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Azam Meer Khan vs Aligarh Muslim University And ...

High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad|26 May, 1998


JUDGMENT B. Dikshit, J.
1. The Aligarh Muslim University (in short 'the University'), which is one of the country's premier educational institution, had an unfortunate incident on 12.11.1995, 13.11.1995, 14.11.1995 and 15.11.1995 in which the office staff was manhandled by the students who misbehaved with the teachers and other staff of the University, broke glass panes, furnitures, beside office equipments such as typewriters, furniture etc. were damaged and an ambassador car attached to the Proctor office was burnt, which resulted in closure of the University for a considerable period. The University authorities faced with such situation, took disciplinary action against certain students who have been rusticated with all these things, the university authority also acted in haste, which has given rise to present petition, where a rusticated student has challenged the order with reference to the same incident on the principle of natural justice as he was not given adequate opportunity to defend himself. Before considering the case on merits one has to keep in mind that maintenance of discipline in the educational institution is exclusively under the purview of University authorities, but at the same time as such things happened, they have to act with much patience so that the action is not considered to be hasty. In the matter of discipline even if an action is taken against a student without giving any opportunity of hearing, this Court while refusing to quash the order has held that post-decisional hearing can be given to the student but hasty action on the part of the University can not be allowed.
2. The case in hand is such where the university authorities had reasonable time and they considered that before taking action against the petitioner he should be afforded opportunity of hearing. As despite the decision of University authorities to provide opportunity of hearing before passing the order and as according to petitioner he was not granted reasonable time to defend himself, he has filed present writ petition. The essential facts for resolving the present controversy are that the petitioner, who. is student of Bachlor of Unani Medicine and Surgery at the University was asked to show cause by letter dated 25.11.1995 by Proctor of the University. The show-cause notice reads as follows-
"This is to inform you that serious allegations of causing/inciting violence in the A.M.U. Campus have been received against you. You have been going to various offices of the university and intimating the University officials. You have been seen mixing up with the students at odd hours in their rooms and you have been provoking them to indulge in arson, loot and pillage.
After the incident of 13.11.1995 in which some misguided elements had tried to disturb the peace you have been seen holding meetings with other self styled leaders of the students and hatching a conspiracy to disturb the peace of the University. In consequence of your subversive activities some students have indulged in argon, loot and pillage causing serious damage to the University resulting in the closure of the institution. You are therefore required to show cause as to why you should not be rusticated and your entry into the campus banned and also as to why the district authorities should not being your entry to the district.
Your reply in writing should reach the Proctor's office by 30.11.1995 by post/telegram failing which it will be assumed that you have nothing to say in your defence and ex-parte decision will be taken."
3. The show cause notice was addressed to the petitioner on his home-address. It is admitted by Counsel for University that the students were asked to vacate hostels after the incident and notice to petitioner was sent. The notice was actually despatched on 27.11.1995. The petitioner was also asked telegraphically to send his explanation by 30.11.1995. A copy of the telegram, which is Annexure-2 to the writ petition, reads as follows:
"Charges of inciting violence in the AMU Campus against you rustication and Distt. Ban being considered. Send your explanation by Return/Mail Telegram by 30.11.1995. Proctor AMU Aligarh."
4. It is now also not in dispute that the letter of Proctor dated 25.11.1995 was delivered to petitioner on family his residence on 2.12.1995. While the telegram was delivered on 1.12.1995. The petitioner's allegation in writ petition is that when the show-cause notice and the telegram reached his home he was not at Pilibhit and therefore, he could submit any explanation before passing of the order dated 4.12.1995 whereby disciplinary committee of the University by its decision decided [Urdu matter-Not printed-Editor] that the petitioner 'be rusticated from the rolls of the University with immediate effect. "The A.M.U. campus be placed out of bound for him and he should not be given admission to any course/class of the University in future". Aggrieved by the said order of punishment the petitioner filed this writ petition on 19.12.1995.
5. Learned Counsel for petitioner has argued that the impugned order has been passed in violation of principles of natural justice as the petitioner was not provided reasonable opportunity to submit his explanation before passing or the order. We further submitted that the show cause notice is vague as the date, time and place for alleged occurrence has not been given.
6. Learned Counsel for petitioner further argued that the punishment has been awarded by disciplinary committee which was beyond the scope of its power as under Section 35(1) it is the Vice-chancellor alone who could award the punishment. He lastly argued that under Statute 35(3) of Aligarh Muslim University, rustication can be for specified period which has not been specified in the present case and the rustication is in perpetuity. To meet the argument learned Counsel for petitioner, Sri Dilip Gupta, Advocate, appearing on behalf of University contended that the show-cause notice was sent to the petitioner's permanent address as disclosed by him to the University and it was not possible for University to find out as to where news. According to him a notice served on the permanent address of the petitioner was sufficient notice. About the Service of the notice as the date of service could not be known to the disciplinary committee, therefore, the disciplinary committee bonafidely acted in passing the order on 4.12.1995, by which time notice was not served according to petitioner. He contended that so far petitioner is concerned, he had full opportunity to approach disciplinary committee by filing representation, even after receipt of the notice and before passing of the order and even if the order was passed by the time petitioner came to known then the petitioner could have asked for post-decisional hearing. He further submitted that the show-cause notice is specific and valid. So far power of the disciplinary committee is concerned, to award the punishment, he contended that the disciplinary committee did had the power to award punishment. On 19.5.1998 during course of argument the Court asked the petitioner to produce the material relevant to justify the stand of University to the effect that even if petitioner was not provided adequate opportunity of hearing yet this Court may not interfere in the matter as it relates to maintenance of discipline at educational institutions and there is enough material. Today, he has produced three reports dated 12, 13 and 14th November, 1995, to prove that the petitioner's name was their in various reports submitted by security guards.
