New Delhi: Stating that ” to err is human…”, the Delhi High Court recently came to the rescue of an MBBS student at Army College of Medical Sciences, who had been expelled from the said medical college around 6 years ago on account of forging documents to receive the scholarship.
The case pertains to an Appellant, the son of an Ex. Havildar of the Indian Army, who had joined the MBBS course at Army College of Medical Sciences, Delhi in July 2008. While still a student, Prabhat attended a medical camp and gave medical advice to several poor patients. This prompted the college authorities to rusticate him in August 2011 for six months as he was not a doctor, but a student.
Thereafter, during the academic year 2010-11, the medico applied for a scholarship
under the Economically Weaker Section Scheme for the academic year 2011-12, which scholarship was granted to him.
The medico got into an altercation on the campus which prompted the college to set up an inquiry committee. The Inquiry Committee concluded that he had applied for and secured the scholarship during the period that he stood rusticated. The committee had further found that Prabhat had forged the signatures, stamp and seal of the Training Officer on the EWS Scholarship and received a sum of Rs.55,000/-. Thereafter, based on the recommendations of the disciplinary committee recommended his expulsion, which was accepted by the college in August, 2012.
The medico approached the Court, primarily asserting that he was not given a due chance to present his side and that the penalty of permanent expulsion awarded to him was “unduly harsh and shockingly disproportionate”. The penalty of expulsion, virtually, erases the possibility of the Appellant reforming himself and becoming a medical doctor for all times to come, despite him being a meritorious student throughout, his appeal added.
The court after going through the entire case at the outset opined that there were “glaring infirmities” in the constitution of the disciplinary committee, and that the procedure followed by the committee prima facie indicated that Prabhat had been dealt with as if he was an Army Officer, forgetting that he forgetting that he was just 20 years old at that time. The court further noted
It has been over six years now since the Appellant was expelled. He has been languishing in the courts ever since, pleading that he be forgiven for his misconduct, and that he be given yet another chance to reform himself. In these six years, the Appellant would have matured much faster and much more due to his suffering, than even his peers. Even we have counselled him in court and he has promised to maintain honesty in his dealings.
….One should not forget that, to err is human. Adolescence and youth are those stages in any persons life, when they do make mistakes without fully appreciating what is right from wrong, and without appreciating the seriousness of the consequences which their acts, deeds and omissions may lead to. Though the Appellant may have crossed the age of majority at the relevant point of time when he indulged in unacceptable conduct, he was still very young….
….Experience of life shows that while some children mature early, others may take time. It appears to us that the Appellant – who was transplanted from a closed environment of a lower middle class family (being the son of an ex-havildar of army), into the environment of the Respondent No.1/College – wherein he interacted with children/ students and faculty coming from economically higher strata of the society, could not handle the change and made mistakes for which he has sufficiently suffered….
The court also observed that at this stage, the Appellant has admittedly completed four years out of the prescribed four and a half years of study for the award of an MBBS degree.
In view of the same, when we examine all the surrounding factors, including the Appellant’s humble background; brilliant academic career; his young age; his right to education; his right to fulfil his aspirations and reach somewhere in life; and, the fact that for the last six years he has only suffered humiliation from every quarter, we have no hesitation in holding that the penalty of permanent expulsion imposed on him was unduly harsh and shockingly disproportionate.
The court iterated that it was taking is very similar to the course of action adopted by various Courts, including this Court.
It has been consistently held that while imposing punishments on students, it must be kept in mind that they are not to be treated as criminals and the punishment imposed on them should not be such as to invoke in them any feeling of being wronged. The approach has to be to correct them, while balancing the requirement of maintaining discipline in the concerned institute. While convicts of even most heinous crimes are permitted to pursue their academic dreams, the Appellant, a young and meritorious lad coming from a rural and a very humble background, is being denied the opportunity even after he has already suffered for the last six years.
The court then modified his expulsion to rustication and directed that he be readmitted to MBBS final year semester but with the following conditions
(1) The Appellant will not be permitted to join the hostel and would only be admitted as a day scholar.
(2) While the Appellant is permitted to join the final semester and appear in the exams thereof, he will also have to once again clear all the theory examinations of the second and third phase of the MBBS course by way of supplementary/regular exams, as and when they are held.
(3) We also direct the constitution of a three-member committee, having one nominee each from Respondent No. 1/College, Respondent No. 5/University and the MCI, which committee would be free to decide any other conditions (like compulsory rural service etc.) to be imposed on the Appellant, as may be deemed appropriate in the facts of the case. Needless to say, the said conditions must necessarily be consistent with this order. We may observe, that on instruction from the Appellant, Mr. Rai has stated that the Appellant would abide by any such directions and conditions, as are considered necessary to monitor the conduct of the Appellant during the period of his study till he completes the MBBS course and even thereafter. We consider that the conduct of the Appellant may be watched by the said committee till he completes three years after obtaining the MBBS degree.
“We hope that our decision to modify the Appellant’s penalty and to give him an opportunity to complete his MBBS course, motivates him to blossom into a good and dedicated doctor. We hope that our trust in the human capacity of self-correction; of self-reform, and the human ability to rise above adversities would be reaffirmed by the Appellant.” the bench added