Bihar School Examination Board Vs.
Subhas Chandra Sinha & Ors  INSC 59 (10 March 1970)
10/03/1970 HIDAYATULLAH, M. (CJ)
HIDAYATULLAH, M. (CJ) RAY, A.N.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 1269 1970 SCR (3) 963 1970
SCC (1) 648
R 1978 SC 851 (58,69)
Natural Justice-Evidence of unfair means at
examination at a particular centre apparent-Cancellation of examination at the
centre Whether notice to examinees necessary.
Bihar School Examination Board Act (Bihar Act
7 of 1952) s. 9 (3) Scope of.
Candidates at the Secondary School
Examination held in March 1969, appeared at various centers. The results at all
centers were published in July 1969, except those at a particular centre. The
tabulators at that centre reported that the percentage of marks and of
successful candidates was unusually high (80% or more). The matter was referred
to tile Unfair Means Committee of the Board. A comparison of the answer books
at that centre showed such a remarkable agreement in the answers, that it was
obvious that unfair means were adopted and that the students had assistance
from an outside source. The Chairman passed an order on August 30, 1969,
cancelling the examination at the centre and allowing the examinees at the
centre to reappear at the Supplementary Examination in September The action of
the Chairman was placed before the Board and was- approved.
The respondents, who were the examinees at
that centre, moved the High Court under Art. 226 and the High Court quashed the
order of" the Board and ordered publication of the results of that
centre., In appeal to this Court,
HELD:(1) There was enough material for the
Chairman and the Board for taking action without any' complaint from anybody of
the Use of unfair means. [966 E-F] (2) There was no reason for withholding the
publication of results, of other centers which were not under suspension.
[966 F] (3) Under s. 9(3) of the Bihar School
Examination Board Act.
in an emergency, the powers of the Chairman
are co-terminus with those of the Board and be can take action himself and
later report it to the Board. Therefore, the order of the Chairman in the
present case was not incompetent. [966 C-F;
967 A] (4) The essence of an examination is
that the worth of every is appraised without any assistance from an outside
If at a centre the whole body of students
received assistance and managed to source success at a high percentage, when at
other cenetrs, the average was only 50%, the University or the Board could
cancel the examination as a whole; and if there was -sufficient material on
which it could be demonstrated that the Authority was right in its conclusion
that the examination as a whole was vitiated then academic standards require
that the Authority's appreciation of the -problem must be respected. To make
such a decision depend upon a full-fledged judicial inquiry would hold up the
functioning of such autonomous bodies as Universities and School Boards. [967
G-H; 968 E-H] 964 In the present case, no principle of natural justice was
violated and there was no need to give the examinees an opportunity to contest
the conclusion, because, the evidence was plain and transparent, and the Board
had not charged- anyone with unfair means so that he could claim to defend
himself. Therefore, the order of the High Court must be set aside and the
respondents-candidates allowed to sit for the next examination. 1969 B-D] Board
of High School Intermediate Examination, U.P. Allahabad v. Ghanshyam Das Gupta
and Ors.  Supp. 3 S.C.R. 36, explained..
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 2620 of 1969.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated December 8, 1969 of the Patna High Court in C.W.J.C. No. 1040 of
Sarjoo Prasad, Roy Paras Nath, S. K. Bisaria
and S. S. Jahar, for the appellant.
S. N. Prasad, for the respondents.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hidayatullah, C.J., This is an appeal against the judgment and order of the
High Court of Patna, December 8, 1969 in Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No. 1040
of 1969. It is brought to this Court by special leave. The appellant is the
Bihar School Examination Board through its Chairman.
The respondents are 36 students of S.S.H.E.
school, Jagdishpur and H. E. School Malaur, District Shahabad. They had moved
the High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution against the order of the
Board cancelling annual Secondary School Examination of 1969 in relation to
Hanswadih centre in Shalibad District. They had also asked that a mandamus be
issued to the Board to publish the results of the students who appeared at this
centre. The High Court has quashed the order of cancellation and directed the
Board to publish the results.
Candidates at the Secondary School
Examination held in March, 1969 appeared at various cenetrs including Hanswadih
Centre. The results were published in July 1969 but the results of examinees at
Hanswadih centre were not released.
On July 22, 1969 it was reported in a local
Hindi daily newspaper that the results of this centre and others were under
consideration. On August 30, 1969 a communique from the Board appeared in the
newspaper Searchlight that the examinations of all subjects held at the
Secondary School Examination of. 1969 at Hanswadih centre were cancelled and
the reason was that unfair means were practiced on a large scale at this
Centre. Examinees were, however, allowed to appear at the supplementary
Secondary School Examination to be held in September, 1969.
