Power To Decide Applications For School Upgradation Is A “Public Power” Vested With State For Effectuating A Public Purpose: Karnataka High Court

According to the Karnataka High Court, applications filed with authorities seeking approval for school upgrades should be decided in a timely manner because the applications are filed for a specific academic year, and if the decision-making authorities take too long to decide on the applications, the academic year will have passed, rendering the applications irrelevant or infructuous. 

“The power vested with the respondents (authorities) to assess and dispose of an application for upgradation of the school is paired with a responsibility,” said a single judge bench of Honourable Justice P. Krishna Bhat in the case of We Care Charitable Trust vs State of Karnataka (Writ Petition No. 1682 of 2022).  The respondents should fulfil this obligation in a transparent and reasonable manner. Transparency is achieved by providing reasons for the respondents’ final decision. Respondents ensure reasonableness by allowing applicants to correct any faults discovered during the Institution’s inspection in accordance with the Rules.” 

The court further stated, “Assigning reasons for denial of permission would assist the petitioner (schools) in correcting the shortcomings so that they may submit a new application in a timely manner and be successful the next time. Even if they are not vested with public powers, public authorities are obliged to exercise such powers in a fair manner, which includes making decisions in a reasonable amount of time and providing sufficient justifications for their choices.” 

The facts of the case are that We Care Charitable Trust filed a petition challenging an order seeking to quash two decisions issued in the years 2019 and 2021 that denied the trust permission to improve its existing school by starting programmes for 9th and 10th grades. 

“A large number of litigations are appearing before this Court alleging failure on the part of respondents to evaluate the petitions seeking sanction for school upgradation, advancing two contentions, Specifically, such applications are not dealt with in a timely manner, and they are dealt with without providing adequate and understandable reasons.” the bench wrote. 

It further stated, “Institutions that desire to upgrade their schools submit the relevant applications to the responders and pay the required price. The respondents have the power to make decisions on such applications. Such authority is vested in the respondents for the purpose of carrying out a public aim.” 

The bench said, “Referring to Article 21A of the Indian Constitution—Right to Education,” “It is a fundamental right of every child born in this country to receive free and compulsory education until the age of fourteen, and thus the State, through the respondents, is obligated to ensure the establishment of a large number of schools to provide universal education to children up to the age of fourteen. The Constitution imposes a public duty on the state and its subordinate officials.” 

It stated, “Due to a shortage of finances, the government is unable to open sufficient numbers of schools to ensure universal primary and secondary education. As a result, private players must be allowed to open schools in order to serve a wide number of students across the state.” 

It stated, “Following the submission of the application by the managements, the respondents must conduct an inspection in accordance with the Rules and provide the managements with an opportunity to correct any defects discovered during the inspection, after which the application should be finalised. Respondents must operate in a reasonable, just, and fair manner throughout the application consideration process.” 

During the hearing, Advocate M.P.Srikanth informed the court that the petitioner had already filed a new application with the respondents seeking permission to upgrade the school by starting classes for 9th and 10th grade for the academic year 2022-2023, and that the court may issue appropriate direction to consider the application and dispose of it within a reasonable time. 

The learned Additional Government Advocate has no objections, and argues that if the petitioner has submitted an application, the respondents are obligated to analyse it in accordance with the law and issue appropriate orders. 

“The respondents shall evaluate and dispose of the petitioner’s application for upgradation of the school by initiating lessons for Standards 9th and 10th for the academic year 2022-2023 within a total period of six weeks from today,” it continued. 

Furthermore, during its inspection visit, the Three Member Committee shall notify the petitioner in writing of any faults discovered during the inspection. 

The respondents shall advise the petitioner in writing of any flaws in the institution for the purpose of upgradation while examining the case of the petitioner for school upgradation on the basis of the report of the Three Members Committee or on their own notice. The petitioner may be given a week to provide an explanation for the application. 

Furthermore, respondents must make a judgement on the petitioner’s application for school upgradation for the academic year 2022-2023 within two weeks of receiving such explanation from the petitioner and transmit that decision to the petitioner immediately. The responders must explain reasons for their decision to grant or deny permission for the school to be upgraded. 

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