Report No. 123
5.1. Interests directly affected by the subject-matter of this report being a highly vocal segment of our society, in order to avoid the charge of rushing into something without giving an adequate opportunity to such affected interests to participate in the tentative thinking of the Law Commission, a comprehensive working paper, to which a questionnaire was annexed, was drawn up and given wide publicity on March 9, 1987. It was given to the print media and copies were despatched to the Association of Indian Universities with a request to communicate the same to all the universities. The working paper was also sent to the University Grants Commission, to every university and to the teachers' associations about which the information was available.
The Association of Indian Universities publishes a weekly journal, styled as 'University News'. In its issue dated March 23, 1987, salient portions of the working paper were published for the benefit of wider audience with a request to send the suggestions on the various issues raised in the paper latest by April 30, 1987.1 The Vice-Chancellors of various universities, to each of which working paper was sent, were requested to communicate the working paper to the association of teachers of the same university as well as to the associations of karamcharis of the university and the association of students of the university, inviting them to submit their views to the Law Commission.
The print media also published a gist of the working paper. Public intimation was 'given that anyone interested in the subject is welcome not only to write to the Law Commission but can ask for copies of the working paper. The Association of Indian Universities also requested the Vice-Chancellor of each university to hold a one day seminar to discuss the working paper and to forward the views to the Association as well as to the Law Commission.
1. University News, dated March 23, 1987, pp. 5-10.
5.2. The Association of Indian Universities took a lead in this behalf and organised a group discussion on May 2, 1987, on the working paper issued by the Law Commission. The panelists at the discussion, amongst others, included Chairman and Member Secretary of the Law Commission, Prof. Yash Pal, Chairman U.G.C., Prof. G. Ram Reddy, President of the Association of Indian Universities, Prof. Moonis Raza, Vice-Chancellor, University of Delhi, Prof. S.K. Aggarwal, Vice-Chancellor, Agra University, Prof. M.V. Mathur, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Rajasthan and Member of Fourth pay panel, Prof. Rais Ahmed, former Vice-Chairman of U.G.C., and Shri G.B.K. Ahuja, former Vice-Chancellor.
Undoubtedly, one or two amongst the panelists were not able to remain to present. More than 61 Vice-Chancellors including Directors and Heads of Departments attended the discussion. There were certain heads of institutes who also attended the same. It was an in-depth discussion all pervasive in character, accompanied by scintillating analysis and simultaneously unravelling the present distressing situation in the area of resolution of disputes in the field of education. Vice-Chancellor after Vice-Chancellor supported the proposal. There was near unanimity because only one Vice-Chancellor opposed the proposals made by the Law Commission in its working paper.
The President of the Association of Indian Universities, Prof. G. Ram Reddy, Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University, who presided over the group discussion, emphatically said that the proposal mooted for setting up a Central Education Tribunal was just the medicine needed' to rejuvenate the varsities. He proceeded in the same vein and expostulated that 'if you can make the Government appoint such a tribunal, you will be doing a service to university education'.1 The deliberations at the group discussion were widely reported in newspapers, generally under the banner heading 'Experts Find Indian Universities Sick.2 Briefly, experts and Vice-Chancellors favoured setting up of Central Education Tribunal.3
The group discussion examined each question appended to the working paper and tried to give its point of view on each question. The journal of the Association carried the summary of discussion in its issue dated May 11, 1987.4 Immediately thereafter, the Association forwarded to the Law Commission the recommendations of the Vice-Chancellors participating in the group discussion organised by the Association of Indian Universities for the consideration of the Law Commission. Briefly stated, the Association appreciated the initiative taken by the Law Commission in regard to decentralisation of administration of justice pertaining to disputes involving centres of higher education.
All the expert panelists and Vice-Chancellors endorsed the Law Commission's proposal to set up Central Education Tribunal which would deal with alleged miscarriage of justice involving concerned Governments, universities, teachers and students in the universities and colleges. They were of the opinion that the internal system of removing grievances and solving disputes should be made fully operational and the tribunal may take up only those cases which have gone through the university system for removal of grievances. They agreed with the working paper that such a Central Education Tribunal would provide an all-India perspective to problems in the field of education and, with this end in view, a multilevel and integrated judicial system should be designed in such a way that the objective of decentralisation of administration of justice is fully realised.
On the composition of the tribunal, they were of the view that the tribunal should comprise of eminent educational administrators, Vice-Chancellors, professors and Judges. In constituting the tribunal, they said, utmost care should be exercised in choosing persons of high integrity and the tribunal should be assisted by a strong secretariat. They were of the opinion that while all the disputes pertaining to educational matters should be under the purview of the tribunal, property matters should be dealt with by the civil courts.
They unanimously felt that the tribunal would be able to tackle educational disputes expeditiously which will go a long way in ensuring peace in university campuses that contributes to academic standards. As a follow up action, they resolved to set up a working group to further make concrete suggestions in this behalf to the Law Commission. Such a group was set up under the chairmanship of Prof. G. Ram Reddy. The group submitted various suggestions.
