the “principles of natural justice are fundamental in the constitutional set up of this country” (Charanlal Sahu v. Union of India, (1990) 1 SCC 613 : (AIR 1990 SC 1480). However, the limitations and restrictions imposed by the Supreme Court in this regard on different occasions are reverberative. Once it said “the extent and application of the doctrine of natural justice cannot be imprisoned within the straight jacket of a rigid formula. The application of the doctrine depends upon the nature and jurisdiction conferred on the administrative authority, upon the character of the rights affected, the scheme and policy of the statute and other relevant circumstances disclosed in the particular case” (Union of India v. P. K. Roy , AIR 1968 SC 850). In Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education v. K.S. Gandhi, (1991)2 SCC 716: (1991 AIR SCW 879) (supra), the Supreme Court remarked “the applicability of the principles of natural justice is not a rule of thumb or straight jacket formula as an abstract proposition of law. It depends on the facts of the case, nature of the inquiry and the effect of the order/decision on the rights of the person and attendant circumstances.” In a recent decision, Rattan Lal Sharma v. Managing Committee, (1993)4 SCC 10 : (AIR 1993 SC2155), the Supreme Court has approved the following observation of Tucker L.J. in Russell v. Duke of Norfolk, (1949) 1 AH ER 109 (C.A.), which is found to be very relevant on the point under discussion :
”….There are, in my view, no words which are of universal application to every kind of inquiry and the every kind of domestic tribunal. The requirements of natural justice must depend on the circumstances of the case, the nature of the inquiry, the rules under which the tribunal is acting, the subject-matter that is being dealt with, and so forth.”
22. In cases where academic discipline is involved the rule of hearing has always been construed strictly. It is not the indispensable facet of principles of natural justice. Such rule can be waived in situation where the head of the institute or the governing body is satisfied that the ‘fairness’ has been shown to the delinquent student or his guardian before action is taken against him. Such satisfaction can be arrived at by the depending on the facts of each case and the attendant circumstances. The issue of a pre-decisional or show cause notice to the delinquent student or his guardian to explain the allegations would no doubt constitute ‘fairness’. When such fairness is shown it is for the Management or the Principal to decide any further opportunity is necessary in the facts of the case. But I can certainly visualise that even fairness to a delinquent would, in certain cases, cause more injustice than justice. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court made a very significant remark about the extension of the rule of natural justice while dealing with the question of furnishing enquiry report to a delinquent employee. It is contained in Managing Director, ECIL v. B. Karunakar,(1993) 4 SCC 727 : (AIR 1994 SC 1074). There it is observed : “Where, therefore, even after the furnishing of the report, no different consequence would have followed, it would be a perversion of justice to permit the employee to resume duty and to get all the consequential benefits. It amounts to rewarding the dishonest and the guilty and thus to stretching the concept of justice to illogical and exasperating limits. It amounts to an “unnatural expansion of natural justice.” The Supreme Court in Karnataka Public Service Commission v. B. M. Vijaya-shanker, AIR 1992 SC 952, remarked : “Even though the procedure of affording hearing is as important as decision on merits yet urgency of the matter, or public interest at times require flexibility in application of the rule as the circumstances of the case and the nature of the matter required to be dealt may serve interest of justice better by denying opportunity of hearing …..”. In that case the Karnataka Public Service Commission did not afford any opportunity to the candidates who appeared in competitive examinations to explain their bona fides and innocence in disobeying the instructions. But the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal issued directions to get the answer books of the candidates evaluated. These directions were challenged before the Supreme Court by the Public Service Commission and State of Karnataka. The orders of the Administrative Tribunal were set aside by the Supreme Court on the ground that facts of the case justify the exclusion of the natural justice before taking any action in the matter.
23. In Herring v. Templeman, (1973) 3 All ER 569) the Court of Appeal held: “… .the assumption that the plaintiff was entitled as of right to a full legal trial on every detailed matter was fallacious, the hearing before the governing body was neither a law suit nor a legal arbitration; its purpose was to give the student a fair chance to show why the recommendations of the academic board, which was the competent body to make an assessment, and the principle should not be accepted;. . . .” The Supreme Court in Board of High School and Intermediate Education U. P. v. Bagleshwar Prasad, AIR 1966 SC 875 observed: “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 Universities under Article 226, the High Court is not sitting in appeal over the decision in question; its jurisdiction is limited.”
24. Over a period of time, the courts have modulated the in built restriction exercising powers under Article 226 of the Constitution while dealing with the orders of the academic bodies. The courts have generally set certain limitations and self-imposed restrictions on them while exercising their discretionary power under Article 226 in dealing with the decisions of the academic bodies. The courts have consistently kept their hands off high academic bodies unless flagrant violation of fair play based on bias or mala fides is brought to their notice in the orders passed by them. The academic bodies enjoy a position of primacy in the matters relating to internal administration. It is primarily a matter in their domestic jurisdiction. That, is not to say that the courts will not interfere, if the procedure adopted by the authority is so grossly unfair, as to produce unjust results. The courts will intervene then, and only then. The interference of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution in the matters relating to the internal discipline of the academic bodies will normally be rigid.
