“To Err Is Human”: Delhi HC Comes To The Rescue Of Medical Student Expelled For Forging Scholarship Documents [Read Judgment]

“To Err Is Human”: Delhi HC Comes To The Rescue Of Medical Student Expelled For Forging Scholarship Documents [Read Judgment]

The Delhi High Court on Monday reiterated the importance of maintaining discipline in colleges without treating students like criminals while coming to the rescue of a medical student who had been expelled 6 years back for forging certain documents.

The Bench comprising Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli observed, “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.”

The Bench further reiterated the stand taken by several courts that punishments should focus on correcting students, asserting, “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.”

The Court was hearing an Appeal filed by one Mr. Prabhat Kumar Singh, challenging an order passed by a Single Judge who had upheld his expulsion.

Prabhat, who is the son of an Ex. Havaldar of the Indian Army, had joined the MBBS course at the Army College of Medical Science. 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.

Thereafter, Prabhat received a scholarship under the Economically Weaker Section Scheme for the academic year, 2011-12. However, an inquiry committee later found 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. It had therefore recommended his expulsion, which was accepted by the college in August, 2012.

Prabhat had now approached the Court, primarily asserting that the penalty of permanent expulsion awarded to him was “unduly harsh and shockingly disproportionate”. 

At the outset, while the Court noted that Prabhat had given up his challenge on merits, it 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 was just 20 years old at that time.

The Court then gave considerable importance to the fact that Prabhat comes from a rural background, and blamed the incident of him forging the documents on his “intelligence -bereft of wisdom” employed by him to address his needs. It further noted that in the six years since he was expelled, Prabhat had matured and that he now promised to “maintain honesty in his dealings”. 

The Court then agreed with the submission that the penalty imposed on him was “unduly harsh and shockingly disproportionate”, taking into consideration various factors, observing, “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.”

It, therefore, reduced the penalty to the period already undergone by him, allowing him to attend college, but with certain restrictions. Ending with a word of hope for his future, the Court observed, “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.”

Read the Judgment Here