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P.K. Akhil v/s Sree Sankara Vidyapeetom College, Sreesankarapuram, Ernakulam, Represented by The Principal & Others


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    WP(C). No. 23586 of 2019 (W)

    Decided On, 23 October 2019

    At, High Court of Kerala

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SHAJI P. CHALY

    For the Petitioner: P.K. Varghese, P.T. Manoj, Sanjana Rachel Jose, Advocates. For the Respondents: R1 & R2, Dr. K.P. Satheesan, Sr. Advocate, R3 & R4, Asok M. Cherian, SC, P. Mohandas (Ernakulam), S. Vibheeshanan, K. Sudhinkumar, S.K. Adhithyan, Sabu Pullan, Advocates.



Judgment Text

1. The question emerges for consideration in this writ petition is, whether the Board for Adjudication of Students Grievance constituted as per the Mahatma Gandhi University Statutes, 1997 is vested with powers to consider a complaint filed by the petitioner, who was allegedly issued with Transfer Certificate compulsorily by the Principal of Sree Sankara Vidyapeetom College, Perumbavoor, Ernakulam District. Chapter 27 of the Statutes, 1997 deals with the Board for Adjudication of Students Grievances, its constitution and the powers, which read thus:

“Chapter 27

Board for Adjudication of Students Grievances

1. Constitution:- There shall be constituted a Board to entertain, adjudicate and redress any grievances of the Students of Colleges who may for any reasons be aggrieved otherwise than by an act of the court.

2. Members:-

The Board shall consist of:

(a) the Vice-Chancellor as Chairman;

(b) the Dean of Students;

(c) three Members of who one shall be a Principal of a College nominated by the Vice-Chancellor from among the Members of the Syndicate.

(d) the Chairman of the University Union, if any;

(e) two Chairmen of the College Unions nominated by the Vice-Chancellor;

(f) two Members of whom one shall be a Principal of a college nominated by the Vice-Chancellor from among the members of the Academic Council;

(g) The Registrar.

3. Term: The term of a Member of the Board shall be four years from the date of his appointment:

Provided that the term of the Chairman of the University Union and of the Speakers of the College Unions shall be one year and that of the Dean of Students, two years.

4. Casual vacancies:- Casual vacancies shall be filled up in the same manner as the place that fell vacant was originally filled.

5. Receipt and entertainment of Complaint:- Complaints shall ordinarily be sent to the Chairman through the University Union or the Principal of the college concerned. As soon as the Chairman receives a complaint seeking redressal of any grievance of the students of colleges, he shall conduct a preliminary enquiry and if he finds it necessary he shall place it before the Board. The Board shall then decide whether the complaint shall be entertained or not.

6. Procedure on entertainment of a complaint by the Board:- After the Board has decided that a complaint filed before it should be entertained, it shall commence the enquiry at the appointed time, date and place or on such other date to which the enquiry may be adjourned. At the enquiry, the oral and documentary evidence on behalf of the complaint shall be first adduced and the authorities of the college or University, as the case may be, shall then be given an opportunity to adduce oral and documentary evidence. The complainant as also the authorities of the college or the University shall be allowed to file any supplementary statement in support of their case. The Board may at any stage of the examination of the witnesses put questions to them. After all the evidence is recorded, the Board may, if necessary, allow the parties concerned to argue their case before the Board. After all the evidence is recorded and arguments, if any, heard, the Board shall record its findings in respect of the complaint. The findings of the Board shall then be forwarded to the Syndicate by the Chairman of the Board for appropriate action”.

2. Learned counsel for the petitioner contended that, on the basis of the powers vested on the Board for Adjudication to deal with the grievances of the students, petitioner has submitted Ext.P3 before the Chairman of the Board, as is contemplated under Chapter 27. However, the same is not considered by the Board and a direction may be issued to the Board to finalize Ext.P3 complaint.

3. Respondents 1 and 2 i.e., the College and the Principal have filed a detailed counter affidavit, explaining the indiscipline exhibited by the petitioner in the College and the Principal was compelled in that circumstances to issue Transfer Certificate to the petitioner. The paramount contention advanced is that, the Board for Adjudication is not having any power to consider any complaint in view of the judgments rendered by this Court in 'Sojan Francis v. M.G. University' [2003 (2) KLT 582] and 'Indulekha Joseph v. Vice Chancellor' [2008 (3) KLT SN 54]. Relying upon the law laid down thereunder, it is contended that the Board is vested with ample powers to take appropriate action to maintain discipline in the College, and therefore, the Board of Adjudication is not vested with any powers to entertain any complaint filed by the students.

4. Learned counsel for the 1st and 2nd respondents in that regard, has invited my attention to the judgment of a Division Bench of this Court in 'Manu Vilson v. Sree Narayana College' [1996 (1) KLT 788], and contended that, once the Principal has taken a decision, his wisdom should prevail in that regard over all other considerations, and therefore, Ext.P3 cannot be entertained by the Board for Adjudication.

5. I am not going into the merits of the matter, since I am of the considered opinion that, in accordance with the powers conferred under Chapter 27, the Board for Adjudication of Students Grievances is vested with ample powers to consider the complaint filed by the petitioner, and the Division Bench judgment in 'Manu Vilson' (supra) has no manner of bearing with respect to the facts and law involved in the case on hand. There, the question considered by the Division Bench was in respect of the right and authority of the Principal to take action for maintenance of discipline among students in the College in consultation with the College Council, as per Statute 21 of Chapter 24 of the Kerala University First Statutes, and held that, the Principal, head of the institution in consultation with the College Council should have the primary authority to initiate appropriate action against the students for maintenance of discipline, and his wisdom supported by the College Council alone should prevail in this regard over all other considerations. It was further held that, no provision of the Act makes an affiliated college an institution of the University and the investigation can only be in relation to the management of the college affiliated to the University and therefore, cannot interfere with the discipline of the students which is the sole matter under the control of the Principal.

