Question: Can a writ petition be filed against a deemed university under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in a high court? Is it amenable to the writ jurisdiction of the high court?
Answer: Yes, it is possible to file a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution in a high court against a “deemed university”. A deemed university is an “authority” within the meaning of Article 226, therefore a writ petition is maintainable against it. This is, of course, subject to other requirements of Article 226, i.e., if other conditions mentioned therein are satisfied.
In the case of Andi Mukta Sadguru Shree Muktajee Vandas Swami Suvarna Jayanti Mahotsav Smarak Trust v. V.R. Rudani, (1989) 2 SCC 691, the Supreme Court held that:
“The term “authority” used in Article 226, in the context, must receive a liberal meaning unlike the term in Article 12. Article 12 is relevant only for the purpose of enforcement of fundamental rights under Article 32. Article 226 confers power on the High Courts to issue writs for enforcement of the fundamental rights as well as non-fundamental rights. The words “any person or authority” used in Article 226 are, therefore, not to be confined only to statutory authorities and instrumentalities of the State. They may cover any other person or body performing public duty. The form of the body concerned is not very much relevant. What is relevant is the nature of the duty imposed on the body. The duty must be judged in the light of positive obligation owed by the person or authority to the affected party. No matter by what means the duty is imposed, if a positive obligation exists mandamus cannot be denied.”
In the case of Zee Telefilms Ltd. v. Union of India, (2005) 4 SCC 649, it was held by the Supreme Court that when a private body exercises its public functions even if it is not a State, the aggrieved person has a remedy not only under the ordinary law but also under the Constitution, by way of a writ petition under Article 226. In this case, it was held that BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) discharges public duties and secondly, an aggrieved party can, for this reason, seek a public law remedy against BCCI under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
In the case of Janet Jeyapaul v. SRM University, (2015) 16 SCC 530 : AIR 2016 SC 73, the SRM University, Respondent 1 was an Institution engaged in imparting higher education in various subjects. The Central Government declared it as “Deemed University” by issuing a Notification under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956. While deciding a question as to whether a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution is maintainable against such deemed university, the Supreme Court held as under:
“… firstly, Respondent 1 is engaged in imparting education in higher studies to students at large. Secondly, it is discharging “public function” by way of imparting education. Thirdly, it is notified as a “Deemed University” by the Central Government under Section 3 of the UGC Act. Fourthly, being a “Deemed University”, all the provisions of the UGC Act are made applicable to Respondent 1, which inter alia provides for effective discharge of the public function, namely, education for the benefit of the public. Fifthly, once Respondent 1 is declared as “Deemed University” whose all functions and activities are governed by the UGC Act, alike other universities then it is an “authority” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution. Lastly, once it is held to be an “authority” as provided in Article 12 then as a necessary consequence, it becomes amenable to writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.”
In view of the above, there should not be any doubt that a deemed university is amenable to the writ jurisdiction of a high court under Article 226 of the Constitution.