1. Times of India, dated May 4, 1987; Statesman of the same date.
2. Zerox copies of extracts from leading national Dailies.
3. Patriot, dated 3rd May, 1987.
4. University News, dated May 11, 1987, pp. 12-13.
5.3. The group recommended that the Law Commission's model for university tribunal is generally acceptable. They classified the disputes in which universities are involved on the basis of the respective constituencies affected. Broadly, according to them, the problems can be grouped to fall into three categories, namely: -
(1) student problems-admissions, rustication, copying, etc.;
(2) problems of teachers and administrative staff-seniority, promotion, service conditions, etc.; and
(3) problems concerning Vice-Chancellors, the relationship between the university and the State Governments, Chancellors regarding matters of finance and other issues of policy.
The reasons which support setting up of university tribunals, according to them, include:-
(a) the over-crowding of courts-this is a matter which has, rightly and naturally, engaged the attention of the Law Commission. This, however, is relevant to universities only so far as they want speedy disposal of edulational disputes;
(b) the delay in disposal of cases which is the cause of much confusion and uncertainty in universities;
(c) The need for specialist attention when dealing with matters concerning education. The absence of such element in judicial decision-making, which has been strongly portrayed in the Law Commission's working paper, has resulted in avoidable confusion; and
(d) the desire of preserving the autonomy of the universities.
Referring to the existing grievance handling machinery in most universities for students and staff, it was pointed out that the participation of the same hierarchy in the complaints context as in the original cause (admissions, copying, rustication, etc.) or their various levels and texts or inter-action have taken away the appearance of objectivity and impartiality from the process. According to them, the student seeks a neutral body which will give him a decision on the merits of his case alone, regardless of extraneous personal/professional/ hierarchical factors. This is enough justification from the point of view of the Law Commission for setting up a Central Education Tribunal. The group suggested a three-tier grievance handling machinery.
At the grass-root level, it was suggested that every university should provide a grievance cell or forum for students for dispute settlement. This cell or forum should be independent of the university hierarchy and should comprise of people who are conversant with problems relating to education and who fulfil the aspiration for justice not only being done but being seem to be done. After voicing their apprehension for tribunals being set up as substitutes for courts, it was suggested that there should be regional and central tribunals which would hear appeals from university level grievance-handling machinery and the central tribunal would furnish a second level of appeal. If this is undertaken, according to them, the High Court jurisdiction would become redundant and only one appeal to Supreme Court under Article 136 would survive.
On the question of composition of the tribunal, they adopted the norms enunciated by the Supreme Court in Sampath Kumar's case.1 According to them, both the regional and central tribunal would have two independent wings-one for students' matters and the other for teachers' and karamcharis' matters. The power to appoint personnel manning the Tribunal must be vested in such a body as would inspire confidence in the selection of personnel but the matter has been left at that without specifying in what body the power should be vested. At any rate, one can read between lines to say that the power should not be vested in the Government.
On the question of jurisdiction of the tribunal, they were of the opinion that the issue concerning the relationship of Vice-Chancellor with the State Government, matters of finance, the relationship of the university with the UGC, the relationship between the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor are matters of policy and, therefore, models based on the Press Council and Bar Council should be considered to meet the need. They also expressed an opinion that a code of conduct for Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, State Governments and Central Government should precede the setting up of the forum, to be called "Collective Ombudsman".
1. S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 386.
5.4. The debate at the group discussion as well as the recommendations of the participants in the group discussion and the recommendations made by the group set up by the participants as a follow up action have been extensively examined in this report for one specific reason that Association of Indian Universities represents a vitally affected interest and has taken keen interest not only in the working paper issued by the Law Commission but on all relevant aspects relating to the subject-matter of this report.
5.5. Apart from the Association of Indian Universities, the Commission received replies from Registrars of the universities, Deans, Heads of Departments, Chairman of the Centre and Directors, Ministry of Education, Government of India, and UGC, teachers, a Judge and advocate, Association of Non- teaching Employees and others. It would not be proper to dissect the replies statistically but the broad current of thinking appearing from them should be referred to. Barring some teachers and teachers' associations, there has been not only appreciation but general agreement with the proposals mooted in the working paper of the Law Commission.
A few teachers have also broadly agreed with the proposal but made certain further suggestions to curb the apprehension that such tribunals would be over-awed by Vice-Chancellors with whom generally the teachers have the disputes. The body, according to them, would, therefore, be biased in favour of the Vice-Chancellors and, therefore, the universities. Two associations of karamcharis have generally supported the tentative proposal set out by the Law Commission. It is not necessary to re-state the reasons which have appealed to those who have broadly accorded their approval to the proposal.
5.6. It is absolutely necessary to highlight the objections, apprehensions and reservations of those who are opposed to the proposals of the Law Commissions. Again avoiding the statistics, the objectives and grounds for reservation common to those who disfavour the proposal may be looked into.