& Ors. Vs. Vaibhav Singh Chauhan  INSC 1856 (4 November 2008)
Reportable IN THE
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 34 OF 2008
Director (Studies) & ors. .. Appellant (s) -versus- Vaibhav Singh Chauhan
Markandey Katju, J.
appeal by special leave has been filed against the impugned judgment &
final order dated 24.5.2007 of the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in
Letter Patent Appeal No. 22 of 2007. The learned Division Bench of the High
Court dismissed the LPA by the following order:
"Heard. For the
reasons that will follow separately, this appeal fails and is hereby dismissed
with costs assessed at Rs. 5,000/-"
the reasons were given by the learned Division Bench which have been annexed to
the counter affidavit filed in this appeal.
Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, learned counsel for the appellant and Shri Lalit Bhasin,
learned counsel for the respondent.
fact-s of the case are that respondent Vaibhav Singh Chauhan (hereinafter
referred to as the respondent) was admitted to Dr. Ambedekar Institute of Hotel
Management, Nutrition & Catering Technology, Chandigarh in the academic
session 2002-03 to undergo a degree course in Hospitality and Hotel Administration.
He cleared all the subjects in the first and second year. Thereafter he
appeared in the third and final year of the examination for the academic year
2004-05. On 19.4.2005 while he was writing his answer script in the subject of
`Front Office Management' a slip was found in his possession which contained
material relevant to the examination. The invigilation staff took the slip into
their possession and a fresh answer sheet was issued to the respondent.
malpractice case based on the seizure of the slip was initiated against the
respondent by the Examination Committee of the appellant 3 Institute. In his
statement dated 19.4.2005 before the inquiry the respondent admitted that the
slip which was seized from his possession was in his own handwriting. Thus, he
confessed the charge against him. However, he pleaded that he was extremely
sorry for the misdeed and would not repeat it again.
its order dated 7.7.2005 the Institute disqualified the respondent for one
academic session as per Rule 9.2 of the Examination Rule of the Institute. The
respondent was permitted to take readmission for the academic session 2006-07
in the same class and he had to appear in the annual examination in 2007.
this stage it may be relevant to quote some of the relevant rules, being the
Examination Rules of the National Council for Hotel management and Catering
Technology, New Delhi (hereinafter referred to as the `Examination Rules').
8.1 of the said Rules defines `malpractice' in an examination. Sub-rule (1) of
the said Rule 8.1 defines the following as one of the malpractices in the
is found in possession of any notebook (s) or notes or chits or any other
unauthorized material concerning the subject pertaining to the examination paper."
The respondent in our
opinion is clearly guilty of malpractice as defined in sub-rule (1) of Rule 8.1
of the Examination Rules.
this connection learned counsel for the respondent submitted that there was no
evidence to show that the respondent had actually used the said slip of paper
found in his possession. In our opinion, this is wholly irrelevant. All that is
relevant is whether the slip of paper found in the possession of the examinee
pertained to the examination paper in question.
If it does, then it
is a malpractice. In this particular case, the said slip of paper was brought
into the examination hall and was found to be in the possession of the examinee
while the examination was going on. Whether the respondent actually used that
slip or not is irrelevant. This view finds support from the decision of this
Court in C.B.S.E. vs. Vineeta Mahajan & another (1994) 1 SCC 6. Moreover,
this is also borne out by sub rule (1) of the Examination Rules, quoted above.
the present case there is no doubt that the slip of paper contained material
pertaining to the examination in question. Hence, we cannot accept the
submission of Shri Lalit Bhasin that the respondent was not guilty of
malpractice since he was not found to have used that piece of paper.
9.2 of the Examination Rules states as follows:
found exchanging answer book or question paper with solution or copying or
having in his/her possession or accessible to him/her papers, books, notes or
material relating to the subject of the question paper shall be disqualified
for a minimum period of one academic session following the examination in
question and is liable to be disqualified for a maximum period of three years
following the examination in which he/she (deliberately) adopted unfair means.
