………………. All universities are cradles of the nation’s future. They are, therefore, required to conduct all acts in a highly bona fide and exemplary manner. This responsibility increases exponentially when the university is a premier National Law School imparting legal education to the nation’s future lawyers. How is a student of law expected to be a patron of justice when his university is the epitome of injustice?
…….. Gujarat High Court
The writ Petitioner was studying in third year of a five year integrated LL.B. program and had challenged order passed by Gujarat National Law University [GNLU], which adjudicated alleged malpractice in examination by the Petitioner and held that exam of Quantitative Techniques given by the Petitioner, held on 2nd Nov. 2015 stands cancelled.
At around 4.25 pm, on 02.11.2015 when the exam for Quantitative Techniques was going on barely 5 minutes before the completion of the examination, one of the officials of GNLU suddenly bolted from across the examination hall and snatched the answer sheet of the Petitioner, alleging that the Petitioner was “…hiding something …”. Thereafter they sought to physically frisk the Petitioner and persisted in the said demand. However, the Petitioner objected to being physically frisked by the Respondent No.5 – who was a member of the opposite gender in the interest of modesty.
The Petitioner while being taken to the Director took his bag placed outside the examination hall and took his phone out of the bag to contact his father. It is alleged that he was threatened in unparliamentarily language of dire consequences if he attempted to contact anyone. It is also alleged that later the charge of malpractice was also changed to abuse of phone instead of “hiding something”. The phone was seized, case was inquired into and punishment was awarded to cancel his examination in the paper.
The Petitioner being aggrieved by the process approached the Director and raised serious question on the legality of the inquiry process. He also alleged that the entire process was biased and there was no compliance with natural justice. There was no response from the University. The student then approached the High Court.
A pointed contention taken on behalf of the Petitioner was that there is evident bias in the minds of the Respondents against the Petitioner. Therefore, the Petitioner could never have expected fair treatment at the hands of the Respondents. It was also argued that the Respondents conducted a fanciful inquiry with a predetermined state of mind.
This court considered the arguments tendered by the Petitioner and the Respondents and came to conclusion that the private Respondents went to great lengths to ensure that that Petitioner is cornered and victimised, and that the Petitioner did not receive the just treatment prescribed under the Rules. The Court also came to conclusion that Petitioner was not given fair opportunity to contest the evidence against him and also cross-examine the Complainant or for that to verify the Report against him. The Petitioner was never given an opportunity of being heard, nor was he permitted to inspect any material or evidence that was proposed to be used against him.
Considering the ramifications of the highly punitive action taken by the University which would have long-term negative implications on the career of the Petitioner-student and wastage of one academic year for the Petitioner, the Court quashed and set aside the order dated 03.012.2015 and directed the Respondent University to declare the result of the Petitioner for the examination.
No doubt that “natural justice” is a right flowing from our constitution and it has to be adhered to in all cases.
But in normal cases, do we expect the academic administrators to know the rule of evidence or for that rules of trial ?
An academic disciplinary proceeding cannot be compared with other inquiry proceedings. I am not talking about cases of gross violation of natural justice. But we cannot expect an academic administrator to follow the letters of law in matter of disciplinary inquiry. Suffice it to say that a notice should be issued and the student should be given full opportunity to examine the material against him. Even cross-examination except in few cases, should be limited, else a University will turn into a full fledged court premises ….
Read the Judgement: