Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Jyotsna Rewal Dua, JJ., while vacating the interim order to maintain the status quo, directed the respondent authorities to consider the matter and take an appropriate final decision in accordance with law. The Court further said, “Opening of a Government College is a policy decision of the Government permitting limited scope of judicial review.”
These writ petitions have been filed pro bono publico claiming inaction on part of the respondent-State Government in not opening certain Colleges, which were announced by the previous government during the year 2017. The primary grievance raised in the writ petition is that with change of political guard, the situation in respect of the functioning of the College also changed. The construction work of College building did not start. The staff deployed/posted in the newly opened College was transferred elsewhere. The college did not function despite the fact that 13 students including 10 girls had taken admission in the College for the academic year 2018-19.
The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that, although it is the prerogative of the State to frame policies and to review them the decision-making process has to be objective, reasoned and has to abide by the settled legal principles. In the instant case, notification announcing opening of new colleges was the outcome of careful consideration and analysis of all relevant aspects. Continued inaction on part of State to make these colleges functional is against principles of the welfare state and Rule of law. Public cannot be made to suffer due to the lackadaisical attitude of State. Reliance was placed on, State of Karnataka v. All India Manufacturers Organization, (2006) 4 SCC 683, Bannari Amman Sugars v. Commercial Tax Officer, (2005) 1 SCC 625, Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commissioner, (1978) 1 SCC 405, State of T.N. v. Shyam Sunder, (2011) 8 SCC 737.
Counsel for the respondent contended that in the meeting held on 04-08-2018 under the chairmanship of Chief Minister, the issue of opening of new Colleges announced in the year 2017 including the ones involved in these three writ petitions was deliberated. Factual position was that enrollment of students in these Colleges was either very less or practically nil. The land was also not available for these Colleges. Therefore, it was not considered appropriate to make these newly announced colleges functional in academic session 2018-19. Accordingly, the staff posted for these Colleges was shifted to other Colleges.
In pursuance of its decision, the Court observed, “The respondents did not start the Colleges as the enrollment of the students in these Colleges was very less. College had neither any building/land nor any infrastructure. It is for this reason that respondents did not start the College for the academic year 2018-19. The decision taken in the meeting dated 04-08-2018, therefore, cannot be termed as unreasoned, untenable, unrealistic or in contravention to the pronouncement in Dhrub Dev’s case. In the meeting chaired by the Hon’ble Chief Minister on 04-08-2018, the decision for not making the Colleges functional was confined to academic year 2018-19. Subsequently on 20-09-2018 ‘status
quo order’ was passed by the Court. Since no final decision in the matter has yet been taken, therefore, without going further in the matter, we dispose of these writ petitions by vacating the interim order forthwith to enable the respondents to consider the matter and take appropriate final decision in accordance with law.”
Reiterating the limited scope of interference that the Court can exercise in case of policy decisions, the Court gave liberty to the concerned authorities so to adjudicate the matter at the earliest.[Ashok Negi v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine HP 2498, decided on 12-11-2020 ]
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