The candidate found to have thus indulged in unfair means shall be deemed to
have failed in all subjects. After expiry of the period of disqualification
such candidate shall have to reappear in the entire examination."
appears that in pursuance of Rule 9.2 the respondent has been given the minimum
punishment, since he has been disqualified for one academic session allowing
him to take re-admission for the session 2006-07. Hence, we find no illegality
in the order dated 7.7.2005, which is annexed as Annexure P-3 to this appeal.
respondent filed a writ petition before the learned Single Judge of the Delhi
High Court in which an interim order was passed by the learned Single Judge
dated 31.3.2006, a copy of which is annexed as Annexure P-5 to this appeal.
that interim order has relevance in this appeal we are quoting it in its
entirety as under :
31.03.2006 CM. No. 3725/2006 The charge against the petitioner is that he was
found in possession of a chit/slip of paper on which some notings had been
made. The records that are available at the present moment do not bear out
whether this chit had actually been used in the examination. The petitioner
immediately admitted to the possession of the slip and stated that it would not
happen again. His contrition is, therefore, spontaneous.
The respondent has
imposed on the petitioner the punishment under Rule 9.2 of Examination Rules,
2001 of National Council for Hotel Management Catering Technology for one
Academic Session following the Examination in question. That provision also
enables the imposition of a disqualification which may extend upto three years.
Rule 10.6 preserves to the authorities the relaxation of even the minimum
period of punishment, viz., one year.
In the writ petition
a challenge has been laid to the legality of the Rules and Regulations. Leaned
counsel for the respondent states that these Rules are applicable to 24 institutes
that are run by the respondents.
Before any punishment
is inflicted on a person, even in circumstances where he admits to the
possession of a slip of paper containing information that is relevant to or
pertains to the examination, the authority should carefully exercise its mind
as to whether circumstances call for a particular punishment. It has been
contended by learned counsel for the petitioner that where students are
involved, the commission of a fault should be viewed with some flexibility.
However, if too much
laxity is shown by the authorities, especially in the case of cheating or using
of unfair means in the examination, it would inexorably lead to a decline in
academic standards. Learned counsel for the respondents also states that in academic
matters the Court should not exercise any discretion.
So far as the last
submission is concerned there is a difference in jural interference in academic
standards and Judicial Review of the punishment, the Order should be a reasoned
one. In the case in hand, all that is stated is that the petitioner is
"disqualified for academic session as per Rule 9.2 of the Examination
Rules of the National Council." The petitioner was informed that he would
have to take readmission in the same class and will have to appear in the
annual examination in 2007. Learned counsel for the respondents admits that
while representations had been received from the petitioner he is not in a
position to state whether they were disposed of or not.
The Court often
encounters confessions or apologies that are calculated to get out of a
delicate position. In the present case a confession/admission/apology has been
One full academic as
well as professional year has been lost. It is not a case where by furnishing a
confession the petitioner claims complete exoneration. When the respondents'
Rules themselves contain the power to relax the imposition of a minimum period
of punishment, this course ought to have been transversed and considered by the
respondents. If it had been so done, and plausible reasons had been given in
the impugned decision, for declining to impose a punishment of two years [as it
actually works out to be], this Court may have been loathe to interfere in the
matter. Even on such a serious matter, the respondents have not shown due
concern and have not reduced to writing the reasons why a two year ban has been
imposed. It is true that the Rules explain that a punishment of one year
discretion employed by academic authorities. In the first case, the Court would
not normally be equipped with necessary wherewithal to rule on academic
criteria and therefore should be loathe to exercise writ powers. So far as
judicial review of the decision taken by academic authorities is concerned if
the Court can interfere in Government/administrative decisions, there is no
reason why it cannot do so in the context of academic decisions also. The
decision to impose a penalty, in any case, be described as an academic session.
In both cases what is expected of the Court is to consider whether there was
any arbitrariness in the action, or whether rules of natural justice have been
violated or ignored as the case may be, or the decision is unreasonable in the
It is within these
parameters that the present case has to be considered.
It cannot possibly be
contradicted that the impugned order is of far-reaching consequences. In all
such cases it is essential for the authority concerned to give a complete and
meaningful opportunity to the delinquent to be heard. It has already been noted
that the petitioner had confessed to possession of the chit almost
spontaneously. It is totally left to speculation as to whether he was using the
slip in the course of the examination. A student placed in such a predicament
would, with alacrity, submit his confession depending on what assurances had
been held out to him by the authorities. However, where discretion is available
to the authorities, to waive any punishment or impose light or heavy would be
forfeiture of the examination in which the petitioner had appeared as well as
the next following year. However, the Rules also, as has been seen above,
repose discretion on the authority for reduction.
