Ker HC | Derecognizing an educational institution is a drastic measure dislocating a vast number students as well as staff and cannot be done in haste or without adhering to statutory guidelines; Petition allowed

Kerala High Court: Anil K Narendran, J., allowing the present writ petition, issued necessary directions to the respondent authorities and further made noticeable observations with respect to the issuance of show cause notice and adequate opportunity of being heard.

Brief Facts

The facts of the case are summarized hereunder;

  1. That petitioner 1 is a society registered under the Travancore-Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act, 1955, which is running Christ Nagar College of Education imparting B.Ed course on the strength of recognition granted by the National Council for Teacher Education (for brevity, ‘the NCTE’) and the affiliation granted by respondent 3, Kerala University.
  2. That the Southern Regional Committee of the NCTE has withdrawn the recognition granted to the petitioner’s institution, invoking Section 17 of the NCTE Act, 1993.
  3. That petitioner 2 is the Principal of institution stated above and have collectively approached the High Court with petitioner 1, against the aforementioned order of the Regional Committee.

Issue

  1. Whether the proceedings initiated against the petitioner’s institution under sub-section (1) of Section 17 of the NCTE Act, for withdrawal of recognition can be sustained in law? 

Observations

  • The Court in addition to its decision cited relevant provisions of the NCTE Act and the allied Rules; Section 12 of the NCTE Act deals with functions of the Council; “As per Section 12, it shall be the duty of the Council to take all such steps as it may think fit for ensuring planned and coordinated development of teacher education and for the determination and maintenance of standards for teacher education and for the purposes of performing its functions under this Act” , Section 13 deals with inspection; “As per sub-section (1) of Section 13, for the purposes of ascertaining whether the recognized institutions are functioning in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the Council may cause inspection of any such institution, to be made by such persons as it may direct, and in such manner as may be prescribed”, Section 14 deals with recognition of institutions offering course or training in teacher education, Section 15 deals with permission for a new course or training by recognized institution, Section 16 states, “notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, no examining body shall, on or after the appointed day, (a) grant affiliation, whether provisional or otherwise, to any institution; or (b) hold examination, whether provisional or otherwise, for a course or training conducted by a recognized institution, unless the institution concerned has obtained recognition from the Regional Committee concerned, under Section 14 or permission for a course or training under Section 15”, Section 17 deals with contravention of provisions of the Act and consequences thereof, Section 18 deals with appeals, Rule 10 and Rule 11 of National Council for Teacher Education Rules, 1997.
  • Further, the Court relied upon;

State of U.P. v. Bhupendra Nath Tripathi, (2010) 13 SCC 203, the Supreme Court held that, according to sub-section (3) of Section 17 “once the recognition of a recognized institution is withdrawn under sub-section (1), such institution shall discontinue the course or training in teacher education and the concerned University or the examining body shall cancel affiliation of the institution with effect from the end of the academic session next following the date of communication of the said order.”

Adarsh Shiksha Mahavidyalaya v. Subhash Rahangdale, (2012) 2 SCC 425, The Supreme Court reiterated that the withdrawal of recognition becomes effective from the end of the academic session next following the date of communication of the order of withdrawal.

  • Furthermore, the Court said, when the statute requires doing a certain thing in a certain way, the thing must be done in that way or not at all. Other methods or mode of performance are impliedly and necessarily forbidden. The said proposition of law is based on a legal maxim expressio unius est exclusion alteris meaning thereby, “if the statute provides for a thing to be done in a particular manner, then it has to be done in that manner and in no other manner, and following other course is not permissible.” In Ajanta Industries v. Central Board of Direct Taxes, (1976) 1 SCC 1001, a Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that “when law requires reasons to be recorded in a particular order, affecting prejudicially the interest of any person, who can challenge the order in court, it ceases to be a mere administrative order and the wise or violation of the principles of natural justice on account of omission to communicate the reasons is not expiated.”
  • Moreover, the Court cited and relied on,

D. Gupta v. State of Haryana, (1973) 3 SCC 149, wherein the Court was dealing with a case in which disciplinary proceedings was initiated against the appellant under the Punjab Civil Services (Punishment and Appeal) Rules, 1952, upon the allegations of taking illegal gratification. One of the contentions taken by the appellant was that, no reasonable opportunity to reply to the show-cause notice was given on the basis of which he had been censured by the Government, inasmuch as, the notice was “too vague to enable him to give an effective reply.” The Court, acknowledging the said contention observed, “It is essential for a show-cause notice to indicate the precise scope of the notice and also to indicate the points on which the officer concerned is expected to give a reply. The show-cause notice in the instant case did not give the appellant any real opportunity to defend himself against the complaint that his previous explanation of 18.12.1956 had been unsatisfactory. The appellant did not, therefore, get any chance at all to show that he did not deserve a censure upon his conduct.”

Tarlochan Dev Sharma v. State of Punjab, (2001) 6 SCC 260, the Supreme Court noticed that, one of the requirements of the principles of natural justice, is that the reasons for the proposed removal have to be communicated to the person proceeded against. The purpose of such communication is to enable him to furnish an explanation of his conduct or his act or omission which is likely to be construed as an abuse of powers.

CCE v. Brindavan Beverages (P) Ltd., (2007) 5 SCC 388, Supreme Court held, “The show-cause notice is the foundation on which the department has to build up its case. If the allegations in the show cause notice are not specific and are on the contrary vague, lack details and/or unintelligible that is sufficient to hold that the notice was not given proper opportunity to meet the allegations indicated in the show cause notice.”

Vaishnav Institute of Technology and Management, “once the recognized institution starts functioning, the interest of teachers, employees and the students intervene.”

Decision

While allowing the present writ petition the Court said, “Section 17 of the NCTE Act envisages a reasonable opportunity to the institution sought to be de-recognized of making representation against the proposed order. Such an opportunity cannot be reduced to an empty formality.The Court further directed that, The petitioner’ institution shall submit their reply to the deficiency pointed out by the Southern Regional Committee, with supporting documents, within one week from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment, which shall be considered by the Southern Regional Committee, after affording the petitioners institution a reasonable opportunity to represent its case, and pass appropriate orders, strictly in accordance with law.”[Christ Nagar Educational Charitable Society v. National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE), 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4470, decided on 13-10-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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