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Supreme Court dismisses NLSIU appeal against HC order on denial of admission to student over plagiarism charges

A bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy opined, “We would say that normally the Court would loathe to interfere in disciplinary matters of educational institutions and, if at all, the universities should be able to set its own house in order in its own way.”

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The Supreme Court today dismissed an appeal by the National Law School of India University against the Karnataka High Court order which granted relief to a law student who was denied admission to his fourth year (2020-2021) BA LLB (Honours) course due to alleged plagiarism in a project work. 

A bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy opined, “We would say that normally the Court would loathe to interfere in disciplinary matters of educational institutions and, if at all, the universities should be able to set its own house in order in its own way.”

The bench was replying to the contentions of Senior Counsel P.S. Patwalia appearing on behalf of the student that judicial intervention in educational matter creates its own complications in maintaining discipline. 

“But at times when things are pressed beyond the stage, judicial intervention becomes necessary and that is what appears to have happened in this case. We would make it clear that there is no encouragement by us for students to assume that they can get judicial redressal if they act contrary to the regulations,” observed by the Apex Court. 

The Top Court has dismissed the appeal filed by the University and also directed that the law student could join the 5th year (2021-2022). “Needless to say the respondent No. 1 will be permitted to join the 5th year, if not already permitted,” it said. 

The appeal was filed by the National Law School of India University before the Apex Court challenging the order passed by the division bench of Karnataka High Court, which in turn had refused to interfere with the orders passed by the Single Judge bench of the High Court. The single-judge bench of the high court had granted relief to the student, named Hruday P.B., who was refused to get admitted in his fourth year BA LLB course as he had allegedly committed plagiarism in the project work.

During the hearing today, the Supreme Court Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said, “I have found nothing wrong with the order of the high court.”

“We appreciate that the petitioner/Institute is a School of excellence. We also appreciate the endeavour to prevent plagiarism. However, in the facts of the case, we do believe that as per the existing regulations, the necessary formalities were not followed and that is what has given rise to the order of the learned Single Judge, dated 18.11.2020,” stated the bench.

Further it noted that, “It appears that the petitioner (University) felt a sting of the ultimate observations of the Court and that may have persuaded the petitioner to approach the Division Bench of the High Court. The impugned order of the Division Bench is based on a concession by the Registrar of the University.” 

The Registrar of University before the division bench of the High Court had contended that student has secured ‘A’ grade in the project finance, the earlier project and its result will have no adverse impact as only one additional project, a student is required to clear.  

The Apex Court Bench also criticised the university by stating that the respondent no. 1 is a student that you are dealing with and not the litigant herein.

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Student’s counsel Patwalia said, “The University neither followed its own regulations nor provided adequate and fair opportunity of hearing to Hruday, student of B.A.LL.B.(Hons).”

Ahmadi, Senior Advocate, appearing for the National Law School of India University contended the student had admitted his guilt vide such email sent to the University. Patwalia said UGC regulations gives no discretion to the student. He also apprised the court about the irregularity of Registrar of University by levelling allegations against Division Bench of High Court.

12846-2021-36-4-29534-Order-25-Aug-2021-3

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