25. In B.C.Chaturvedi v. Union of India, (1995) 6 SCC 749 it was held by the Supreme Court that where the finding of the disciplinary authority are based on some evidence, then the court/Tribunal should not interfere with the same and will not re-appreciate the evidence and substitute its own findings. In this matter the Central bureau of investigation had concluded that the petitioner working as an income tax officer possessed assets disproportionate to that of his own income, however as the evidence was not sufficient the case could not be registered under thePrevention of Corruption Act. However, in the departmental proceedings initiated against him, he was dismissed from service. The Central administrative tribunal upheld the charges, however, altered the punishment imposed. Relying on Bidyabhusahn Mohapatra, , Bhagat Ram v. State of H.P. and Rangaswami v. State of T.N. 1989 Suppl (1) SCC 686, it was observed by the Apex Court that it has not been laid down that in no case, the High Court/Tribunal has the power to alter the penalty imposed by the disciplinary or appellate authority. However, the disciplinary authorities being the fact-finding authorities have the exclusive power to consider the evidence with a view to maintain discipline. They are invested with the discretion to impose an appropriate punishment keeping in view the magnitude and gravity of the misconduct. The High Court/Tribunal, while exercising the power of judicial review, should not normally substitute its own conclusion on penalty and impose some other penalty. If the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority or by the appellate authority shocks the conscience of the High Court/Tribunal, it would appropriately mould the relief, either directing the disciplinary authority to reconsider the penalty imposed, or to shorten the litigation, it may itself, in exceptional cases, impose appropriate punishment with cogent reasons in support thereof. Similarly in Union of India v. G Ganayutham it was held that according to Wednesbury principles, while examining `reasonableness’ of an administrative decision the court has to find out if the administrator has left out relevant factors or taken into account irrelevant factors. The decision of the administrator must have been within the four corners of the law, and not one which no sensible person could have reasonably arrived at, having regard to the above principles, and must have been a bona fide one. The decision could be one of many choices open to the authority but it was for that authority to decide upon the choice and not for the court to substitute its view. In this case 50% of respondent’s pension and 50% of gratuity were withheld on proof of his misconduct. The tribunal had interfered with the quantum of punishment and had also substituted its view of the punishment. The Apex court had set aside the punishment imposed by the tribunal and had restored the punishment awarded by the Departmental authorities. The apex court had also summarized the position of proportionality in England and in India as follows:
(1) To judge the validity of any administrative order or statutory discretion, normally the Wednesbury test is to be applied to find out if the decision was illegal or suffered from procedural improprieties or was Page 3412 one which no sensible decision-maker could, on the material before him and within the framework of the law, have arrived at. The court would consider whether relevant matters had not been taken into account or whether irrelevant matters had been taken into account or whether the action was not bona fide. The court would also consider whether the decision was absurd or perverse. The court would not however go into the correctness of the choice made by the administrator amongst the various alternatives open to him. Nor could the court substitute its decision to that of the administrator. This is the Wednesbury test
(2) The court would not interfere with the administrators decision unless it was illegal or suffered from procedural impropriety or was irrational in the sense that it was in outrageous defiance of logic or moral standards. The possibility of other tests, including proportionality being brought into English administrative law in future is not ruled out. These are the CCSU9 principles.
(3)(a) As per Bugdaycay20, Brind12 and Smith19 as long as the Convention is not incorporated into English law, the English courts merely exercise a secondary judgment to find out if the decision-maker could have, on the material before him, arrived at the primary judgment in the manner he has done.
(3)(b) If the Convention is incorporated in England making available the principle of proportionality, then the English courts will render primary judgment on the validity of the administrative action and find out if the restriction is disproportionate or excessive or is not based upon a fair balancing of the fundamental freedom and the need for the restriction thereupon.
(4)(a) The position in our country, in administrative law, where no fundamental freedoms as aforesaid are involved, is that the courts/tribunals will only play a secondary role while the primary judgment as to reasonableness will remain with the executive or administrative authority. The secondary judgment of the court is to be based on Wednesbury and CCSU principles as stated by Lord Greene and Lord Diplock respectively to find if the executive or administrative authority has reasonably arrived at his decision as the primary authority.
(4)(b) Whether in the case of administrative or executive action affecting fundamental freedoms, the courts in our country will apply the principle of proportionality and assume a primary role, is left open, to be decided in an appropriate case where such action is alleged to offend fundamental freedoms. It will be then necessary to decide whether the courts will have a primary role only if the freedoms under Articles 19, 21 etc. are involved and not for Article 14.