96 5 The respondents challenged the order of
the Board on many grounds. The main grounds were that there was no complaint of
use of unfair means; that no opportunity had been given to the examinees to
show cause before passing the order of cancellation against them; that as the
Supplementary Examination was to be held within 10 days of the communique there
was no time for the students to prepare for the examination; that the
cancellation ought to have been announced before, publishing the results of
other cenetrs and lastly that the order passed by the Chairman and not by the
Board, was not a valid order under the Bihar School Examination Board
From the record of the case and the return
which has been filed by the Board the following facts appear The Tabulators of
the Hanswadih centers' reported that the percentage of successful examinees was
as high as 80% whereas the average at the Arrah, Dalippur cenetrs was only 50%.
They were therefore asked to prepare percentage subject wise. All the
Tabulators submitted these percentages. The matter was referred to the Unfair
Means Committee of the Board. The Committee in its turn asked the Moderators to
look into all the answer books where the percentage was 80% or more. They
reported unfair means on a mass scale. The Chairman then passed an order on
August 30, 1969 cancelling the examination in all subjects at the Hanswadih
Centre allowing the examinees to reappear at the Supplementary Examination in
September, 1969 without payment of fresh fees. The Head Masters of the three
schools concerned were also informed by registered letters. The action of the
Chairman was placed before the Board at its meeting on September 9, 1969 and
was approved. It was stated in the return that a complaint was received from
one Satnarain Singh of Jagdishpur, who, however, wrote a letter that he had
made no such complaint.
The High Court gave a finding that the high
percentages did give rise to a suspicion that unfair means were practised and
that the Board was justified in investigating the case.
It was, however, held that the examinees were
not given a chance to show cause and the materials on which the Chairman of the
Board passed his order were not disclosed to the examinees. The Board had
therefore failed to act according to the principles of natural justice and the
order of the Chairman and/or the Board could not, therefore, be sustained. The
High Court relied upon Board of High School & Intermediate Education, U.P.,
Allahabad v. Ghanshyam Das Gupta and others(1) and Ajit Singh and others v.
Ranchi University(2). It commented upon the short interval bet- (1) 
Supp. 3 S.C R. 36.
(2) A.I.R. 1964 Patna 291.
96 6 ween the communique and the
Supplementary Examination and held that the communique should have been issued
before the results had been published. The High Court also considered the
competence of the Chairman to pass the order under the Regulations but did not
decide it as it reached the conclusion that the principles of natural justice
were violated and the orders of the Chairman and/or the Board were, therefore
unsustainable. The order of the Board was quashed and the publication of the
results of the Hanswadih Centre was ordered. This Court granted special leave
and directed stay of the operation of the order of the High Court.
We heard this appeal on February 25, 1970.
Since the next examination at which the respondents can appear is scheduled to
be held in March, we did not wish to delay the decision of the appeal. We
accordingly passed an order allowing the appeal and set aside the order of the
High Court but stated that we would give our detailed reasons later. We now
proceed to do so.
All the arguments which were presented in the
High Court were repeated before us by the learned counsel for the respondents
We find it convenient to consider some of them before taking up the point on
which the High Court has cancelled the order of the Board and directed the
publication of the results.
The argument that no one had complained about
the examination need not detain us. The Tabulators sent their remarks oil which
investigation was made. The Unfair Means Committee and the Moderators gave
their opinion. These were sufficient for taking action. There was no need to
wait for a complaint, not was a complaint really necessary. The results were
withheld so that inquiries could be completed.' In the meantime the results of
the other centers which were not under suspicion could be declared because in
their case there was no reason to withhold publication.
The contention that the Board alone and not
the Chairman could, cancel the examinations need not detain us. Under S.
6(2) of the Bihar School Examinations Board
Act, the Board considers, moderates, determines and publishes the results of
examinations. It also admits candidates to examinations, disqualifies them for
any reason which it considers to be adequate. Under -s. 9(3) of the Act in an
emergency the powers of the Chairman are co-terminus with those of the Board
and he can take action himself and later report it to the Board. In this case
action was taken by the Chairman and he reported it to the Board which fully
Therefore the cancellation of the examinations
at Hanswadih Centre must be treated as an order of the Board and cannot,
therefore, be challenged on the ground that it was incompetently made.
