Expulsion was in complete violation of principles of natural justice,

High Court rules on students rusticated from Gyalshing College.

Summit Report

Gangtok, 16 Dec:

The High Court of Sikkim has set aside the expulsion of four students from Sikkim Government College, Gyalshing.

In an order passed on 14 December, Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan observes that examination of records in the case reveal that there has been a complete violation of principles of natural justice in the manner in which the students were expelled.

The counter affidavits filed by the State Government [through the Chief Secretary], the Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, and the Principal, Sikkim Government College, Gyalshing, Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan observes, "carry no material" to suggest that the authorities "applied their mind" to establish the evidence and expel the students after according an opportunity to them.

The decision of the general body meeting of the college taken on 10 Feb, 2021, which has decided on the expulsion, has accordingly been set aside.

Four students, all BA Honours students from different streams enrolled at Gyalshing College, were expelled for their active efforts to highlight the shoddy infrastructure at their college and the run-ins they had with the authorities in the process.

From an FIR filed against some of them by the ACS, Education Department, to show-cause notices from the college, they ran the entire gamut of confrontations with the authorities until the college expelled them in February earlier this year.

The State Government, the Education Department ACS and the Principal of Gyalshing College have argued in court that the expulsion orders were the culmination of "several failed attempts aimed at ensuring that the petitioners and other students of the College maintain discipline as expected of them."

These explanations have however been rejected by the High Court as not being adequately convincing of proper procedures and/ or punishment matching the indiscipline.

In fact, the Additional Advocate General also "fairly stated" in Court in response to a "pointed question" that no show case notice highlighting the various instae of breach of rules were issued to the students before the expulsion order was served to them.

All that the authorities could present by way of evidence that the students were informed about conduct rules violated them were minutes of meeting of the Heads of Departments of the College held on 10 Feb, 2021, in which not just the four expelled students, but as many as 21 students were named for violating the college's rules and regulations. Neither the four expelled students nor any other of the 21 students were present in that meeting.

It was this meeting which decided to expel the four students in question.

While the High Court recognises that college authorities are fully within their power and jurisdiction to discipline students, it also observes that allegations against the students were not without any reason.

What the respondents in this case - the State Government, the Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, and the Principal, Sikkim Government College, Gyalshing - failed to do is abide by the principles of natural justice.

"The impugned expulsion orders have been passed without giving an opportunity to the petitioners to show cause as to why such an action, as was resorted to, ought not to be taken. There is no material, even at this stage, on perusal of the counter affidavots, which reflect that the authorities applied their mind to the evidence to establish the allegations and thereafter to pass the impugned expulsion orders after affording an opportunity to them," the judgment pronounced by Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan puts on record.

The High Court also records that the college authorities, if they so desire, will be within their rights to show cause the students and give them an opportunity to explain themselves.

The judgment also reminds authorities that "after following the principles of natural justice" disciplinary action, which the Court observes should be "measured disciplinary action,” could be taken “as befitting the indiscipline and as per rules and regulations of the College."