The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal by National Law School of India University (NLSIU) against a Karnataka High Court order which granted relief to a student who was denied promotion to his fourth year law course after he plagiarised a project (National Law School of India University v. Hruday PB).
The Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy said 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".
However, the top court observed that at times when things are pressed beyond the stage, judicial intervention becomes necessary and that is what appears to have happened in this case. But the same time, the Bench underscored that it should not be an encouragement for students to assume they can get judicial redressal after flouting regulations. "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," the Court said. While dismissing the appeal by the university, the top court stated that the law student would be now permitted to be admitted into the fifth semester if not already done.
The appeal by NLSIU challenged an order passed by a division bench of Karnatka High Court which in turn had upheld the orders passed by a single-judge of the High Court.
The single-judge had granted relief to the student, Hruday PB, who was refused admission to his fourth year BA LLB course as he had allegedly committed plagiarism in his project work. The University had awarded an 'F' grade to the student on the ground that he had plagiarized the project. The student, the son of sitting Karnataka High Court judge Justice PB Bajanthri, was awarded an “F Grade” in Child Rights Law. Further, he was not allowed to take the Special Repeat Examination of the third trimester for promotion to the fourth year. In November 2020, the single-judge had set aside orders issued by NLSIU holding that a personal hearing ought to have been given to the petitioner before any order was passed. The Supreme Court while appreciating that NLSIU was a premier institute noted that formalities were not followed by it while withholding promotion to the student.
The top court also said that while it would loathe to interfere in disciplinary matters of educational institutions but "at times when things are pressed beyond the stage, judicial intervention becomes necessary. And such intervention is required to prevent the use of arbitrary power and courts should ensure that justice is served.
"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 November 18, 2020," the top court said.