Friday, February 3, 2023

Allahabad HC directs holding of pharmacy course exam in Badlapur institute under cloud of charges

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The Allahabad High Court has directed the Secretary, Board of Technical Education and District Magistrate, Jaunpur to ensure the pharmacy diploma examination is conducted peacefully in Ram Lakhan Singh Educational Institute, Badlapur.

A single bench of Justice Ajit Kumar passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Ram Lakhan Singh Shikshan Sansthan.

The petitioner-institution before the Court is a recognized institution imparting education in the subject of Diploma in Pharmacy being recognised by the Board of Technical Education, Uttar Pradesh Lucknow.

Since the Board of Technical Education proceeded to hold the examination of Diploma in Pharmacy for the Session 2021-22 in the month of June 2022, it proceeded to conduct exercise of due verification and identification of the institutions to designate as examination centres.

In respect of the petitioner-institution, a hectic verification exercise was carried out and, vide order dated 21.6.2022, when a list of examination centre was notified by the Secretary, Board of Technical Education, petitioner-institution also found place in the same and the examinations while began from 25.6.2022 at other centres, the examination was scheduled to begin at the petitioner-centre from 01.07.2022 onwards. The answer books and the verification admit cards of the students were sent to the petitioner-institution as a part of preliminary exercise to accomplish the task of holding examinations with effect from 01.07.2022.

The petitioner had to approach the Court only because of the order dated 28.6.2022 issued by the Secretary, Board of Technical Education whereby the petitioner-institution was delisted from the list of examination centres and four other institutions got assigned as examination centres in lieu thereof.

Two fold arguments have been advanced by the counsel for the petitioner:

(a) the respondents had conducted thorough verification about the credentials of the institutions so as to assign them status of examination centre and as a part of preliminary exercise answer copies and the admit cards were sent and so, there was no occasion to cancel the petitioner institution as examination centre on the basis of some hearsay complaint and in the name of some pending inquiry; and

(b) once the petitioner-institution was assigned as a centre, cancellation thereof on the basis of some complaint and alleged enquiry amounted to an action quite stigmatic in nature and, therefore, minimum compliance of principles of natural justice by issuing a show cause notice should have been done prior to passing the order impugned.

Yet another argument has been advanced that the entire act is vitiated for political intervention of a local MLA and hence there smells mala-fide in the act and conduct of the respondents in passing the order, impugned in the petition.

The Court noted,

From perusal of the instructions that have been placed by the Standing Counsel before the Court, it transpires that initially some complaint was made by Ramesh Chandra Mishra, Member of Legislative Assembly, Constituency of Badlapur, District Jaunpur charging institution for having fraudulently obtained recognition by the institution and that complaint seems to have been referred by the Regional Secretary, Madhyamik Shiksha Parishad Varanasi Region, Varanasi to the Secretary to the Chief Minister/Education Minister on 02.06.2022 but nothing happened thereafter.

Standing Counsel also could not inform the court about any action taken on such a complaint at any point of time.

The instructions further reveal that having failed to get his earlier complaint materialised, the local MLA moved another complaint 24.6.2022 and this time directly to the Minister of Technical Education, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow and that too after the petitioner’s institution was assigned as examination centre and in turn the Minister concerned directed the Chief Secretary, Technical Education to conduct enquiry into the complaint.

The Court observed,

The Chief Secretary put a note on the said complaint directing an inquiry by the District Magistrate, Jaunpur on 24.6.2022 itself. The District Magistrate who had been directed to hold an inquiry, it appears did not hold any inquiry and simply reiterated the narratives contained in the letter of the local MLA, in his letter dated 27.6.2022 and also observed therein that the enquiry was underway. It is on the basis of the order/letter/information sent by the District Magistrate to the Special Secretary Technical Education, it appears to the Board of Technical Education convened an emergent meeting on 28.6.2022 at 4.30 P.M through video conferencing and resolved to delist the petitioner-institution from the list of examination centres on the basis of the report of the District Magistrate dated 27.6.2022 in reply to the letter of Special Secretary dated 24.6.2022. The resolution, however, does not discuss anything regarding findings, if any, given in the letter of the District Magistrate which might have formed the basis for passing the resolution.

I have also an occasion to see the report of one Additional District Magistrate (Finance and Revenue) Jaunpur dated 27.6.2022 and SubDivisional Magistrate, Badlapur dated 27.6.2022 which clearly show that the enquiry was still underway and only recommendation was to the effect that till the enquiry was completed, the institution should not be made examination centre. These reports seem to have accompanied the letter of the District Magistrate dated 27.6.2022.

Looking to the instructions, as discussed above, one thing comes out to be quite apparent on the face of record that except for the statements made in the complaint made by the local MLA reproduced in the letter of the District Magistrate dated 27.6.2022, there was no such material available with the respondents to be assigned as a substantial reason to either blacklist the petitioner institution or delist it from the list of examination centres. The only thing was that enquiry was underway, the Court further noted.

The Court further observed that a complaint by itself or a charge by itself does not get approved unless a thorough enquiry is held and finding is returned in such enquiry proving the same. Fraud is a question of fact and not a question of law and so merely because a local MLA has written a letter that the institution had obtained recognition fraudulently, it cannot be assumed by any stretch of imagination that the recognition granted by the Board to the Institution was a result of fraud. The proximity of dates of the complaint, writing a letter by the Minister to the Secretary, and by the Secretary to the District Magistrate and then the District Magistrate writing back to the Secretary, shows that the entire exercise was done within three days. The authorities seem to have not applied their mind at all, more especially in the circumstances when the enquiry was still underway.

The Court said that, in such above facts and circumstances, therefore, the petitioner-institution was entitled at least to a show cause notice before passing the order impugned which is also quite lacking in the case. In view of the above, a case for interference is made out.

“Standing Counsel prays for and is allowed two weeks’ time to file counter affidavit. Rejoinder affidavit, if any, may be filed within a week thereafter.

In the meanwhile, until further orders of this Court, the effect and operation of the order issued by the Secretary, Board of Technical Education, Uttar Pradesh Lucknow dated 28.6.2022 shall remain stayed. Since it is a consequential order and in the instructions of the Board placed on record the resolution of the Board dated 28.6.2022 has been filed, the same shall also remain stayed.

However pendency of this petition and interim protection granted hereinabove shall not come in the way of the respondents in holding and concluding the enquiry in the matter of complaint while at the same time complying with the principles of natural justice and placing the same before this Court before taking any final decision.

The Board of Technical Education, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow as well as the District Magistrate, Jaunpur are directed to ensure that the examination in question for Diploma in Pharmacy which is scheduled to be held from 01.07.2022 onwards at petitioner-institution is held properly, peacefully and without any political interference.

The Registrar General of the Court is directed to intimate this order to the Secretary, Technical Education Board, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow as well as the District Magistrate, Jaunpur today itself for ensuring compliance,” the Court ordered.

The Court has fixed the next hearing of the petition on July 27, 2022.

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