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Civil Law provides for remedies for alleged arbitrary termination, writ petitions are not maintainable against private universities: Gujarat High Court

The Gujarat High Court on 5th August 2022 refused to intervene in a writ petition filed by an Assistant Professor against Sabarmati University, a private university, seeking reinstatement with full back wages and benefits., through the single bench of Justice Bhargav D. Karia in the case of Shambhavi Kumari vs Sabarmati University & 3 other (s) (Special Civil Application No. 17863 of 2013).

 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

According to the facts of the present case, on 06.09.2011, the petitioner began working for respondent No.2 University as an Assistant Professor in the salary bracket of Rs. 15,000-39,100 with grade pay of Rs. 6,000/-. The petitioner was first put on probation for one year, and upon the conclusion of the probation period, the petitioner was confirmed in service as an Assistant Professor w.e.f. 01.09.2012. The petitioner’s basic salary was increased to Rs. 16,250/- p.m., with a 6,000/- p.m. grade pay.

The Petitioner in this case was purportedly given a three-month notice starting in August 2013, for no apparent cause. As a result, the Petitioner had already filed an application with the Gujarat Affiliated Colleges Service Tribunal and then withdrew his application to file the writ with the High Court. The Respondents argued that the petition could not be maintained because the University was a private institution and did not fall within the definition of “State” under Art 12. Furthermore, the Petitioner’s employment conditions would not qualify her services as a “public function or duty.”

The Petitioner, on the other hand, argued that the University was founded under the Gujarat Private Universities Act of 2009. Furthermore, universities were established to deliver high-quality, industry-relevant higher education and related services, thus it could not be stated that they were not doing public service. As stated in Sections 31-35 of Chapter VI of the Act, the State Government has direct and extensive supervision over its functioning. The Supreme Court in Janet Jeyapaul vs. SRM University and ors. [AIR 2016 SC 73] decided that the writ petition was maintainable against the deemed university whose functions were governed by the UGC Act, 1956.

JUDGEMENT:

Taking into consideration the facts and arguments made, the single bench further paid reliance on the case of  Mukesh Bhavarlal Bhandari and ors vs. Dr Nagesh Bhandari and ors [Special Civil Application No. 4238 of 2020], wherein the Coordinate Bench of the High Court in similar circumstances had reiterated that just because the activity of a particular research institute ensures to the benefit of the Indian public, it cannot be a guiding factor to determine the character of the Institute and bring the same within the ambit of “public function or public duty”.

The bench also rejected the reference to Janet Jeyapaul’s case, since the termination of the Petitioner had to be considered in the context of a private contract.

Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NIDHI KUMAR

 

 

Read the full judgement.

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