26. The quantum of punishment in disciplinary matters is, therefore, primarily for the disciplinary authority to decide and the jurisdiction of the High Court’s underArticle 226 of the constitution is limited and is confined to the applicability of one or other of the well-known principles known as the Wednesbury principles. This was held so by the Supreme Court in Om Kumar v. Union of India (2001) 2 SCC 386. It was held that the courts are confined to a secondary role and only has to see whether the administrator has acted illegally or has omitted relevant factors into consideration or whether his view is one which no reasonable person could have taken and if his action does not satisfy any of these conditions it is to be treated as arbitrary.
27. In my view, a very conscious decision has been taken by the institute in imposing the penalty.
28. The only question now left for my consideration is with regard to the submission of the writ applicant that he was not heard or put to notice about the proposed penalty.
29. In the aforesaid context, the averments made in para-28 of the affidavit-in-reply filed on behalf of the institute are relevant. Para-28 of the reply reads as under;
“28. Further, father of the petitioner, who also met the authorities and tried to persuade the authorities for reconsidering the punishment, was also given patient hearing and was shown the material because of which the Institute had to take this action.”
30. Mr. Raval, the learned counsel appearing for the writ applicant invited my attention to the observations made by a Division Bench of this Court in the case of Kolli Madhav (supra), more particularly, from para-12 onwards. I may quote the relevant observations;
“12. Now, we may turn to the second part of the contention viz. the appellant was not put to notice about proposed penalty.
12.1 In this context, it is appropriate to note that while it is true that the appellant was asked to make his statement about the incidence, it is equally true that in absence of the notice informing him about the proposed penalty the appellant was left guessing as to which punishment, from amongst the different penalties prescribed under the regulations, will visit him i.e. which penalty, the disciplinary authority was contemplating to impose, in the event he was held guilty. Furthermore, he also did not get the opportunity to represent against the decision about the penalty.
12.2 An action taken by the authority can be recognized as an action taken in accordance with principles of natural justice if the opportunity to represent and tender response qua the proposed punishment is afforded. Ordinarily, the obligation to comply the principles of natural justice can be said to have been observed and fulfilled if the person is heard on the point of proposed penalty and the failure or omission would amount to non-compliance. The person against whom the proceedings are held and any action is contemplated should, ordinarily, get opportunity to represent against the proposed penalty. This is the minimal and elementary requirement. Such requirement is all the more relevant and vital in cases where the regulations provide for different types/quantum of penalty and the discretion to decide the quantum is conferred on the authority. In present case the said elementary and primary requirement is not complied with inasmuch as the appellant was not put to the notice about the proposed penalty.
12.3 There may be myriad of exceptions, depending upon the facts of the case, so far as the proceedings and procedure for domestic inquiry is concerned and/or so far as the requirement for complying the principles of natural justice is concerned. However, an inquiry which is conducted against a person for appropriate action for his alleged misdemeanor, without putting him to notice, beforehand, about the proposed punishment would, ordinarily, amount to hollow formality or mere eye-wash and would not qualify as inquiry in accordance with the principles of natural justice.
12.4 It is not in dispute in present case that the appellant was not put to notice about the proposed punishment. He, therefore, did not get the opportunity to put forward his response as regards the proposed penalty and about its quantum. In absence of the notice, the appellant remained uninformed about the proposed penalty and did not get opportunity to represent against proposed penalty to that extent the impugned action regarding imposition of penalty stands vitiated. We hold accordingly.
The matter cannot be closed or concluded at this stage since it would amount to closing the matter without any penalty.
The question, therefore, would be what final order, while also addressing the aforesaid aspect, can be passed in such case.
In this context, we may refer to the observations by the Hon’ble Apex Court in para 32 in the judgment in the case of State Bank of Patiala & Ors. (supra), which read thus:-
32. Now, coming back to the illustration given by us in the preceding paragraph, would setting aside the punishment and the entire enquiry on the ground of aforesaid violation of sub-clause (iii) be in the interests of justice or would it be its negation? In our respectful opinion, it would be the latter. Justice means justice between both the parties. The interests of justice equally demand that the guilty should be punished and that technicalities and irregularities which do not occasion failure of justice are not allowed to defeat the ends of justice. Principles of natural justice are but the means to achieve the ends of justice. They cannot be perverted to achieve the very opposite end. That would be a counter-productive exercise.(emphasis supplied).
