Lack of fair hearing before imposing harsh punishment arbitrary: Calcutta HC quashes bar on student from writing Board Exam
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Lack of fair hearing before imposing harsh punishment arbitrary: Calcutta HC quashes bar on student from writing Board Exam

Meera Emmanuel

The Calcutta High Court recently had occasion to highlight the importance of ensuring that a student is given a fair opportunity of hearing, following established norms and regulations, before being meted out harsh disciplinary penalties.

The Court observed,

Suffice it to say, lack of a fair hearing before imposing a harsh punishment amounts to violation of principles of natural justice, and therefore, is arbitrary and anathema to Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Calcutta High Court

Justice Shekhar Bobby Saraf was hearing a plea filed by a student who had been barred from writing his 12th Board Exam on grounds that he had cheated in the model examination for the computer application subject.

As pointed out by the school authorities, Justice Saraf noted that generally courts are slow to interfere with decisions taken by school authorities, particularly when it comes to allowing students to appear in High Secondary exams.

This is because of the reason that the results in the Higher Secondary Examinations are open to the public and the results of the students reflect the academic performance of the school as well. The Courts have also categorically held that the rules and regulations of the Councils and Boards should not be interfered with unless there is a manifest illegality in the same.”

However, in this case the Court noted that the student was not given any opportunity to defend himself. Further, that there was no mechanism in place to confirm the allegation levelled that the student had cheated in the model exam.

In such circumstances, the High Court opined that the decision to bar him from writing the Board Exam was excessively harsh and ought not to have been taken without giving a fair hearing. Pertinent observations made by the Court on this aspect include,

“… the student has a right to be given a fair hearing and specific norms and regulations should be in existence. In absence of any such norms and regulations, the actions of the School Authorities may at times fall in the arena of whimsical and capricious decisions resulting in victimization of certain students."

Calcutta High Court

The Court went on to add,

"In the present case, in absence of any rules and regulations, the benefit of doubt is required to be given to the student. The punishment imposed on the student wherein he is not allowed to take part in the Higher Secondary examination would not only a harm his career in terms of the student losing a year but shall leave a permanent scar and stigma on his personality for the rest of his life. Such a harsh decision cannot be taken without a fair hearing.”

In view of these observations, the Court proceeded to quash the penalty imposed on the student and directed that he be allowed to write the 12th Board Exam.

[Read the Judgment]

Calcutta High Court Jugdment re penalty with hearing student.pdf
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