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Moot Court Competition - MOOT PROPOSITION

By AB Tutorials
24 Apr, 2023
Moot Court Competition - MOOT PROPOSITION
1. The Republic of Alexia (“Alexia”) is a Parliamentary Democracy and has a quasi-federal structure of power-sharing with its thirty-five constituent States. The Constitution and laws of Alexia are pari materia with the Constitution and laws of the Republic of India.

2. National Law Schools (“NLS”) were established in different States by their respective State Legislatures, and to declare these National Law Schools to be Law schools of National Importance and to consolidate the state laws providing for establishment of these National Law Schools, the Central Government passed the National Law School of Alexia, Act of 2017. One of such NLS was the Jonas Legal Studies Academy (“JLSA”) in the State of Jonas. Soon, the NLSs became popular for their five-year integrated B.A. L.L.B. (Hons.) program.

3. Pursuant to the National Law School of Alexia Act of 2017, Governor of a State was made the ex-officio Chancellor of the respective NLS in their State. Accordingly, the Governor of Jonas, Ms. Maria Alfred, took charge as the Chancellor of JLSA. The Act, made the Governors responsible for, inter alia, discipline in such Universities.

4. The National Law School of Alexia Act of 2017 also provided for the Power and Duties of the Chancellor, which are as follows:

(A) The Chancellor, at any time, may issue directions to the Vice-Chancellor to convene the meeting of any authority of the university for specific purposes, whenever necessary, and the Vice-Chancellor shall submit the minutes of such meeting to the Chancellor for his perusal.

(B) The Chancellor, may call for a report or an explanation or such information and record relating to such matter or any matter or affairs of the university, and after considering such report or explanation, or information or record, issue such directions there- upon as may be deemed fit in the interest of the university or student or larger interest of the public, and his directions shallbe final and shall be complied with by the university forthwith. 

(C) The Chancellor shall exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as may be conferred upon or vested in him by or under this Act.

5. On June 30, 2018, a group of three friends from the third-year batch studying in JLSA - Ms. Sakshi Jha, Mr. Marco Thomas, and Mr. Vishwanath Paragon, returned to campus late evening in an intoxicated state. They entered the campus way beyond the curfew time, and further entered the University’s Library where they created a ruckus and caused nuisance to the students studying there. They also had an altercation with the Librarian Mr. I.T. Kariyappa. Moreover, when they were confronted by the Chief Warden Ms. Daisy Hailey on their way out of the Library, they made impertinent jokes upon her, and ran away.

6. The Vice-Chancellor of the University, incensed at such behavior, prepared a report and submitted the same to Ms. Maria Alferd on August 2, 2018. Ms. Maria Alferd, who had a reputation of being a strict disciplinarian, constituted a ‘Committee on Discipline’ (“CoD”) under the ‘Hostel and Campus Welfare Rules, 1999’ of JLSA with immediate effect, to investigate into the matter and recommend penalties to her. She appointed Mr. R.K Wadhwa (the Proctor of JLSA), Ms. Daisy Hailey (the Chief Warden of JLSA), and Mr. I.T. Kariyappa (the Librarian of JLSA), as members of the CoD. Ms. Maria Alferd announced the constitution of the Committee through an Order dated August 3, 2018 that was affixed to all major notice boards inside the JLSA campus.

Proceedings Before the ‘Committee on Discipline’

7. Upon being made aware of the composition of CoD, Ms.Sakshi Jha, Mr. Marco Thomas, and Mr. Vishwanath Paragon (the “Petitioners”) expressed grave doubts upon the impartiality of Mr.R.K Wadhwa (owing to their protests against his arbitrary actions in the past) through individual Facebook posts, all made on August 4, 2018, which were widely read and shared by the JLSA student community, and soon their reservations became breakfast table gossip in the JLSA Mess. As a consequence, Mr. R.K Wadhwa recused from the proceedings of the CoD.

8. The recusal order dated August 5, 2018 is reproduced below:
“In view of the Facebook posts by Ms. Sakshi Jha, Mr. Marco Thomas, and Mr.Vishwanath Paragon, I hereby recuse myself from all the cases pertaining to them so that they not only get justice but they also perceive that the Committee has been fair beyond any shred of doubt. This step is also required to uphold the student community’s perception of impartiality and objectivity of the Committee.” 

9. The CoD held its first meeting on August 6, 2018 wherein it intimated the Petitioners about the accusations against them. The Petitioners raised a preliminary objection to the continuance of proceedings, claiming that there should be student representation on the CoD. They also expressed their apprehension that the proceedings would be nothing but a ‘witch- hunt’ because both Ms.Daisy Hailey and Mr. I.T. Kariyappa were made members in it. The CoD considered such objections, however, vide its Order dated August 7, 2018 it rejected the Petitioner’s preliminary objections against the continuance of the proceedings. The last paragraph of such Order read as follows:
“The Committee would intimate the next date of hearing to all concerned parties to the proceedings in due course.” 

