Bombay High Court sets aside decision to debar girl from appearing in Class X exam

On May 30, 2017, the Standing Committee of the board in Pune had decided to impose a penalty on the petitioner. The decision to debar the petitioner till July was issued on June 16.

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Published: August 18, 2017 3:45 am

COMING to the rescue of a 16-year-old girl who was accused of adopting “unfair means” during her Marathi examination and debarred till July from appearing in her Class X exam held by the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, Pune, the Bombay High Court recently set aside the decision calling it “unsustainable”. The court has now directed the board that has its office in Pune to pay Rs 7,500 to the girl.

On May 30, 2017, the Standing Committee of the board in Pune had decided to impose a penalty on the petitioner. The decision to debar the petitioner till July was issued on June 16.

A petition was filed by the girl through her mother. The petitioner hails from Valvad in Solapur. In the representations made by the girl’s parents, it was contended that the student has always had a brilliant career scoring over 90 per cent marks.

According to the counsel appearing for the board, N N Marathe, the rules clearly specify that destruction of one’s own or any other student’s answersheet, or even any attempt in this regard, constitutes unfair means. Moreover, the Standing Committee, which is not bound to assign any reason, has concluded that the petitioner tore off or destroyed pages 17 and 18 of her answersheet in her Marathi paper and the conclusion is immune from judicial scrutiny. The penalty imposed is therefore, appropriate and warrants no interference, he contended.

Justice Shantanu Kemkar said: “We are unable to agree with the contention that decisions of academic bodies, in cases concerning unfair means, are immune from judicial review. No doubt, as held by the Supreme Court, courts should be slow to interfere in such matters. However, where there is violation of principle of natural justice and further, where the decision is vitiated by perversity and non-application of mind, as in the present case, interference is almost a duty.”

The court added: “Accordingly, we quash and set aside the decision of May 30, 2017, and communication of June 16, 2017. Further, we direct the Pune Board to declare the petitioner’s result. Taking into consideration the peculiar facts and circumstances of the present case, we direct that the board and the state consider the case of the girl for admission to standard 11 as per her entitlement and her merit, or in any case, not to deny her such admission on the ground of any delay in securing the result.”

While the board sought a stay on the order, the court held that the girl who is 16 years old and had a “brilliant career” has suffered enough. “We are not prepared to prolong her suffering any further,” the bench said.

“The show cause notice dated May 6, 2017, issued to the petitioner hardly complies with principles of natural justice and fair play. We have perused the show cause notice and we find that it does not even briefly refer to any charge against the petitioner. The notice gives no indication whatsoever of the charge against the petitioner. The notice merely requires the petitioner to remain present on May 9, 2017, to attend ‘confidential enquiry’, the court said.

Terming it as a clear case of perversity, the bench said the inquiry officer, who is the fact finding authority instituted by the board, had exonerated the petitioner of any wrong doing.

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