IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS DATED : 09.11.2009 CORAM THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE K.CHANDRU W.P.NO.18441 of 2009 and M.P.NOs.1 to 3 OF 2009 1.P.Sumangala 2.B.Pushba 3.S.Nagalakshmi 4.M.Vaitheki 5.R.Nanthini 6.S.Elavarasi 7.R.Sudha 8.K.Nithya 9.M.Umapathi 10.G.Amutha 11.M.Nelavathi 12.G.Indira 13.P.Arul Mozhi 14.K.Sathiya Kala 15.V.Rajeswari 16.S.Geetha 17.P.Renuga Devi 18.M.Saranya 19.V.Yogaraj 20.P.Padmavathy 21.S.Baskar 22.S.Prabhu .. Petitioners Vs. 1.The Director, Teacher Education Research and Training, College Road, Chennai-600 006. 2.The Joint Director of Examination (Employees), College Road, Chennai-600 006. 3.The Correspondent, Madha Teacher Training Institute, Thamarai Pulam, Vedharaniam (TK), Nagapattinam District. .. Respondents This writ petition is preferred under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for the issue of a writ of certiorarified mandamus to call for the records pertaining to the impugned order dated 05.06.2009 made in Na.Ka.No.032571/c-2/2008 by the second respondent and to quash the same and consequently, direct the respondents to publish the examination results of the petitioners for the academic year 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 for Diploma in Teacher Training. For Petitioners : Mr.M.Christopher For Respondents : Mr.A.C.Manibharathi, GA - - - - ORDER
Heard both sides.
2.The facts projected in the writ writ petition herein depict the modus operandi of the Heroes of the films Vasool Raja MBBS (Tamil) and Munna Bhai MBBS (Hindi). One begins to wonder whether our youth gets ideas from the movies or the movies are portraying the real life situations. While such debates may continue, the degeneration to which the petitioners have descended to, will shock one and all. From gun wielding or knife holding examinees in some northern States, the present high-tech shift of their techniques may reduce tension to the hall Supervisors. But nevertheless it is a new scourge afflicted in our educational campus. Such people are going to be the teachers of tomorrow really chills our spines.
3.The facts leading to the filing of the writ petition are as follows:
The 22 petitioners herein were students of third respondent Madha Teacher Training Institute at Vedaranyam and were undergoing course in Diploma in Teacher Education. They were sent for the diploma examination by their institute. The center for examination was fixed at the Government Girls Higher Secondary School at Vedaranyam. The examinations were held on 27.06.2008. Before they wrote their examinations, they were informed by the Room Supervisor that they should not keep cellphones inside the examination hall. However, the petitioners discarded the warning and kept their cellphones inside the examination hall.
4.Subsequently, a Flying Squad visited the said center. The flying squad came to know that the answers for the examination were sent by Short Message Service (SMS) to the cellphones held by the examinees. The Room Supervisor had also confirmed the same. The cellphones held by the examinees were also seized by the flying squad. The examinees have given written statements accepting the charges. In the presence of the police officials, the cellphones were returned to the examinees on the next day. In view of the flying squad's sudden inspection, the Chief Superintendent of the examination center sent a report, dated 28.6.2008 to the second respondent. The second respondent based upon the said report issued show cause notices stating that keeping cellphones in the examination hall despite it was prohibited and the exchange of answers through SMS were clearly contrary to the examination rules. Therefore, in terms of Chapter X of Teacher Training Examination Rules, appropriate punishment should be given to them apart from cancelling the permission to write further examination. They should also be debarred from writing their examinations for one more year.
5.The petitioners were asked to give show cause as to why the said punishment should not be imposed on them. The misconducts committed by the examinees were accepted by them in their written statements. The Room Supervisors have also confirmed the possession of cellphones inside the examination hall. Therefore, the petitioners were imposed with a punishment in terms of Diploma in Teacher Training Education Examination Rule Part X, cancelling permission to write examinations and also for one more year, they were debarred to write examinations. Since the explanations offered by the examinees were not satisfactory, the second respondent confirmed the earlier provisional punishment. The permission granted to the petitioners to write the examinations held in July, 2008 was cancelled and they were debarred from writing examinations during the year 2009. It is this order the petitioners have challenged in this joint writ petition.
