The Allahabad High Court has quashed the demotion of two professors of Lucknow’s Integral University while criticising its Vice-Chancellor for throwing the principles of natural justice to winds.
A bench of Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Justice Rang Nath Pandey quashed the June 7 orders passed by the Vice-Chancellor of the varsity by which two professors were demoted from the post of Associate Professor to the post of Junior Associate Professor.
They moved high court where their advocate Gaurav Mehrotra argued that demotion to the lower post is a major penalty in terms of Rule 70 of the Service Rules of 2016 and such major penalty could not be imposed, except by following the procedure envisaged in Rule 73 and observance of principles of natural justice and conducting an enquiry.
Mehrotra said the petitioners were professors of architectural studies and were demoted because they could not be on duty in a viva voce because of their official engagement elsewhere.
He also submitted that Service Rules 2016 are statutory in nature having been framed under provisions of the Integral University Act, 2004 and hence, they have statutory force and orders passed in violation of these Rules stand vitiated.
“...a bare perusal of the impugned orders passed by the Vice-Chancellor, reveals that there is no doubt that the principles of natural justice have been thrown to winds and the petitioners have been punished without being given any opportunity of hearing,” said the bench.
“…so far as the impugned orders are concerned…the same have been passed in utter defiance and derogation of the mandatory provisions contained in the Service Rules, 2016, which have statutory force. There is nothing on record which even remotely suggests that petitioners were ever given the opportunity of hearing before passing the impugned order reverting them to lower post,” it added.
The bench rejected as “feeble attempt” the argument of counsel for the varsity that misconduct committed by the petitioners was so gross that impugned order cannot be permitted to be interfered with by the court.
Service Rules have force of statutory rules, varsity under duty to follow the Act
The varsity’s counsel had argued that petitioners got an alternative remedy of invoking the second proviso appended to Sub-Section 3 of Section 10 of the Integral University Act and hence, the petition was not liable to be entertained.
“There is nothing on record which establishes that before passing the impugned order any sort of enquiry even for the name sake into the alleged misconduct of the petitioners was undertaken by the university authorities. The Rules of 2016 have been framed under relevant provisions of Act which, thus, are statutory in nature. Even if the Rules of 2016 are a piece of sub-ordination legislation, they will have force in equal measure for the reason that they have been framed under the sanction of the State legislature as expressed in the Integral University Act, 2016. Violation of any statutory rules, would not legitimise any action on the part of the university authorities.
“It is strange to notice the manner in which the impugned order has been passed and petitioners have been penalized without even taking recourse to the principles of natural justice. It is needless to observe that it is the well-recognized principle of law that nobody can be condemned unheard. It is a case where petitioners have been penalized even without affording any opportunity to explain their conduct which apparently forms the basis of passing of the impugned orders whereby they have been reverted to the lower post. Such an action on the part of the vice-chancellor cannot be appreciated; rather the court expresses its dismay on the manner in which the vice-chancellor has acted while passing the two impugned orders which are challenged in this writ petition," the bench said.
"Integral University has been established under the mandate of the state Legislature and it is under a legal duty to follow the provisions of the Act under which the Rules of 2016 have been framed. It appears that the Vice-Chancellor while passing the impugned orders has completely given a go by to the Rules, 2016 and he does not have any respect for the mandate of the Legislature,” it added.