This brings us to the crux of the problem.
The High Court interfered on the ground that natural justice and fair play were
not observed in this case. This was repeated to us by the respondents in the
appeal. A mention of fair play does not come very well from the respondents who
were grossly guilty of breach of fair play themselves at the examinations.
Apart from the reports of the experts, the results speak for themselves. At the
other centers the average of successful candidates was 50%. At this centre the
examinations had the following percentage
1. Mother Indian Language94
3. Social Studies95
4. Everyday Science90
5. Elementary Mathematics100
6. Economics & Civics92
7. Elementary Physiology and Hygiene96
12. Advance Mathematics99
13. Sanskrit100 These figures speak for
themselves. However, to satisfy ourselves we ordered that some answer books be
brought for our inspection and many such were produced. A comparison of the
answer books showed such a remarkable agreement in the answers that no doubt
was left in our minds that the students had assistance from an- outside source.
Therefore the conclusion that unfair means were...adopted stands completely
This is not a case of any particular
individual who is being charged with adoption of unfair means but of the
conduct of all the examinees or at least a vast majority of them -at a
particular centre. If it is not a question of charging any one individually
with unfair means but to condemn the examination as ineffective for the purpose
it was held, must the Board give an opportunity to all the candidates to
represent their cases ? We think not. It was not necessary for the Board to
give an opportunity to the candidates if the examinations as a whole were being
cancelled. The Board had not charged any one with unfair means so that he could
claim to defend himself. The examination 9 68 was vitiated by adoption of
unfair means on a mass scale.
In these circumstances it would be wrong to
insist that the Board must hold a detailed inquiry into the matter and examine
each individual case to satisfy itself which of the candidates had not adopted
unfair means. The examination as a whole had to go.
Reliance was placed upon Ghanshyam Das
Gupta's case(1), to which we referred earlier. There the examination results of
three candidates were cancelled, and this Court held that they should have
received an opportunity of explaining their conduct. It was also said that
even, if the inquiry involved a large number of persons, the Committee should
frame proper regulations for the conduct of such inquiries but not deny the
opportunity. We do not think that that case has any application. Surely it was
not intended that where the examination as a whole was vitiated, say by leakage
of papers or by destruction of some of the answer books or by discovery of
unfair means practised on a vast scale that an inquiry would be made giving a,
chance to every. one appearing at that examination to have his say? What the
Court intended to lay down was that if any particular person was to be
proceeded against, he must have a proper chance to defend himself and this did
not obviate the necessity of giving an opportunity even though the number of
persons proceeded against was large. The Court was then not considering the
right of an examining body to cancel its own examination when it was satisfied
that the examination was not properly conducted or that in the conduct of the
examination the majority of the examinees had not conducted themselves as they
should have. To make such decisions depend upon a full-fledged judicial inquiry
would hold up the functioning of such autonomous bodies as Universities and
School Board. While we do not wish to whittle down the requirements of natural
justice and fair play in cases where such requirement may be said to arise, we
do not want that this Court should be understood as having, stated that an
inquiry with a right to representation must always precede in every case,
however different. The universities are responsible for their standards and the
conduct of examinations. The. essence of the examinations is that the worth of
every person is appraised without any assistance from an outside source. If at
a centre the whole body of students receive assistance and manage to secure success
in the neighbourhood of 100% when others at other centers are successful only
at an average of 50%, it is obvious that the university or the Board must do
something in the matter. It cannot hold a detailed quasi-judicial inquiry with
a right to its alumni to plead and lead evidence etc. before the results are
withheld or the examinations cancelled. If   Supp. 3SC.R. 36.
969 there is sufficient material on which it
can be demonstrated that the university was right in its conclusion that the
examinations ought to be cancelled then academic standards require that the
university's appreciation of the problem must be respected. It would not do for
the Court to say that he should have examined all the candidates or even their
representatives with - a view to ascertaining whether they had received
assistance or not. To do this would encourage indiscipline if not also perjury.
We are satisfied that no principle of natural
justice was violated in this case. The Board through its Chairman and later
itself reached the right conclusion that the examinations at this Centre had
been vitiated by practising unfair means on a mass scale and the Board-had
every right to cancel the examination and order that a fresh examination be
held. There was no need to give the examinees an opportunity of contesting this
conclusion because the evidence in the case was perfectly plain and
We therefore set aside the order of the High
Court and ordered dismissal of the writ petition but made no order as to costs.
V.P.S. Appeal allowed.