Read Order: The Governing Body of Akal Degree College for Women, Sangrur v. State of Punjab and others 

Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, August 2, 2021: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the state government has no role to play in the matter of discontinuance of an academic course.

The petitioner, Akal Degree College for Women, Sangrur, applied to the Punjabi University to which it is affiliated, for discontinuance of the B.A course w.e.f. the academic session 2020-21. The University demanded some documents for the purpose of indemnification. Thereafter, it directed the petitioner to approach the D.P.I (Colleges) for approval.

The D.P.I (Colleges) demanded more information and documents and directed the petitioner not to discontinue admission for the B.A course for the academic session 2020-21 till the time a decision was taken by him. No such decision has been made as yet.

Instead, the petitioner has been directed to refund the grant-in-aid received till date, if it wanted to convert to a private unaided college. The management of the petitioner college has also been suspended in order to facilitate inquiry to be conducted by a high-level committee appointed for going into the issue of misuse of grant-in-aid. The inquiry, referred to in the order of suspension of the management, has been completed and is under consideration.

Deciding the matter, the bench of Justice Sudhir Mittal stated that it is necessary to refer to various provisions relied upon by the counsel for the parties. 

The counsel for the petitioner has relied upon Clause-8 contained in Chapter-VI of the University calendar. The said chapter is under the heading ‘admission of colleges.’ As signified by the heading, the chapter deals with the procedure and conditions for admission of colleges to the privileges of the University.

Clause-8 is reproduced hereunder: “A college may not, without the previous permission of the Academic Council, suspend instruction in any subject or course of study which it is authorized to teach and teaches.”

The State relies upon Section 7 of the Act regarding retrenchment. It provides that an employee of an affiliated college cannot be retrenched without prior approval of the Director.

Apart from the above, the State also draws sustenance from over-riding public interest. It has been said that closure would adversely affect the interests of girl students of the area. Education of girls is a matter of priority, the High Court said.

“It may be noted that learned counsel for the University has not denied that the University has authority in the matter of discontinuance of a course. However, the State is sought to be introduced into the equation by raising the issue of retrenchment and public interest,” the Bench said.

The Act has been framed to provide for security of service to employees of affiliated colleges and to grant pensionary benefits to employees appointed against aided posts. It deals with probation of employees, suspension and dismissal, removal or reduction in rank. Retrenchment is also included therein. Further, it provides for appointment of a college Tribunal for the decision of appeals filed against orders of approval of dismissal and removal passed by the Director,” the Bench noted.

The bench added that the provisions of the Act do not entitle the Government to interfere in the matter of discontinuance of a course. Jurisdiction is sought to be vested by a process of reasoning that result of discontinuance of a course would be retrenchment. Had that been the intention of the legislature, it would have stated so specifically.

“Implied jurisdiction is not permissible in law and thus, it has to be held that in the matter of discontinuance of a course, the State has no jurisdiction. No public interest is involved as it is an uncontroverted fact that there are almost twenty other girls colleges in District Sangrur and the strength of students at the entry level in the B.A. course has reduced over the years.

“Accordingly, direction by the University to seek approval of D.P.I (Colleges) is illegal and unsustainable in law. The University is required to consider the matter dispassionately and in accordance with the principles required to be taken into consideration while examining such an issue based upon material supplied by the petitioner. It is at liberty to seek further material before taking an informed decision. The decision should be conveyed through the medium of a speaking order,” held the bench.

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