7. Normally, in the matter of disciplinary proceedings, the Courts are reluctant to interfere in the decision taken by educational authorities in disciplinary matters but when the authorities act in haste or in violation of principles of natural justice or the action is such that the student did not get adequate opportunity to defend himself and when sufficient time is not granted to submit his explanation then the action of University authorities can not stand before Court of law. The Court has to interfere in such matter.
8. Here, the incident took place between 12th and 15th of November, 1995. University authorities did not consider it to be a case where immediate action was necessary. Had the matter been so serious there the University authorities had enough power to punish the petitioner and allow him to have post-decisional hearing. But in this case they have taken recourse to provide opportunity to petitioner to explain his conduct before passing order. The obvious reasons appears to be that authorities wanted to dispose of the matter after providing opportunity of explaining conduct and after hearing petitioner. No action in the matter was taken of ten days' despite the fact that the security guards reported to the University authorities on 13, 14 and 15th November, 1995. When University authorities had so much time then they were not justified to despatch show-cause-notice from Aligarh to residence of petitioner at Pilibhit asking him to submit his explanation on 30.11.1997. This time was not sufficient even to serve registered letter and therefore, petitioner received letter as well as telegram after expiry of date for submitting reply. The disciplinary committee acted in haste. The minimum time expected from the authorities was a date sufficient for service of notice and for submission of explanation. If appears that considering that the information may not be received by the petitioner the authorities tried to inform the petitioner by telegraphic message asking him to submit his explanation by 30.11.1995 which was also delivered on 1.12.1995. All this indicates that the officials of the University were just completing the formalities of show-cause notice being given to petitioner before taking decision. However, as in the present case neither show-cause notice nor telegram was served on the permanent address of the petitioner before the expiry of 30,11.1995, the subsequent proceedings which has taken place resulting into punishment awarded to petitioner are liable to be quashed for want of proper opportunity to petitioner to defend himself.
9. Learned Counsel for University has tried to justify that as it is a matter relating to the discipline of the University the order be not quashed and the petitioner may be provided post-decisional opportunity of hearing. The question of post-decisional opportunity of healing could arise only when the university authorities had taken a decision considering exigencies of the circumstances that hearing of the student in disciplinary matter immediately is not possible or there is imminent danger to the continuance of the studies or examination at the university or safety of teachers and staff and the property of the university there could be a valid ground but so far present case is concerned, the disciplinary committee considered it necessary to provide adequate opportunity of hearing, it can not be said that any of the grounds mentioned existed and for that reason opportunity could not have been provided. As the authorities themselves considered that hearing or petitioner is essential in such matter, it is not open for the University to defend its action now on the ground that the post-decisional hearing be provided to the petitioner.
10. There is another reasonable due to which the impugned order is untenable. On the basis of Statute 35 (3) learned Counsel for petitioner argued that the rustication can be not specified period which has been approved by the Counsel for University. Statute 35 (3) reads as follows :-
"35. Maintenance of discipline among students of the University-x x x x (3) without prejudice to the generality of his powers relating to the maintenance of discipline and taking such action in the interest or maintaining discipline as may seem to him appropriate, the Vice-Chancellor may, in the exercise of his powers, by order, direct that any student or students be expelled, or rusticated for a specified period or be not admitted to a course or study in a College, Department or Institution of the University for a stated period, or be punished with fine for an amount to be specified in the order, or be debarred from taking a University or College or Departmental Examination or Examinations for one or more years, or that the results of the student or students concerned in the Examination or Examinations in which he or they have appeared to be cancelled."
11. From a bare perusal of this statute it is clear that the student has to be rusticated for specified period it can not be in perpetuity. Learned Counsel for University tried to justify it on the ground that this rustication is from the University concerned and beside rusticating the petitioner it has been made clear in the impugned order that the petitioner will not be admitted to any course of studies to the University. This argument is also untenable. The language is apparent and is absolutely clear. At the same time rustication does not mean that a candidate can not be admitted in Aligarh Muslim University. It disentitles him from getting admission in the other Universities for which the period has to be specified. The Statute speaks about two kind1 of punishment one is rustication for specified period and another is where a student is not to be admitted to a course or courses of study in a college, department or institution or University for specific period. Once the student is rusticated, it is not possible to accept version of learned Counsel for petitioner that a rusticated student will not get admission only in that University. If the Disciplinary Committee decided to rusticate the petitioner it should have specified the period, therefore; also the order is bad.
12. Learned Counsel for petitioner has also claimed that the notice is vague and is incapable of being explained as the material has not been mentioned. As I am or the opinion that the impugned order is liable to be quashed and it is being kept open for the University to initiate fresh proceedings if it so desires. It is not necessary for me to examine the validity of the notice.
13. For aforesaid reasons the writ petition succeeds and allowed, the impugned order dated 4.11.1995 is quashed. It is kept open for the University that if it so desires it can initiate fresh proceedings-against the petitioner. However, as much time has elapsed since incident took place, in case the University decides to initiate fresh proceedings against petitioner then it will take that aspect of the matter also into consideration before initiating it.
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Azam Meer Khan vs Aligarh Muslim University And ...


High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad

26 May, 1998
  • B Dikshit