In view of the facts of the case, we may also recall the observations by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Ajit Kumar Nag (supra) that:-
We are aware of the normal rule that a person must have a fair trial and a fair appeal and he cannot be asked to be satisfied with an unfair trial and a fair appeal but we are also aware that the principles of natural justice are not rigid or immutable and hence they cannot be imprisoned in a straitjacket. While interpreting legal provision, a court of law cannot be unmindful of the hard realities of life. In our opinion, the approach of the Court in dealing with such cases should be pragmatic rather than pedantic, realistic rather than doctrinaire, functional rather than formal and practical rather than precedential…”[emphasis supplied]”
31. I am of the view that this, by itself, would not vitiate the entire proceedings or the impugned order, imposing the punishment. The writ applicant has been fortunate enough to get away with the punishment which cannot be said to be in any manner very harsh or not incommensurate with the nature of the charge. The case is, otherwise, one of rustication from the institute. However, the management of the institute seems to have taken some lenient view and have shown some mercy on the writ applicant, though not deserving. The quantum of punishment has to be decided by the authority who is responsible for the maintenance of discipline of the institution. Such authority, being responsible for the welfare ‘of the students as a whole’ is the best judge to say what punishment should be awarded, regard being had to the welfare of the general student body of the institution and the indiscipline committed by a particular student, its effect on the administration of the institution, its future effect on the morale and efficiency of the institution and its students. These are matters which can best be determined by the head of the institution or the governing body of the institution.
32. In Hira Nath v. Rajendra Medical College, Ranchi,, AIR 1973 SC 1260, the Supreme Court had occasion to consider the applicability of principles of natural justice with regard to domestic enquiries, with particular reference to the educational institutions. The complaint in that case was that the appellants who were 2nd Year students of the College and who lived in a hostel attached to the College, entered the compound of the ladies’ hostel and walked inside without clothes on them. They tried to misbehave with one of the girl students and they also climbed up along the drain pipes to the terrace of the girls’ hostel, where some of the girls were doing their studies. The miscreants were identified by the college and an enquiry was held by an Enquiry Committee. The Committee had enquired with the girls and recorded their statements. But, those statements were not recorded in the presence of the delinquent boys and the latter were enquired by the Committee later. As a result of the findings of the Enquiry Committee, the miscreants were expelled from the College for two academic sessions and they were directed to vacate the hostel immediately. The main contention urged before the apex Court was that the rules of natural justice had not been followed before the order of expulsion was made as the statements of the girl students were recorded behind their back and there was no opportunity given to the delinquents to cross-examine the witnesses with a view to test their veracity. It was also contended that the report of the Enquiry Committee was not made available to them. Repelling those contentions, the Court observed that under the circumstances of the case, the requirements of natural justice were fulfilled. It will be useful and advantageous to refer to the following passage in the judgment :–
“10. We think that under the circumstances of the case the requirements of natural justice were fulfilled. The learned Counsel for the respondents made available to us the report of the Committee just to show how meticulous the members of the Committee were to see that no injustice was done. We are informed that this report had also been made, available to the learned Judges of the High Court who heard the case and it further appears that the counsel for the appellants before the High Court was also invited to have a look into the report, but he refused to do so. There was no question about the incident. The only question was of identity. The names had been specifically mentioned in the complaint and, not to leave anything to chance, the Committee obtained photographs of the four delinquents and mixed them up with 20 other photographs of students. The girls by and large identified these four students from the photographs. On the other hand, if as the appellants say, they were in their own Hostel at the time it would not have been difficult for them to produce necessary evidence apart from saying that they were innocent and they had not gone to the girls Hostel at all late at night. There was no evidence in that behalf. The Committee on a Careful consideration of the material before them came to the conclusion that the three appellants and Upendra had taken part in the night raid on the girls Hostel. The report was confidentially sent to the Principal, The very reasons for which the girls were not examined in the presence of the appellants, prevailed on the authorities not to give a copy of the report to them. It would have been unwise to do so. Taking all the circumstances into account it is not possible to say that rules of natural justice had not been followed. In Board of Education v. Rice, 1911 AC 179, Lord Loreburn laid down that in disposing of a question, which was the subject of an appeal to it, the Board of Education was under a duty to act in good faith, and to listen fairly to both sides, inasmuch as that was a duty which lay on everyone who decided anything. He did not think that the Board was bound to treat such a question as though it were a trial. The Board need not examine witnesses. It could, he thought, obtain information in any way it thought best, always giving a fair opportunity to those who were parties in the controversy to correct or contradict any relevant statement prejudicial to their view. More recently in Russell v. Duke of Norfolk, (1949) 1 All ER 109 at p. 118, Tucker, L.J. observed : “There are in my view, no words which are of universal application to every kind of inquiry and every kind of domestic tribunal. The requirements of natural justice must depend on the circumstances of the case, the nature of the inquiry, the rules under which the Tribunal is acting, the subject-matter that is being dealt with, and so forth. Accordingly, I do not derive much assistance from the definitions of natural justice which have been from time to time used, but, whatever standard is adopted, one essential is that the person concerned should have a reasonable opportunity of presenting his case.” More recently in Byrne v. Kinematograph Renters Society Ltd., (1958) 2 All ER 579, 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.
