Love Affair on a college campus is legitimate and not an act of indiscipline

By Hemant Batra | Policy & Business Lawyer | Kaden Boriss | Goeman Bind HTO

In a recent judgment, the Kerala High Court (the highest court of one of the southern provinces in India) endorsed that practice and progression of a love affair and eventual elopement between two students of an educational institution is a matter of privacy not amounting to indiscipline in any manner.
The judgment was passed in a case titled Malavika Babu and Another Versus Vice-Chancellor (In Charge), University Of Kerala and Others. The said High Court commenced its verdict by observing that “Love is blind and an innate humane instinct. It is all about individuals and their freedom.”

The petition was filed jointly by the aggrieved boy and girl against their educational institution for not permitting them to continue with their degree course. The brief facts being that the girl student had joined BBA course in the concerned college where she fell in love with the senior boy student of the same course. Their affair was objected to by the college authorities. They both eloped and then got married in a court. Thus becoming husband and wife.

The college authorities decided to expel both of them on the grounds of gross indiscipline. They were denied to continue with their academic courses and programs. The sole question which came for consideration before the said High Court was “whether the College is justified in finding a love affair that resulted in marriage as a misconduct, breaching discipline of the institution.”

The said High Court proceeded to examine the above question on a premise though that it was not for the court to decide as to what amounted to academic discipline and indiscipline, but it was open for the court to consider whether the action pursued a legitimate aim? Each authority conferred with power has an obligation to exercise such power to meet the legitimate objective for which such power is vested.

The said High Court observed that “A measure must be necessary to achieve the aims. It cannot be used as a weapon to impose personal moral values of persons managing the affairs of the College upon their students. What defines anomie for some, may be illogical for others. The right of management to administer an educational institution would also include the power to impose discipline among the pupil to secure the objective standards of education. But, that does not mean that the authority can assume the role to impose moral paternalism upon students notwithstanding their disagreement to such values of the authority. The campus of the educational institution must be a place of neutral value leaving moral choice left to the discretion of students to uphold freedom of latter and to overcome personal biases. The love affair and eloping termed as immoral amounting to a breach of discipline was based on the moral values of the persons in the management. It is a sin for some and not a sin for others. In law, it is the choice of freedom which is the essence of liberty.”

The said High Court went on further to emphasize that the though Court was not there to sanction any moral choices of college authorities or students but to identify and acknowledge the freedom to have a choice. Basically what concerned the said High Court was whether the action had any correlation with the object for which such authority was conferred. The judgment of the Kerala High Court leaned on a principle settled by the Indian Supreme Court to the effect that the right to privacy was a fundamental constituent of human dignity which encompassed the power to make a crucial choice which would eventually affect their course of life. The said High Court observed that “One to have an affair or not to have an affair with another is a personal choice, and such choice is fundamental to the liberty guaranteed under the Constitution. Choosing a life partner or choosing a way of life is the discretion based on individual autonomy. Except with legislative essentials (legal paternalism), no regulation can be made to regulate the behavior of men on moral values.

It was finally held that the college authorities were unable to place on record as to “how and what manner love affair and eloping have impacted the academic discipline………….. It is apparent that personal moral values of the College authorities in the garb of academic discipline had been attempted to be imposed on the petitioners forgetting the fact that such values would invade personal autonomy of such students. The course of personal life and choice of partners are left to the individual autonomy that is the essence of the right to privacy.”

Accordingly, the Kerala High Court directed the respondent(s) to readmit the petitioner(s) thereby permitting the continuation of the course.