6.The deponent to the affidavit is the first petitioner. According to her, they were writing first year examination on 27.6.2008. The Hall Supervisor of the examination center obtained their signatures in a plain paper, stating that he was receiving the same in acknowledgment of cellphones, which were later handed over to him. They were allowed to write examinations on the subsequent dates. They had completed the examinations and also completed their course. The petitioners were not aware of the proceedings initiated by the second respondent. The entire communication had taken place only between the second and third respondents. The petitioners were not aware of the said communication.
7.It was stated that the petitioners were innocent. The 8th and 19th petitioners are not in possession of any cellphones. The orders were passed mechanically. The signatures obtained by them were for handing over the cellphones while entering the examination hall. The chief Superintendent of the center was the correspondent of the rival institution. He had manipulated the records to defame the third respondent's institution. They also stated that sufficient opportunities were not given before passing the final order. No proper enquiry was held.
8.It was further stated that the flying squad which allegedly caught the petitioners having cellphones did not give any written complaint. The show cause notices were issued after five months after the date of examinations. Since no specific allegations relating to examination malpractices of copying or circulating answers were set out in the show cause notices, the show cause notices were invalid.
9.When the matter came up on 23.10.2009, this Court directed the learned Government Advocate to produce the original file. Accordingly, the original file was produced by the learned Government Advocate and perused by the court.
10.It is seen from the original file that each of the examinee have written a letter to the Chief Superintendent of the examination center, stating that when they were writing Educational Psychology paper on 27.6.2008, they were in possession of cellphones (number of which were mentioned in their letters). When the Hall Supervisor asked for the same, they did not part with them. At about 11.30 a.m., the flying squad came and they were made to part with the cellphones. In that letter, the signatures of the squad members, Chief Superintendent cum Headmaster of the Girls Higher Secondary School, Vedaranyam were also found. Therefore, the allegation that they had signed blank papers does not stand to reason. Even in the explanations, dated 20.4.2009 written by each of the petitioners, it was stated that in order to write the examinations, they were staying in Thennampulam- Shenbagarayanallur village. Their parents had given them the cellphones in order to know their whereabouts. On the date of examination, the Hall Supervisor had told them if any one was in possession of cellphone, it should be handed over to him. Accordingly, they had handed over cellphones. But, when the Hall Supervisor was asked to return the cellphones, he asked us to receive it from the Chief Superintendent of the Center. When the cellphones were asked, he had asked us to write a letter acknowledging the receipt of cellphones. After writing such letters, they took back the cellphones. Some other examinees were concerned, they were not in possession of any cellphone.
11.The allegation that the flying squad seized the cellphones from the petitioners was contrary to truth. During that day, no flying squad visited the center. They were ignorant about the rule relating to keeping cellphones inside the examination hall. Even this explanation is false and contrary to truth because the petitioners have given written acknowledgments, stating that they had kept cellphones in switch-off modes and when they were asked by the Hall Supervisor, it was not given. Only when the flying squad came, the cellphones were given to them. Therefore, it is too late for the petitioners to contend that either their signatures were obtained in blank papers or there was no flying squad on the relevant date or that they had merely given letters acknowledging the receipt of their cellphones only.
12.It is seen that before imposing punishment, the respondents had made a thorough analysis of the incident that took place inside the examination center. It was also stated that as many as 40 cellphones were seized from the center before the beginning of examination. Thereafter, when the flying squad came, the total cellphones received from the center became 60. In the presence of police officials, the cellphones were returned to candidates. It was also stated that in the history of the examination department, such copying through cellphones had not taken place so far. When the answer papers from the center was furnished, an analysis of some of the answer papers showed that even the answers which are written wrongly were scored off and correct answers were written over them, for which, one of the examinees paper was also shown and is proved that there was copying through messages received in SMS. The Chief Superintendent and the Hall Supervisor have also confirmed the possession of cellphones despite prior warning given by them.
13.It is also seen from Chapter X of the scheme for awarding of Higher Secondary Course certificate framed by the State Government that punishments to be awarded to candidates resorted to malpractices. Relevant portion in Chapter X reads as follows:
Rules Serial Number Authority to and Offence impose punishment Scale of Punishment 4.A candidate FOUND Secretary, Board Cancellation of GUILTY of copying of Higher marks at the attempting to Secondary particular whole copy form the Examination, session of forbidden papers Madras-600 006. examination besides debarring him for the NEXT TWO examinations.
