Rajasthan High Court: A Division Bench of P.K. Lohra and Arun Bhansali, JJ. struck down the impugned University Service Regulations, 2001 by declaring them ultra vires.

The petitioners were initially appointed to their respective posts at NLU Jodhpur on a contractual basis. The petition was filed to categorize the impugned decision to discontinue B.SC. LL.B (Hons.) as arbitrary, unreasonable and discretionary. The petitioners also challenged the validity of the impugned University Service Regulations, 2001.

Learned Senior counsel for the petitioners, Rajesh Joshi, submitted that as the petitioners were selected as per Regulation 13(iv) of the Service Regulations in adherence of Articles 14 & 16 of the Constitution, treating their appointment as contractual or on ad-hoc terms was arbitrary and unreasonable. He further contended that the successful completion of probation by the petitioners showed that for all practical purposes they were regular employees. He also submitted that just because the University claimed to be autonomous, its policy decisions didn’t become immune from judicial review. Challenging impugned Service Regulations, it was submitted by the learned Senior Counsel that Regulation 5 & 6 were arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory. The same was reasoned about Regulation 2(1)(D) of the Provident Fund Regulations.

The learned counsel for the respondent, Kuldeep Mathur, while referring to the provisions of NLU Act, Statutes, Ordinances and the Regulations, strenuously urged that impugned decision was infallible as the same was based on objective consideration. He further argued that acceptance of the terms of employment by all the petitioners without any protest, in clear and unequivocal terms, was sufficient to invoke the doctrine of acquiescence against them and therefore solely on that count they were liable to be non-suited. Placing heavy reliance on the amended Statute 9 of the University Statutes, he also submitted that the University was enjoying autonomy and therefore it was not obligatory for it to follow the procedure for recruitment provided under the Act of 1974. It was argued by the learned counsel that the NLU Act of 1999, being a special Act and a later Act than the Act of 1974, would have an overriding effect on the earlier Act. The impugned Service Regulations were also argued to be not in violation of Article 14, 16, & 21 of the Constitution.

The Court decided to only examine vires of the impugned Service Regulation as all the other reliefs could be claimed by the petitioners before a Single Bench. The Court relied on State of T.N. v. P. Krishnamurthy, (2006) 4 SCC 517, in which the legitimate grounds to challenge subordinate legislation were laid down by the Supreme Court. It observed that the University Service Regulations were made effective more than two years before the amendment in the Statute 9 and hence the amended Statute 9 could not be treated as a source of the Service Regulations.

The Court held that right to life with human dignity with minimum sustenance and shelter, including all those rights and aspects of life which would go to make a man’s life complete and worth living, would form part of life. Therefore, on joining government service, a person does not mortgage or barter away his basic rights as a human being, including his fundamental right in favour of the Government. The University being a statutory body was not expected to employ teachers and other officials on contract/ ad hoc basis for years together, more particularly when the duties and functions discharged by them were of perennial nature. It was held that it is necessary to do away with total contractual appointment amongst teachers.

In view of the above, the Court held the impugned Service Regulations 5, 6 and amended Regulations 37 and 38 which allowed employment of teachers on a contractual basis, to be manifestly arbitrary and unreasonable. The Court further held that the impugned Service Regulations were in clear negation of Articles 14, 16 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Service regulations 5, 6 and amended Regulations 37 and 38 were declared as ultra vires and the same were struck down.

However, the Court did not sustain the challenge laid down to Regulation 2(1)(d) of the PF Regulations as it lacked legal foothold. It was directed that the merits of the case and other reliefs were to be heard by appropriate Single Judge Bench.[Prashant Mehta v. National Law University, Jodhpur, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 618, decided on 28-05-2019]

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