11. Rules of natural justice cannot remain the same applying to all conditions.”
33. A similar ruling was given by Mohan, J. in R. Satheesh (minor) rep. by father and natural guardian, C. Rajendran v. Director of Higher Secondary Education, (1989) 2 LW 206. The learned Judge held that in every case it cannot be insisted that there must be a memorandum of charge, an enquiry and a finding arrived at like a Court or a judicial proceeding. The learned Judge observed as follows :–
“It is well settled by now that a student, so long as he behaves himself properly, in a disciplined way in other words, as a student ought to behave, has every right to prosecute his studies. Such a right cannot be interfered with. As against this, should there be any act of indiscipline which is not conducive to the interests of the Institution, and which will pollute the educational atmosphere of the Institution or the calm of the Institution, certainly, the school authorities have every right to see that such a student who would not behave himself in a disciplined way is expelled from the school. Apart from the fact that such an indisciplined student is not only an undesirable element who spoils his own future, his conduct and character will have deleterious effect on others as well.
“Upon the eduction of the people of the country, the fate of the country depends” (White paper on the Education Act of 1944 quoted by Lord Denning in Smith v. Inner London Educational Authority, (1978) 1 All ER 411 at 417).”
In this connection, it requires to be remembered that the students are of impressionable age; sometimes they take all adventurism; sometimes they become victims of unguided enthusiasm; sometimes they become the victim of vicious circumstances. In all these cases, could it be said by the Court — No you shall not take action against this person, because his right to prosecute the study will be hindered? I should answer this question in the negative. To put it briefly, it is the educational authorities who alone should have every control over the students and take such action as is warranted in the circumstances. Court would no doubt come to the rescue of the student where they are victimised, or to use the phraseology of Labour Law, they are singled out for some hostile treatment. Normally speaking, I do not expect such victimisation or hostile treatment, in an educational institution, because, it is controlled and run by enlightened persons. The students come there to receive light and education. That being so, these are totally alien to such an atmosphere.”
With respect I agree with whatever the learned Judge had observed in the above passage.
34. In my view, ragging is a barbarous practice and it should be totally banned. If anybody is found guilty of ragging, he shall be immediately expelled from the Institution and he shall he debarred from entering any other educational institution thereafter. The origin of ragging is not clearly known. It had its birth only in the foreign shores. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictonary, the word is a University slang. ‘An act of ragging’ means especially an extensive display of noisy disorderly conduct, carried on in defiance of authority or discipline. The word “rag” as a verb is also defined as follows :–
“a. To scold, rate, talk severely to.
b. To annoy, tease, torment; spec. in Univ. slang, to assail in a rough or noisy fashion; to create wild disorder in (a room).”
In Webster’s New 20th Century Dictionary it is stated that from 19th century it is a British University slang. A guess is made in the Dictionary that it had its origin probably from the phrase like a red rag to a bull; its derivative being bully rag etc.
35. Ragging was totally unknown in this country. It is not known how, when and who imported it into this country. It has been in vogue if at all for the past few decades. Before that it was not heard of. But, it has become a wide-spread virulent disease prevalent in all educational institutions and more in the Professional colleges and hostels. It causes deep sorrow and anguish that in a country which had very lofty University ideals expounded in the Vedas, this shameful and disgusting evil of ragging degenerating into bestiality should come to stay in the educational institutions, which are intended for imparting knowledge to the future rulers of this country. Tait-tiriyopanishad describes the rules to be observed by a good student. He prays to the Supreme Being to give him able and active body, sweet tongue and make him listen abundently through his ears and learn.
The teacher advises the student as follows :–
“Swerve not from truth.
Swerve not from duty.
Swerve not from what is proper and good.
Swerve not from auspicious rites and well-being.
Swerve not from study and teaching.”
“If the instructions are followed by a student diligently, he becomes healthy in mind and body and the world will be full of wealth and achievement for him.”
Saint Tiruvalluvar has spoken about purity of conduct and discipline :
(Matter in vernacular omitted) “The man whose conduct is pure is honoured by all; purity of conduc! is therefore to be prized even above life.”
(Matter in vernacular omitted) “Purity of conduct sowelh the seed of prosperity; but an evil course is the mother of endless ill.”
How can anyone conceive of more ennobling thoughts and better ideals than that prevailed in our ancient Universities? But alas! what a fall from that high peak of virtuous principles to the murky depths of a dirty mire named ‘ragging’. Any person with a little sense of decency would abhor even to think of indulging in it. “
36. Having come to the educational institution to learn and pave the way for a bright future, it is unfortunate that the students indulge in such activities and satiate their sadist instincts in the name of ragging. There seems to be a misapprehension among some sections of the students that ragging is a way of training the new entrants to the institution to face the difficulties in life later. There cannot be a more absurd view than that. In several cases, the students get mental shock and depression by ragging and there are instances of the victims of ragging committing suicide. Even assuming without admitting that some of the victims of ragging will be bold enough to face difficulties in life later, end cannot justify the means. The sooner the ragging is abolished by an appropriate legislation, the better.