6. It is also clear from the findings rendered thereunder that the question considered was whether the Syndicate can, by resort to clause (xx) of Sec.23 of the Act, enquire into and take decision on the discipline of students in the affiliated college and it was held that, the Syndicate is only vested with powers of investigation into the affairs of the college affiliated to the University. It was also found that by virtue of Statute 20 of Chapter 24 of the Kerala University First Statutes, the decision taken by the Principal in accordance with the recommendation of the College Council is final and neither the University nor the Vice-Chancellor can interfere with the same, and further held that, Chapter III of First Statutes has no power to interfere with the transfer certificate issued by the Principal of an affiliated college. Therefore, it is clear, the judgment was rendered taking into account the facts, circumstances and law existed then in the laws of the Kerala University, which is totally different from the legal and factual circumstances involved in this case.

7. Learned counsel for respondents 1 and 2 has also advanced a case that there is no power vested with the Syndicate to consider an issue over and above the decision taken by the Principal of the College. True, such a question was considered in 'Manu Vilson' (supra), taking into account Sec.23(xx) of the Kerala University Act, 1974, and it was held that, no provision of the Act makes or empowers the Syndicate to interfere with a decision taken by the Principal in accordance with the recommendation of the College Council, which has become final.

8. However, in my considered opinion, Statute 6 of Chapter 27 prescribes the procedure for entertainment of complaint by the Board, and according to which, after the Board has decided that a complaint filed before it should be entertained, it shall commence the enquiry at the appointed time, date and place or on such other date to which the enquiry may be adjourned. It is also vested with powers to receive oral and documentary evidence on behalf of the complainant at first and then permit the authorities of the College or University, as the case may be, to adduce oral and documentary evidence. Other powers are also conferred on the Board of Adjudication.

9. After all the evidence is recorded, the Board is vested with powers to permit the parties to argue their case before the Board, and thereafter the Board shall record its findings in respect of the complaint and finally the findings of the Board shall be forwarded to the Syndicate, by the Chairman of the Board for appropriate action. Therefore, power is conferred on the Syndicate as per Statute 6 of Chapter 27 to take appropriate action taking into account the procedure so contemplated. It is clear that the powers of the Syndicate flows from Statute 6 of Chapter 27 and it has no bearing to the other powers enjoyed by the Syndicate in the Statute. To put it otherwise, since the power of the Syndicate emerges from Statute 6, the judgment of this Court in 'Manu Vilson' (supra) that the Syndicate has no power under Sec.23(xx) of the Kerala University Act, 1974 and the First Statutes, has no bearing to the facts and circumstances and the law involved in this case. Which thus also means, it was on the basis of right conferred on a student under law, the complaint was filed before the Board, and therefore, it requires adjudication.

10. So also, learned counsel for respondents 1 and 2 has invited my attention to the judgment of this Court in W.P.(C) No. 15779 of 2019 dated 16.08.2019, filed by the Principal, St. Joseph's College, Moolamattom, Idukki District, against the Mahatma Gandhi University and others, wherein, after taking into account the judgments rendered by the apex court and this Court, it was held that, Sec.23(13) of the M.G. University Act empowers the Syndicate only to maintain, supervise and control the residence and discipline of students. In my considered view, in the said judgment, after analyzing the legal situations, the Court has considered the subject matter on its own merit and held that, the decision taken by the Vice- Chancellor to delegate the power of enquiry to a member of the Syndicate was not right, since there is no power conferred to do so under Chapter 27 of the Statutes, 1997, and therefore, there was no preliminary enquiry in contemplation of law. I do not think any proposition of law is laid down by this Court in the said judgment, that the Board for Adjudication under Chapter 27 of the M.G. University Statutes, 1997 is not vested with powers to entertain an appeal/complaint in contemplation of law.

11. So much so, the Mahatma Gandhi University Student's Code of Conduct Rules, 2005 is brought into force with the object of maintaining and enforcing good conduct inside the class rooms and campus in the affiliated colleges, Departments of teaching and Research and self financing schools of the Mahatma Gandhi University. As per Rule 3 thereunder, the rules shall be applicable to all the affiliated colleges under the University, University Departments of teaching and research and self financing schools of the University. Rule 6 thereunder deals with the procedure for imposition of punishment, wherein, the Principal of the co

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llege shall be the disciplinary authority in respect of the students in the college. After conducting due enquiry, the Principal is vested with ample powers to: (1) Impose fine; (2) Issuance of compulsory transfer certificate; and (3) Dismissal from the college. Rule 9 thereunder provides right to appeal to a student against whom the disciplinary orders had been passed, to the Board for Adjudication of Students' Grievances as provided in Chapter 27 of the Mahatma Gandhi University Statute of 1997. Analyzing the situation so, I am of the considered opinion that, there is no merit in the contention advanced by respondents 1 and 2 in that regard, and I am of the view, the Board of Adjudication is vested with ample powers to entertain the complaint in accordance with law. 12. Therefore, the writ petition is allowed, and there will be a direction to the Board of Adjudication of the M.G. University represented herein by the Chairman, i.e., the 4th respondent, to finalize the complaint in accordance with the procedure contemplated as per Chapter 27 of the Statutes, 1997, at the earliest, and at any rate, within two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment, after providing notice of hearing to the petitioner as well as respondents 1 and 2. The writ petition is allowed accordingly.
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