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Bimal Patel has turned GNLU Gandhingar into a ‘human-rights-violating oligarchy’, agrees HC, overturning ‘malafide, unreasonable, illegal’ frisking decision

GNLU has become 'epitome of injustice', says high court in damning verdict
GNLU has become 'epitome of injustice', says high court in damning verdict

A GNLU Gandhinagar student has won against the university administration in the Gujarat high court over what Justice ZK Saiyed termed its “wholly baseless, arbitrary, malafide, unreasonable, illegal” decision to physically frisk and persecute a student after an exam, after wrongly suspecting the student was “hiding something”, and then cancelling that student’s exam result.

The high court noted in its judgment, which was first reported by Bar & Bench, that Bimal Patel and several other staff members had made GNLU:

into an oligarchy where all decisions are taken, reviewed and implemented by a select few, and students are casually denied basic human rights and natural justice

GNLU has history

This is not GNLU’s first run-in with autocracy: in 2013 Legally India reported that a GNLU student had filed an FIR against Patel alleging caste discrimination for frisking and fining a student for carrying a cigarette packet on campus.

GNLU has also been the only established national law school to distort and hide its placement statistics, was widely panned for ‘fleecing’ Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) aspirants with a non-refundable Rs 10,000 administration charge when it was in charge of “shoddily” organising the CLAT in 2014, having made a mess of the results and answer keys.

Patel’s also saw controversy after apparently trying to bury a critical review report of the college by a committee headed by NLSIU Bangalore founder NR Madhava Menon, claiming that a third member had not produced his findings yet.

When those findings were eventually produced, Patel called a press conference and claimed they were all positive, and his term was renewed, though he did not publish a full version of those findings.

We have reached out to Bimal Patel for comment.

The facts: Student suspected of cheating, to be frisked

On 2 November 2015, five minutes before completion of an exam, faculty member and invigilator Richa Sharma “suddenly bolted from across the examination hall and snatched the answer sheet of the petitioner”, third-year student Jaymin Rajendra Brahmbatt, alleging that he was “hiding something”, according to the high court’s account of the allegation.

Brahmbatt objected being frisked by a member of the opposite gender, and nominated a male faculty member to frisk him instead to prove his innocence.

Instead, he was marched to the director Bimal Patel’s office, and his mobile phone (along with its unlocking code) were deposited with Patel.

Exam committee bars him from having lawyer present

On 7 November, he was told to appear before the exam inquiry committee at 2:30pm, of which Brahmbatt recounted that the invigilator Sharma appeared alone before the exam committee before Brahmbatt did, talking to the committee at length.

When Brahmbatt finally entered, 45 minutes after the appointed time, he was told that his advocate Gursharan H Virk was not allowed to accompany him, with the committee giving the reason: “the Director has constituted this committee and you better go to the Director and procure written permission from him if you wish to remain present during the proceedings…”.

They also refused the advocate’s request that a copy of the report of the committee be provided to him before his client would sign it.

If Brahmbatt did not cooperate, they would pass a finding ex parte, the committee threatened.

Exam committee goes on fishing expedition through his phone…

The exam committee then asked him again for the passcode to his phone, and began looking through his personal pictures, and then arranged to have all of his phone content copied to a computer. Brahmbatt did not object though questioned the legality of such a move.

They examined all his private photos on a computer monitor, and eventually found the picture that Sharma had claimed was a “photograph of certain notes of ‘Interpretation of Statutes”.

… but find nothing

However, according to Brahmbatt’s email to the administration, Sharma then “realized that the said photograph had nothing to do with the impugned issue, [and] she disappointedly returned to her normal self”, and were able to find no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever.

Yet student’s exam results are cancelled

On 3 December, following his complaint, the exam he sat was cancelled for Brahmbatt.

But student takes them to the high court

He then appealed to the Gujarat high court against GNLU, its director Bimal Patel, the exam committee, invigilating faculty Sharma and another faculty member, to order GNLU to declare his results for the exam he took.

And wins a thumping victory

High court Justice ZK Saiyed whole-heartedly agreed in his judgment yesterday, slamming GNLU Gandhinagar unequivocally, ordering GNLU to evaluate and publish his cancelled exam results, while also making some very sharp comments (emphasis added below):

27. It is true that this Court would generally not interfere in academic matters of universities, unless, of course, exceptional circumstances persuaded the conscience of this Court to undo grave and irreparable injustice. Even in such matters, this Court would be slow in undoing a university’s decision unless, as is the fact in the present case, the decision of the university is wholly baseless, arbitrary, malafide, unreasonable, illegal and in stark contradiction to the principles of natural justice.

The facts of the present case coupled with the law laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court as also this Court, has constrained this Court to interfere in the present matter.

All universities are cradles of the nation’s future. They are, therefore, required to conduct all acts in a highly bona fide and exemplary manner. This responsibility increases exponentially when the university is a premier National Law School imparting legal education to the nation’s future lawyers. How is a student of law expected to be a patron of justice when his university is the epitome of injustice?

28. On consideration of arguments made by both the learned counsels for the parties and perusal of the reply filed by the Respondents and judgments cited by learned counsel for the Petitioner, for above reasons it appears that for reasons not evident on record, the Respondent Nos. 2 to 6 bypassed the Rules and the Respondent No. 2 decided to supplant himself for the authority of the Executive Council.

Therefore, it appears that the apprehension of the Petitioner that the private Respondents have made the Respondent No. 1 University into an oligarchy where all decisions are taken, reviewed and implemented by a select few, and students are casually denied basic human rights and natural justice.

29.The key question involved in the present petition, as per the perusal of the matter and in view of the observations made by the Hon’ble Apex Court, and facts involved in the present case as evident from the contentions of the e-mail of the Petitioner and the conduct of the respondents, I have found that, the impugned order dated 03.12.2015 which is against the principles of natural justice and prima facie it can be considered that decision of the Respondents is mala fide.

Hence said order dated 03.012.2015 is required to be quashed and set aside and the present writ petition is also required to be allowed in totality. Hence, petition is allowed and the Respondent No. 1 University is directed to expeditiously evaluate and declare the result of the Petitioner for the examination of “Quantitative Techniques” that was taken by the Petitioner on 02.11.2015, but no later than 2 week from the date of the receipt of the present order.

The judgment is worth reading in full below.

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Guj HC smackdown of GNLU administration

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