A Bench of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua of Himachal Pradesh High Court observed “Continued inaction on part of State to make colleges functional is against principles of the welfare state and Rule of law. The public cannot be made to suffer due to lackadaisical attitude of the State“.
Court was hearing Writ Petitions claiming inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges, “which were announced by the previous government during the year 2017.”
It was alleged in the Writ Petitions claiming inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges that on 15.8.2017, the then Chief Minister announced opening of a Government Degree College (in short ‘GDC’) at Jeori, District Shimla.
Opening of this new College was notified on 6.9.2017 from the academic session 2017-18. On 12.9.2017, with handing over of four rooms to Government Decree College, Jeori, the Principal of GDC, Jeori announced the start of newly opened GDC, Jeori.
The State accorded consolidated administrative approval of Rupees fifteen crores and consolidated expenditure sanction for a sum of Rupees three lacs out of lump-sum budget provision made during the FY 2017-18 for construction of buildings of three Colleges including the newly announced GDC, Jeori vide letter dated 18.9.2017. The College was inaugurated by the then Hon’ble Chief Minister on 19.9.2017.
On 22.9.2017 certain teaching and non-teaching posts were created for the College. Some staff was subsequently deployed there.
The grievance raised in the writ petitions was that, with the change of Government, 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“, submitted the Petitioners in case of inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges.
It was allegedin the petition claiming inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges that decision had been taken by the respondents to de-notify the newly opened Colleges.
Hence, citing the public need to make the new colleges functional, the writ petitions were preferred challenging the decision to de-notify the newly opened colleges.
The respondent-State submitted before the Court that in the meeting held on 4.8.2018, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister, the issue of opening of new Colleges announced in the year 2017 including the ones involved in the writ petitions were deliberated.
Factual position, as stated by the State, was that enrolment 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“, submitted the State Government.
The Court was informed during the hearing of the case of inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges that as of now, no final decision had been taken either regarding making these Colleges functional or closing them. Subsequently on 20.9.2018 ‘status quo order’ was passed by the High Court.
The Court noted in its order in case of inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges that,
“It is the prerogative of the State to frame policies and to review them. However, the decision-making process has to be objective, reasoned and has to abide by the settled legal principles. In the instant case, notification announcing the opening of new colleges was the outcome of careful consideration and analysis of all relevant aspects.”
Lastly, the Court ordered in case of inaction of Government in not opening certain Colleges,
“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 an appropriate final decision in accordance with the law with respect to the Colleges involved in these writ petitions, which were announced in the year 2017.”