37. It appears that in a number of States, there are acts makingragging a cognizable offence and prescribing the types of punishment to be awarded. Why there is no such legislation in the State of Gujarat?. It is high time that such a legislation was passed by the legislature of Gujarat also. No doubt, this Court cannot give any direction to the State Government to initiate a legislation. But, this Court can express a fervent hope that the Government would take note of the situation now prevailing in the State and take steps to bring about a legislation preventing ragging and making it a cognizable offence. (see Leo Francis Xaviour vs. Principal, Karuna Institute of Technology, Coimbatore, 1992(2) LW 642)
38. A learned Single Judge of the Madras High Court in the case of P Senthil; T Jayasingh; S Jayarathinam; M Chandran;D Rajesh; E Suresh & M Shanker vs. Principal, Sivet College, Dr. Balasundaram, S Coordinator, Enquiry Committee, Sivet College; Registrar, University of Madras; Director of Collegiate Education; Director, Government Scholarship Department and Secretary, Sivet College, 2003 AIR (Mad) 326 has observed as under;
“(i) There is a degradation of discipline among students in the College institutions. We find through newspaper reports that day-in and day-out, unruly incidents happen in educational institutions by way of ragging, eve-teasing, boycotting, etc. This unhealthy trend is causing great concern. It is noticed that no effective effort has been made by the educational institutions to stop degradation of discipline among students in the educational institutions. The real reason must be that though the present day education develops intelligence and skill among students, it does little to develop good qualities among students.
(ii) The knowledge that is gathered in educational institutions should be capable of being used for service to society and help to improve the conditions of one’s fellow men. The place where true teachers and students are gathered, should be filled with atmosphere of serene, peace and orderliness.
(iii) When the educational institutions are trying to curb the evils like ragging, eve-teasing, boycotting, etc., the students, without proper guidance from parents and elders, rush to the Court to get some interim orders to throw the same as a challenge before the teaching institutions, so as to wriggle out of their misdeeds. The students shall not be the stumbling block to public tranquility. They should start cultivating the spirit of mutual regard and harmony.
(iv) There is no point in blaming students alone. They are like the stones out of which the sculptors chisels the figure he wants. It is the sculptor who produces the things of beauty out of pieces of hard rock.
(v) The parents are keen about educating their children, but are not concerned about the kind of education that is being given. If there is failure in making the students to have good qualities, there will certainly be failure of orderliness in the educational institutions. This must be taken note of by both parents and educational institutions, if they are really interested in the well-being and improvement of students. So, the parents and teachers have to play a pivotal role in cultivating good human values in the minds of students.
(vi) The only panacea for eradicating the evils like indifferent attitude towards teachers, ragging, eve-teasing, boycotting, etc., is to teach the students not only the curriculum subjects, but also teaching human values. Therefore, educational institutions must ensure that students are given coaching by providing special classes to teach human values, such as TRUTH, RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT, PEACE, LOVE AND NON-VIOLENCE, so that they may not resort to any sort of aggressive activities. The educational institutions should give special attention and indulge themselves in imbibing these qualities in the heart and soul of students. This Court is of the definite view that only through imparting human values in education, the students would blossom as “good citizens” of the country and consequently, the evils such as ragging, boycotting, insulting teachers, causing damage not only to College properties, but also the public properties, ingratitude to parents, etc., will automatically get eradicated.
(vii) The educational institutions should further ensure that a special Committee is constituted to see that the grievance of the students are redressed then and there and that all facilities are given to them to carry on with their studies effectively and also for conducive atmosphere in the institutions, so that a situation may not warrant where the students would indulge in agitation under the garb of claiming rights. “
39. It all started in the name of “welcome party” or “freshers” day celebrations in the honour of the “freshers”. This, prima facie, was just an excuse or an opportunity to indulge in ragging. In the Special Leave Petition No.24295 of 2006, University of Kerala vs. Council of Principals of Colleges [with SLP (C ) No.24296-24299 of 2004, W.P. (Crl) No.173/2006 and SLP (C ) No.14356/2005], the Hon’ble Supreme Court was pleased to direct that a Committee headed by Shri R.K. Raghavan, former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be notified to give suggestions on means of prevention of ragging in educational institutions.
40. I take notice that one of the recommendations at Clause-5.13 is very relevant. The same reads as under;
“5.13:We further recommend that social events such as ‘welcome parties’ or “freshers” day celebrations in honour of “freshers” is a sound tradition that needs to be encouraged by institutions. However, what is lamentable is that such events which often mark the ending of ragging and beginning of bonhomie among seniors and “freshers”, is scheduled only after a prolonged bout of ragging. Therefore, we recommend that in every institut9ion, the “freshers” day or ‘welcome party’ shall be concluded within the first two weeks of the beginning of the academic session, that is not later than one week after the commencement of classes for the seniors in the context of our recommendation in 5.12 above. In any such event, celebrating the “freshers” day or party, college faculty must be present and must ensure that no ragging or untoward incident takes place on the occasion.”
