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A Writ Petition Would Be Maintainable Against A Private Educational Institution: In Gauhati High Court

Since private educational institutions perform public functions and are subject to state education rules, a Writ Petition can be filed against them. Many other High Courts have declared Article 226 of the Indian Constitution grants writ jurisdiction to a private unaided educational institution. The High Court Of Gauhati has upheld this through the Learned Single Bench MR. JUSTICE MICHAEL ZOTHANKHUMA in the case of MUKTI NATH GOGOI V. THE STATE OF ASSAM AND 8 ORS (WP(C)/5671/2018).

In summary, the petitioners claim that they were appointed as Assistant Professors in “the Institute” via appointment letters dated August 31, 2012. The following is the term and condition no.9 of the petitioners’ employment as Assistant Professors, as stated in the appointment letters dated 31.08.2012 issued by respondent no.4 states – “9. The service may be terminated by giving one month’s notice without assigning any reason thereof.” The petitioners’ Counsel claims that the petitioner was not given one month’s notice before respondent No. 4 terminated employment. Paying one month’s salary is not the same as giving one month’s notice, as it is not contemplated in Clause 9 of the appointment letter dated 31.08.2012.

On the other hand, Mr. I.H. Saikia, the learned Counsel for the writ petitioners, contends that the current writ petitions are maintainable and that respondent No. 6 fulfills a public purpose by delivering management and engineering courses to class 12 pass students. As a result, he contends that the challenge to the petitioners’ removal by using writ petitions, which are faculty members of the respondent No. 6 school, is maintainable. In support of his arguments, relying on Case laws such as Ramesh Malwari V. State of Punjab &Ors., 2012 AIOL 622 and in the case of Janet Jeyapaul V. SRM University, reported in (2015) 13 Scale 622 and Binny Ltd V. V. Sadasivans, reported in (2005) 6 SCC 657.

The Counsel for respondent Nos. 3–7, on the other hand, contends that payment of one month’s salary equates to an amount of one month’s notice before termination of the petitioner’s service, under Clause 9 of the appointment letter dated 31.08.2012 and Rule 9(a) of the Girijananda Chowdhury Institute of Management & Technology, Guwahati Service& Conduct Rules, 2014.

Mr. S. Bhuyan, learned Counsel for the respondent Nos. 1 & 2, contends that because Respondent no. 6 is a private unaided institution with no government involvement in its operations (administrative control), a writ suit against the respondent Nos. 3 and 6 are not appropriate. As a result, he contends that the writ petitions should be rejected.

After reviewing different Apex Court decisions, the Full Bench concluded that High Courts could issue writs to enforce fundamental and legal rights under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. Article 226’s usage of “any person or authority” is not limited to statutory authorities and state instrumentalities. It was also decided that if a private body is performing a public role and a right is denied in connection with a shared responsibility placed on such an entity, the remedy can be used. Even a wholly private entity, with no control over its internal affairs over which the State has no authority, would be subject to Article 226 of the Constitution’s jurisdiction if it performed public tasks.

The Full Bench held that before provincialisation, the venture Educational Institutions were strictly private, and a writ application qua the State could be sustained if the venture Organization was aggrieved by any action or inaction of the State, such as the Institution being left out of the provincialisation without any proper justification. Regarding aventure Institution’s internal operations, the court ruled that a writ petition against the Institution might not be viable. However, if there was a seniority disagreement between two competing claimants that affected their claim for provincialization, a writ petition against the Institution might be filed.

The Learned Judge relied on the reading of the Full Bench’s decision in the Abdul GofurMondal case, as well as the Government of Assam’s subsequent notifications dated 03.12.2015 and 02.06.2016, reveals that, insofar as the matter concerns the internal affairs of an unaided private educational institution, a writ petition would not be maintainable against the unaided private Institution, as the petitioners have an alternative remedy. Since respondent no. 4, the Girijananda Choudhury Institute of Management & Technology, is an unaided Non-Governmental Educational Institution managed by respondent no. 3, Educational Tribunals may hear the petitioners’ grievances over the termination of their services. As a result, the petitioners can approach the proper forum as specified above.

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Reviewed by Rangasree.

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