An interim prayer has
been made for permitting the petitioner to appear in the examination `Front
Office Examination' in the course of which he was found in possession of some
objectionable material. At this stage of the proceedings I am of the view that
the respondents have not applied the Rules in their letter and spirit and have not
kept in mind the immediate acknowledgment/admission of the guilt being in
possession of objectionable material. It is certainly arguable that possession
of objectionable material, per se, without a finding that that material was
intended to be used in the examination, would not be punishable. If we care to
think back to our student days, one would invariably recollect preparation of
such kind of slips for refreshing the mind immediately before an examination,
with no further intent to use it as unfair or illegitimate manner. These
aspects of the case have been ignored.
circumstances the respondents are directed to permit the petitioner to appear
in the forthcoming `Front Office Examination'. The appearance of the petitioner
in this examination will not create any equities in his favour. The results
shall be kept in a sealed cover and shall be only declared on orders of the
Court. Leniency in matters, such as these, was shown by the Hon'ble Supreme
Court in Swatantar Dixit vs. Govind Ram, (2001) 10 SCC 761 by reducing the
punishment to 2-1/2 months, which was the period of suspension already
undergone. List this application for further consideration on 1.5.2005. WP)
NO.4505/2006 Counter Affidavit be filed within two weeks. Rejoinder be filed
within two weeks thereafter.
commenting on this interim order we would like to say that this Court has
repeatedly disapproved of passing of such interim orders in educational matters
vide Regional Officer, C.B.S.E. vs. Sheena Peethambaran & others (2003) 7
SCC 719 (para 6), C.B.S.E. & another vs. P. Sunil Kumar & others (1998)
5 SCC 377, Guru Nanak Dev University vs. Parminder Kumar Bansal & others
(1993) 4 SCC 401 etc.
noted in the above judgments of this Court, such interim orders amount to
misplaced sympathy which are wholly uncalled for and often results in creating
confusion and is destruction of academic discipline and academic standards.
to the interim order of the learned Single Judge dated 31.3.2006, it may be noted
that in the very second sentence of the order the 11 learned Single Judge
stated that the record did not bear out whether the chit had actually been used
in the examination. As already noted above, this was a wholly irrelevant
consideration. Once it is found that the chit/piece of paper contains material
pertaining to the examination in question it amounts to malpractice, whether
the same was used by the examinee or not.
learned Single Judge in the interim order has then emphasized on the fact that
the respondent had apologized and had confessed to the possession of the chit.
In our opinion this again is a misplaced sympathy.
We are of the firm
opinion that in academic matters there should be strict discipline and
malpractices should be severely punished. If our country is to progress we must
maintain high educational standards, and this is only possible if malpractices
in examinations in educational institutions are curbed with an iron hand.
learned Single Judge in the interim order then states -"if we care to
think back to our student days, one would invariably recollect preparation of
such kind of slips for refreshing the mind immediately before an examination,
with no further intent to use it as an unfair or illegitimate manner".
again, we respectfully cannot approve of the above observation of the learned
Single Judge. A judge is supposed to keep his personal view in the background
and not inject them in the judgments. What was done in his student days was
surely irrelevant for deciding the case or even passing an interim order. It is
true that seeing a slip of paper before commencement of the examination is not
a malpractice, but in the present case we are concerned with its use during the
examination and not before the examination. Hence we fail to see how the above
observation of the learned Single Judge could be justified.
learned Single Judge has then directed the Institution to allow the respondent
to reappear in the forthcoming `Front Office Examination'. In our opinion, this
again was wholly illegal. As noted in Rule 9.2 (quoted above), even if a
candidate has used unfair means only in one paper, he will be deemed to have
failed in all the papers. In the present case, the respondent no doubt was
found with a slip of paper in the `Front Office Examination' which was only one
of the papers. However, in view of Rule he will have to reappear in the entire
examination i.e. in all the papers, and not merely in the Front Office
view of the above, we are of the opinion that the learned Single Judge was
wholly unjustified in passing the aforesaid interim order dated 31.3.2006.