41. I also take notice of two other recommendations at Clauses-5.25 and 5.26. The same are as under;
“5.25 The Committee recommends that preventing or acting against ragging should be the collective responsibility of all levels and sections of authorities or functionaries with in the institution i.e. administrative head, teaching faculty and non-teaching employees and not merely that of the specific body constituted for prevention of ragging. In case of any incident taking place all the sections must co-ordinate with the sense of moral propriety and share the responsibility and accountability.
5.26 The burden of proof must, in the opinion of the Committee, lie on the perpetrator and not on the victim to prove that ragging did not take place. As mentioned earlier in the previous Chapter, dealing with the Observations of the Committee, we did not come across any significant instance of implementing the earlier directions of the Apex Court in regard to collective punishment in those cases where the perpetrators could not be identified. Nevertheless, the concept of collective fines or punishment is a time-tested method of making both active as well as passive participants or abettors pay for the crime and therefore we recommend that collective punishment must continue to be in force, with a more effective monitoring at higher levels.”
42. All Educational Institutions in the State of Gujarat should bear the above in mind and follow the same strictly. I wonder how many educational Institutions in the State of Gujarat are aware of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Vishwa Jagriti Mission Through President vs. Central Government Through Cabinet Secretary, reported in 2001(3) Scale 503. I may quote those guidelines;
“(i) This Court views with concern the increase in the number of incidents of ragging in educational institutions. Some of the reported incidents have crossed the limits of decency, morality and humanity. Some of the States have acted by enacting legislations and making ragging as defined therein a cognizable and punishable offence. However, we feel ragging cannot be cured merely by making it a cognizable criminal offence. Moreover, we feel that the acts of indiscipline and misbehaviour on the part of the students must primarily be dealt with within the institution and by exercise of the disciplinary authority of the teachers over the students and of the management of the institutions over the teachers and students. Students ought not ordinarily be subjected to police action unless it be unavoidable. The students going to educational institutions for learning should not remain under constant fear of being dealt with by police and sent to jail and face the courts. The faith in the teachers for the purpose of maintaining discipline should be restored and the responsibility fixed by emphasising the same.
(ii) Broadly speaking Ragging is: Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any other student, indulging in rowdy or indisciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student or asking the students to do any act or perform something which such student will not do in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche or a fresher or a junior student
(iii) The cause of indulging in ragging is deriving sadistic pleasure or showing off power, authority or superiority by the seniors over their juniors or freshers.
(iv) Ragging can be stooped by creating awareness amongst the students, teachers and parents that ragging is a reprehensible act which does no good to any one and by simultaneously generating an atmosphere of discipline by sending a clear message that no act of ragging shall be tolerated and any act of ragging shall not go unnoticed and unpunished.
(v) Anti-ragging movement should be initiated by the institutions right from the time of advertisement for admissions. The prospectus, the form for admission and/or any other literature issued to aspirants for admission must clearly mention that ragging is banned in the institution and any one indulging in ragging is likely to be punished appropriately which punishment may include expulsion from the institution, suspension from the institution or classes for a limited period or fine with a public apology. The punishment may also take the shape of : (i) withholding scholarships or other benefits (ii) debarring from representation in events (iii) withholding results (iv) suspension or expulsion from hostel or mess, and the like. If there be any legislation governing ragging or any provisions in the Statute/Ordinances they should be brought to the notice of the students/parents seeking admissions.
(vi) The application form for admission/enrolment shall have a printed undertaking to be filled up and signed by the candidate to the effect that he/ she is aware of the institution’s approach towards ragging and the punishments to which he or she shall be liable if found guilty of ragging, A similar undertaking shall be obtained from the parent/guardian of the applicant.
(vii) Such of the institutions as are introducing such a system for the first time shall ensure undertakings being obtained from the students and their parents/guardians already studying in the institutions before the commencement of the next educational year/session,
(viii) A printed leaflet detailing when and to whom one has to turn for information, help and guidance for various purposes, keeping in view the needs of new entrants in the institution, along with the addresses and telephone numbers of such persons, should be given to freshers at the time of admissions so that the freshers need not look up to the seniors for help in such matters and feel indebted to or obliged by them.
(ix) The management, the principal, the teaching staff should interact with freshers and take them in confidence by apprising them of their rights as well as obligation to flight against ragging and to generate confidence in their mind that any instance of ragging to which they are subjected or which comes in their knowledge should forthwith be brought to their knowledge and shall be promptly dealt with while protecting the complainants from any harassment by perpetrators of ragging. It would be better if the head of the institution or a person high in authority addresses meetings of teachers, parents and students collectively or in groups in this behalf.
(x) At the commencement of the academic session, the institution should constitute a proctorial committee consisting of senior faculty members and hostel authorities like wardens and a few responsible senior students; (i) to keep a continuous watch and vigil over ragging so as to prevent its occurrence and recurrence, (ii) to promptly deal with the incidents of ragging brought to its notice and summarily punish the guilty either by itself or by putting-forth its finding/recommendation/suggestions before the authority competent to take decision. All vulnerable locations shall be identified and specially watched.