10. On August 10, 2018 and August 16, 2018, through notices affixed on all notice boards in the JLSA, the CoD had asked the Petitioners to furnish a detailed written reply along with written witness-statements in their support, if any. While the notice dated August 10, 2018 went unanswered, the Petitioners responded to the second notice dated August 16, 2018 by informing the CoD that they had filed a Writ Petition before the High Court of Judicature at Jonas under Article 226 of the Constitution of Alexia, seeking a stay on the proceedings before the CoD, in which they had impugned the CoD’s Order dated August 7, 2018, which recorded its finding on the Petitioner’s preliminary objections. The Petitioners’ communication to the CoD, mainly contained two points:
  1. 1. Since the petition before the High Court deals with the issue of maintainability of proceedings before the CoD, the CoD should not proceed till the High Court has pronounced upon the preliminary objections; and
  2. 2. Since Mr.R.K Wadhwa had recused from the CoD, the proceedings should not take place before just two CoD members, and that the name of the third member on the panel replacing Mr.R.K Wadhwa should be announced before commencing the proceedings.

11. Thereafter, no date of hearing was fixed by the CoD before its opinion on merits which was published on September 2, 2018, which recorded a finding of guilt against the Petitioners and recommended suspension for one academic year and prohibition from residing in the hostels for two months. The opinion was communicated to Ms. Maria Alferd on the same day.

12. When the opinion on merits was published, the Petitioners noted that it had been signed by Ms.Daisy Hailey, Mr. I.T. Kariyappa, and Mr.R.K Wadhwa. It stated, inter alia, that Mr. R.K Wadhwa, who had earlier recused from the CoD, had rejoined the proceedings upon persuasion from Ms. Alferd’s office, and hence full quorum was complete. None of the intervening communications dated August 10 and 16, 2018, whereby the CoD had sought written arguments and witness-statements from the Petitioners, made any reference to Mr. R.K Wadhwa having rejoined the proceedings. 

Actions Taken by Ms. Maria Alferd
13. Ms. Maria Alferd, was fully satisfied with the alacrity and tenaciousness which the CoD displayed in the conduct of the proceedings. However, she felt that the penalties recommended were not harsh enough in comparison to the acts of indiscipline committed by the Petitioner.

14. She, as a consequence, modified the penalty to suspension for one academic year and prohibition from residing in the hostels for one semester, and published such order on September 5, 2018. She notified the final penalties through notices affixed on all notice boards in the JLSA campus.

Issues / Arguments before the High Court of Jonas
15. The Petitioner apprised the High Court of the above developments on the next date of hearing and amended their petition by adding new prayers pertaining to quashing of the Governor’s Order dated September 5, 2018. They also assailed the proceedings before the CoD as a complete sham with absolute disregard to the principles of natural justice. The Petitioners also claimed that the proceedings before the CoD were quasi-judicial in nature and hence it was obligated to grant personal / oral hearings to the Petitioners before arriving at any decision, and that written communication could not constitute a ‘hearing’ in these circumstances. Additionally, it was claimed that not being informed of Mr. R.K Wadhwa rejoining the CoD severely hampered the Petitioners’ ability to respond to the CoD.

16. The Governor of the State of Jonas, and Chancellor, JLSA, Ms. Maria Alferd (Respondent No. 1), argued that anything which she does in her capacity as the Chancellor of JLSA is a matter of her discretion under Alexia’s Constitution, and not subject to judicial review vide Article 163 of the Constitution. Further, the CoD (represented by the Registrar, JLSA, as Respondent No. 2) strongly denied that there had been any violation of the principles of natural justice since on more than one occasion they sought written statements from the Petitioners who had willfully stayed away from the proceedings, and are now trying to take advantage of their own callous attitude. It contended that it was not obligated to grant a personal / oral hearing to the Petitioners,and that inviting written arguments and making written communications would suffice as a ‘hearing’ for the purposes of the proceedings, which are not quasi-judicial in nature, but merely inquisitorial.

17. After hearing both the Petitioners and the Respondents, The Court framed the following broad issues for arguments:
  1. (i) Are the actions of Respondent No. 1 in the present context subject to judicial review before this Court?
  2. (ii) Was there a violation of principles of natural justice in the conduct of the proceedings by Respondent No. 2, as a consequence of which the Petitioners were denied a fair hearing, vitiating the proceedings?
1) Below is the extract of Article 163 of the Constitution of Alexia:
“Article 163. Council of Ministers to aid and advise the Governor. – (1) There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, except in so far as he is by or under this Constitution required to exercise his functions or any of them in his discretion.

(2) If any question arises whether any matter is or is not a matter as respects which the Governor is by or under this Constitution required to act in his discretion, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in his discretion.

(3) The question whether any, and if so what, advise was tendered by Ministers to the Governor shall not be inquired into in any court.”

2) The Hostel and Campus Welfare Rules, 1999 of the JLSA, govern the conduct of disciplinary proceedings by committees such as the CoD. Some of its provisions have been produced below:
“5. Powers of a Committee on Discipline
Where in connection with tendering any opinion to the Chancellor, the Committee considers it necessary or proper to make an enquiry and the Committee is satisfied that on the basis of the affidavits filed and the documents produced in such inquiry by the parties concerned of their own accord, it cannot come to a decisive opinion on the matter which is being inquired into, the Committee shall have, for the purposes of such inquiry, the powers of a civil court, while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) in respect of:
(i) summoning and enforcing attendance of any person and examining them on oath
(ii) requiring the discovery and production of any document or other material object producible as evidence, etc.

5B. Procedure to be followed by Committees on Discipline.

The Committee on Discipline shall have the power to regulate its own procedure (including the fixing of places and times of its sittings and deciding whether to sit in public or in private).”
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