14.These uncontroverted facts clearly shows that the petitioners have attempted to hoodwink the authorities and have contravened the rules meant for writing relevant examinations. The attempt to prove that they were innocent and were not aware of relevant rules cannot be accepted. In the present case, each one of them have accepted that the Hall Supervisor had warned them from having the cellphones inside the hall in which they wrote their examinations. They had also accepted the same in their explanations given to the second respondent. The fact that contrary to the directions they were in possession of cellphones itself is enough to impose the punishment. It was unnecessary for respondents to prove that through SMS they got right answers to help to write their examinations. As to what should be the scope of an enquiry in such circumstances has been delineated by the Supreme Court in its various decisions.
15.The Supreme Court vide its judgment in Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education v. K.S. Gandhi reported in (1991) 2 SCC 716 has held in paragraph 22 as follows:
"22. From this perspective, the question is whether omission to record reasons vitiates the impugned order or is in violation of the principles of natural justice. The omnipresence and omniscience (sic) of the principle of natural justice acts as deterrence to arrive at arbitrary decision in flagrant infraction of fair play. But the applicability of the principles of natural justice is not a rule of thumb or a strait-jacket formula as an abstract proposition of law. It depends on the facts of the case, nature of the inquiry and the effect of the order/decision on the rights of the person and attendant circumstances. It is seen from the record and is not disputed, that all the students admitted the factum of fabrication and it was to his or her advantage and that the subject/subjects in which fabrication was committed belong to him or her. In view of these admissions the Enquiry Officer obviously did not find it expedient to reiterate all the admissions made. If the facts are disputed, necessarily the authority or the Enquiry Officer, on consideration of the material on record, should record reasons in support of the conclusion reached. Since the facts are admitted, the need for their reiteration was obviated and so only conclusions have been stated in the reports. The omission to record reasons in the present case is neither illegal, nor is violative of the principles of natural justice. Whether the conclusions are proved or not is yet another question and would need detailed consideration.
16.Subsequently, the Supreme Court in CBSE v. Vineeta Mahajan reported in (1994) 1 SCC 6 held that if any slip of paper found in possession of examinee pertaining to the examination by itself is a malpractice. In that case, a slip of paper was brought into the examination hall was found in possession of an examinee while examination was going on. It was held that whether the examinee had actually used the slip or not is not relevant as the rule stipulated that even possession of any notebook or notes or chits or any other unauthorised materials pertaining to the examination paper will be considered as malpractice.
17.Very recently, the Supreme Court vide its judgment in Dr. Ambedkar Institute of Hotel Management, Nutrition & Catering Technology, Chandigarh v. Vaibhav Singh Chauhan reported in (2009) 1 SCC 59 took exception to the High Courts granting interim orders in such matters on the basis of the personal view of a judge. The relevant passages found in paragraphs 11 to 18 reads as follows:
"11. Coming 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 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.
12. The learned Single Judge in the interim order has then emphasised on the fact that the respondent had apologised 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.
13. The 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 in an unfair or illegitimate manner.
14. Here again, we respectfully cannot approve of the above observation of the learned Single Judge. A judge is supposed to keep his personal views 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.
15. The 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 9.2 he will have to reappear in the entire examination i.e. in all the papers, and not merely in the Front Office examination.
16. In 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.
17. Thereafter 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.
18. We 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 of place.
18.After castigating the judge in these words, the Supreme Court laid warning to all courts in interfering with actions taken by the educational authorities. The following passage found in paragraph 27 may be usefully extracted below:
"27. Before 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 School & Intermediate Education v. Bagleshwar Prasad (AIR 1966 SC 875) (vide AIR para 12), J.P. Kulshrestha (Dr.) v. Allahabad University (1980 (3) SCC 418) (vide SCC para 17 : AIR para 17), Rajendra Prasad Mathur v. Karnataka University (1986 Supp SCC 740) (vide SCC para 7 : AIR 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 orders 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 examinations.
19.If viewed in this context, the 'Vasool Raja MBBS' techniques adopted by the petitioners can never be accepted by the Court. On the other hand, in the interest of the future generations of students such aspirants to teaching posts should be kept away from the Temples of Learning. The action taken by the authorities must forewarn other examinees being attracted to adopt high-tech aberrations.
20.In the light of the above, this writ petition will stand dismissed. However, there will be no order as to costs. Consequently, the connected miscellaneous petitions also will stand dismissed.
1.The Director, Teacher Education Research and Training, College Road, Chennai-600 006.
2.The Joint Director of Examination (Employees), College Road, Chennai-600 006.
3.The Correspondent, Madha Teacher Training Institute, Thamarai Pulam, Vedharaniam (TK), Nagapattinam District