Furnish inquiry report copy to M.K. Surappa and obtain his response, High Court tells T.N. Government

It says principles of natural justice must be followed

The Madras High Court on Friday directed the State government to furnish a copy of Justice P. Kalaiyarasan inquiry report, along with all enclosures, to Anna University former Vice-Chancellor M.K. Surappa within 15 days. The court also granted four weeks’ time for Mr. Surappa to submit his response to the report with the Higher Education Secretary.

Justice V. Parthiban ordered that if the government was still interested in pursuing action against Mr. Surappa, despite him having demitted office on completion of his three-year tenure on April 12 last year, it must forward its advice to the Governor, in his capacity as the Chancellor of the university, along with the inquiry report only after obtaining the former V-C’s response.

The orders were passed while disposing of a writ petition filed by Mr. Surappa against the institution of the inquiry. The judge pointed out that the petitioner was appointed as vice-chancellor in April 2018 due. According to the litigant, he had impeccable academic and administrative credentials and that being a stickler, he ensured strict administration, causing disgruntlement amongst some staff.

A person named A. Suresh from Tiruchi sent a complaint to the Chief Minister’s Special Cell on February 21, 2020 accusing Mr. Surappa of being involved in corruption to the tune of ₹200 crore by taking bribe for the appointment of temporary teaching fellows in constituent colleges. Similarly, complaints were received from many others too, alleging various irregularities and malpractices.

Therefore, the government, on November 11, 2020, appointed Justice P. Kalaiyarasan, a retired judge of Madras High Court, to inquire into the allegations since the Anna University Act of 1978 provides for ordering such an inquiry. The Inquiry report was submitted to the government only on June 28, 2021 though Mr. Surappa demitted office much earlier, even as the present writ petition was pending adjudication.

Since the present government appeared to be in no mood to drop the proceedings, the petitioner’s counsel N. Vijayraghavan filed a memo seeking a copy of the inquiry report before it could be forwarded by the State government to the Governor with its recommendations. The government refused to furnish the copy on the ground that the rules do not permit such a course and that it would set a bad precedent.

Expressing surprise over the government’s stand, Justice Parthiban said the principles of natural justice require that a copy of the inquiry report be furnished to the person against whom the inquiry had been initiated before being forwarded to the disciplinary authority, in this case the Governor, for appropriate action. He held that Mr. Surappa was entitled to a copy of the report along with all annexures.

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