in the final judgment dated 30.10.2006, the learned Single Judge directed the
result of the respondent to be declared forthwith for the subject `Front
Office' for which the respondent appeared in April 2006 pursuant to the interim
order dated 31.3.2006, and also to declare the result of the respondent in
other subjects in which he appeared in 2005. The learned Single Judge was of
the view that the punishment imposed was disproportionate to the offence,
particularly since the respondent had shown remorse and sought forgiveness.
are afraid we cannot agree with the view taken by the learned Single Judge. As
already stated above, we have to be very strict in maintaining high academic
standards and maintaining academic discipline and academic rigour if our
country is to progress. Sympathy for students using unfair means is wholly out
the respondent/examinee has been given the minimum punishment under the rules
and no lesser punishment could have been imposed, except in exceptional
circumstances. It is true that when a person confesses his guilt it is often
treated as a mitigating circumstance and calls for lesser punishment if that is
permissible. However, this is not an absolute rule and will not apply in all
kinds of cases. In particular, as stated above, in academic matters there
should be no leniency at all if our country is to progress. Apart from that,
the respondent had been given the minimum punishment under Rule 9.2 and we fail
to understand how a lesser punishment could have given to him, except by
exercising discretion in a particular case. This is not that kind of
exceptional case, and no sympathy was called for. The learned Single Judge in
his judgment dated 30.10.2006 has directed that the writ petitioner's result in
the subject `Front Office' in which he appeared in April 2006 and other papers
in which he appeared in 2005 be declared forthwith. In our opinion, this was an
illegal direction, because as stated in Rule 9.1, once a candidate has been
found using unfair means even in one subject/paper, he will be deemed to have
failed in all the subjects/papers and he has to rewrite the entire examination,
and not merely for the single paper in which he is found to have used unfair
appeal was filed before the learned Division Bench of the Delhi High Court
which has been dismissed by the impugned judgment which we have carefully
perused. We regret our inability to agree with the Division Bench.
learned Division Bench has repeated the view of the learned Single Judge that
the punishment given was disproportionate to the offence committed. We entirely
disagree with that view. As already stated above, the minimum punishment was
imposed on the respondent and we fail to understand what other punishment could
have been given to him even when he has confessed his guilt. In our opinion,
this was not a fit case for exercising discretion by waiving or reducing the
the learned Division Bench seems to have made the same mistake made by the
learned Single Judge in directing that the respondent's result of the subject
`Front Office' examination held in 2006 along with the result in other papers
written by him in 2005 be declared forthwith. As 16 already stated above, this
direction is against Rule 9.2 of the Examination Rules.
Bhasin, learned counsel for the respondent then submitted that the examination
rules were invalid. We have carefully perused the rules and find no invalidity
in the same. There is no violation of Article 14 or any other provision of the
Constitution or any other statute.
view of the above, we are of the opinion that both the judgments of the learned
Single Judge as well as the learned Division Bench cannot be sustained and have
to be set aside. We order accordingly. Resultantly, the appeal stands allowed.
The impugned judgment of the learned Division Bench as well as the Single Judge
are set aside and the writ petition is dismissed.
shall be no order as to costs.
parting with this case, we would like to refer to the decisions of this Court
which has repeatedly held that the High Court should not ordinarily interfere
with the orders passed in educational matters by domestic tribunals set up by
educational institutions vide Board of High 17 School & Intermediate
Education, U.P. Allahabad & another vs. Bagleshwar Prasad & another AIR
1966 SC 875 (vide para 12), Dr. J.P. Kulshrestha & others vs. Chancellor,
Allahabad University & others AIR 1980 SC 2141 (vide para 17), Rajendra
Prasad Mathur vs. Karnataka University & another AIR 1986 SC 1448 (vide
para 7). We wish to reiterate the view taken in the above decisions, and
further state that the High Courts should not ordinarily interfere with the
functioning and order of the educational authorities unless there is clear
violation of some statutory rule or legal principle. Also, there must be strict
purity in the examinations of educational institutions and no sympathy or
leniency should be shown to candidates who resort to unfair means in the
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