Deemed universities are amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the High Courts under Article 226

Supreme Court: Upholding the decision of division bench of the Madras High Court in regard to the amenability of deemed universities to the writ jurisdiction of the High Courts, the Division Bench of J. Chelameswar  and Abhay Manohar Sapre, JJ., held that deemed universities are amenable to the writ jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution thereby upholding the maintainability of the appeal and directed the Madras High Court to decide the appeal expeditiously on merit and in accordance with the law.

The appeal was against the judgement and order passed by the Madras High Court for non-maintainability of writ petition on the grounds that deemed university is neither a state nor an authority within the meaning of Article 12 of the constitution of India and hence is not subjected to writ jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226. The Court appointed noted counsel Harish Salve as the Amicus Curiae to assist the Court on the legal point involved in the present appeal According to the Amicus Curiae, any authority can be subjected to the rigor of Article 226 once it is proved that the function carried out by it falls under the domain of ‘public function’. Referring to various landmark decision on the point, Harish Salve stated that the question that whether “imparting education to students at large” is a ‘public function’ or not is no more in dispute. However Sanjay R. Hedge appearing for the respondent contended that in the event that the respondent is declared to be amenable under the writ jurisdiction of Article 226, a flurry of writ petitions shall unleash upon the Court further over burdening it.

The Court on perusing the contentions and important decisions on the point observed that since the respondent is engaged in imparting education in higher studies to students at large it is discharging “public function” by way of imparting education. Being a “Deemed University” as notified by the Central Governement, all the provisions of the UGC Act are applicable to respondent, which inter alia provides for effective discharge of the public function – namely education for the benefit of public. Once the respondent has been declared as “Deemed University” whose functions and activities are governed by the UGC Act, then it is an “authority” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution; then as a necessary consequence, it becomes amenable to writ jurisdiction of High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. [Janet Jeyapaul v. SRM University, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 1321, decided on 15-12-2015]

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