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The Validity Of Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act, 2020 Upholded: Odisha High Court

In the case of Kunja Bihari Panda & Ors. v. State of Odisha & Ors., While upholding the constitutional validity of the Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act, 2020 (“the OUA Act”), the Orissa High Court held that subordinate legislation under Entry 66 List I will have to give way to the plenary jurisdiction of the State Government under List III Entry 25 of the seventh schedule in the absence of legislation by the central government under Entry 25 List III. A group of writ petitions that questioned the legality of the OUA Act, 2020 on a number of grounds were being heard by a division bench that included Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice A.K. Mohapatra. The Odisha Universities Act, 1989 was revised in a number of ways by the Amendment Act.

Brief Facts Of The Case: On behalf of the Petitioners, it was argued that the OUA Act is not only arbitrary and mindless, but also breaches Article 254(1) of the Indian Constitution and the University Grants Commission’s regulations. It was argued that the Amendment cannot be invalidated because it conflicts with a piece of central law, particularly when there is no central statute under Entry 25 List III.

Judgement: The Court cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Jagdish Prasad Sharma v. State of Bihar, which held that under Entry 25 of List III, the State is permitted to enact its own laws regarding the employment conditions of teachers and other staff members of universities and colleges located within the State, and that these laws will take effect unless they are in conflict with any central legislation. The Court ruled that the Petitioners’ concern that the Odisha Public Service Commission (“OPSC”) may not be successful in its role of recruiting teachers could not be recognised and acted upon since it was not supported by any actual empirical facts.

In rejecting the petition, it was decided that the OUA Act’s legitimacy could not be questioned by just renouncing the term “manifest arbitrariness,” since doing so would not meet the high standard required by the term. The ‘manifest arbitrariness’ of the contested provisions of the OUA Act must be ‘demonstrable,’ but the petitioners were unable to convince the court of this. In order to repeat the threshold established in that case, the Court lastly cited Modern Dental College and Research Centre v. State of M.P.. It said that the impugned changes/provisions should have a “heavy and devastating effect” to be invalidated. The aforementioned criteria, however, is not satisfied in this instance.

 

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY PRAKIRTI JENA

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