(xi) The local community and the students in particular must be made aware of dehumanising effect of ragging inherent in its perversity. Posters, notice boards and sign-boards-wherever necessary, may be used for the purpose.
(xii) Failure to prevent ragging shall be construed as an act of negligence in maintaining discipline in the institution on the part of the management, the principal and the persons in authority of the institution. Similar responsibility shall be liable to be fixed on hostel wardens/superintendents.
(xiii) The hostels/accommodations where freshers are accommodated shall be carefully guarded, if necessary by posting security personnel, and placed incharge of a warden/superintendent who should himself/herself reside thereat, and wherein the entry of seniors and outsiders shall be prohibited after specified hour of night and before except under the permission of the person incharge. Entry at other times may also be regulated.
(xiv) If the individuals committing or abetting ragging are not identified collective punishment could be resorted to act as a deterrent punishment and to ensure collective pressure on the potential raggers.
(xv) Migration certificate issued by the institution should have an entry apart from that of general conduct and behaviour whether the student had participated in and in particular was punished for ragging.
(xvi) If an institution fails to curb ragging, the UGC/Funding Agency may consider stoppage of financial assistance to such an institution till such time as it achieves the same. An University may consider disaffiliating a college or institution failing to curb ragging.
(xvii) The Universities and the institutions shall at a reasonable time before the commencement of an academic year, and therefore at such frequent intervals as may be expedient deliberate over and devise such positive and constructive activities to be arranged by involving the students generally so that the seniors and juniors, and the existing students and the freshers, interact with each other in a healthy atmosphere and develop a friendly relationship so as to behave like members of a family in an institution. Seniors or juniors should be encouraged to exhibit their talents in such events so as to shed their complexes. “
43. The Supreme Court, after laying the guidelines, referred to above, proceeded further to observe in para-5 as under;
“We make it clear that guidelines are only illustrative and are not intended to come in the way of the institutions and authorities devising ways and means to curb the ragging. If there are local laws governing ragging they shall be implemented and knowledge and information about such laws shall also be disseminated. Ragging if it becomes unmanageable or amounts to a cognizable offence the same may be reported to the police. However, the police should be called in or allowed entry in the campus at the instance of the head of the institution or the person in charge. We expect the police also to deal with such incidents when brought to its notice for action by keeping in mind that they are dealing with students and not criminals. The action of the police should never be violent and be always guided by a correctional attitude.”
44. The Supreme Court further directed the UGC to bring the guidelines to the notice of all the Educational Institutions;
45. From the aforesaid principles of law laid down by various Courts including the Supreme Court of India, it is clear that on a question of discipline in the educational institutions, the rules of natural justice cannot be put in a strait-jacket and they vary from situation to situation and from case to case. Where no mala fides or other motives have been alleged against the management of the institute in the passing of the impugned order the Court should not normally interfere in the punishment imposed upon the delinquent. It is the duty of the authorities, in charge of the educational institutions, to ensure that the discipline is maintained in the institution and the head of the institution in such cases is required to be armed with sufficient powers so that those who are keen to study and improve their carrier should not be the victims of a handful of persons who may spoil the academic atmosphere by indulging in anti-social activities In the matter of discipline the disciplinary authority does not act as a judicial or quasi-judicial Tribunal and the delinquent student cannot claim, as a matter of right, that the proceedings should be taken only after the procedure necessary for the exercise of judicial or quasi-judicial powers had been gone through. A decision having been take by the authorities on due consideration of the conduct of the student and the prevailing situation in the campus should normally not be interfered with by the Courts..
46. In the last, Mr. Raval submitted that the writ applicant being a student, sympathy may be shown towards him, otherwise, his career would be ruined with this kind of stigma. I may only say that the reliefs granted by the court must be seen to be logical and tenable within the framework of the law and should not incur and justify the criticism that the jurisdiction of courts tends to degenerate into misplaced sympathy and generosity and private benevolence. It is essential to maintain the integrity of legal reasonings and the legitimacy of the conclusions. They must emanate logically from the legal findings and the judicial results must be seen to be principled and supportable on those findings. Expansive judicial mode of mistaken and misplaced compassion at the expense of the legitimacy of the process will eventually lead to mutually irreconcilable situations and denude the judicial process of its dignity, authority, predictability and respectability. (see Kerala Solvent Extractions Ltd. v. A. Unnikrishnan and another, (1994)2 LLJ SC 888).
47. If the writ applicant has any remorse for his conduct, he may approach the authorities again expressing his regret and seeking forgiveness from the new entrants to the institute who must have such a traumatic experience, and the authorities may reconsider his case. However, it is entirely for the authorities to take action in the matter for keeping discipline in the institute, and I wish to say no more on the subject.
48. In the overall view of the matter, I have reached to the conclusion that the writ applicant is not entitled to any relief from this Court. The matter deserves to be viewed very strictly.
49. in the result, this writ application fails and is hereby rejected. Notice stands discharged.