04 May 2121

Order for closure of university has to be passed after following due procedure under section 92 of Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 - Bombay HIgh Court

Case : Pradeep Vinayakrao Patil & Ors. v. Abhay Yuva Kalyan Kendra & Ors. Writ Petition No. 307 of 2021

Court : Bombay High Court

Bench : N. J. Jamadar

Decided on : 04 May 2121

Relevant Statutes

Section 63 and Section 92 of Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994

Section 85 of Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016

Facts and Procedural History

1. Petitioners that is Yuva Kalyan Kendra is a public charitable trust and runs Abhay Yuva  Kalyan Kendra, the College of Physical Education Center(the employers). Mr Pradeep Patel and Mr Ravindra bagh are appointed as lecturers in this college through an appointment order as they fulfil the requisite eligibility criteria and continue to render services as lecturers and by another order in 1998, the employers terminated the services of employees on 01-04-1999.

2. Against which the employees filed appeal number 14 and 16 of 1998 before the tribunal. The tribunal recorded that with respect to the letter of termination the employees were entitled to consequential benefits and salary from 01-04-1992- 28-06-1999 and onwards but those orders were not given a fact by the employers and neither they were reinstated to services or paid any wages.

3. Against which employees move tribunal under section 63 of Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 alleging disobedience of the order and tribunal noted employer’s guilty of the content of tribunal handover directed to comply with the orders of tribunal and statements were made by employers that employees were at liberty to join their post in the very office and employees were allowed to report to duty and joining respective work, before the tribunal and there was compliance of the order and thus, presiding officer of the tribunal noted down that the fact employees were not allowed to enter the college is an altogether different cause of action and beyond the scope of section 63 of Maharashtra Universities Act.

4. Against which employees filed contempt proceeding and the court noted down that employer committed the breach of undertaking furnished by them to the tribunal and set aside the order and remit the matter back to the tribunal.

5. When a miscellaneous application was heard by tribunal it held employers guilty with a fine and they were directed to allow employees to join their post immediately. Tribunal did not look into the submission on behalf of the employers that they were prevented by reasonable cause as the College of physical education was closed due to resolution passed by trust in the meeting but learned Presiding Officer held that employers had not followed procedure under section 92 of the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 with respect to the closure of college and thus college was functional in the eye of law against which employers filed writ petition but both were dismissed by the honourable Supreme Court and in the meantime, employees again approach tribunal alleging failure on the part of employers to comply with the order and employers were held guilty by the tribunal for third consecutive time and were awarded a penalty of 5 Lac rupees and also ordered that if the default continues for three months Kaviyatri Bahinabai Chaudhari, North Maharashtra University was directed to withdraw their affiliation given to college run by petitioners.

6. Aggrieved by which the petitioners moved before the honourable Supreme Court by way of the writ petition.

The Issues of the Case

Whether the present petition before the Supreme Court act as a bar under res judicata in the light of the previous order of the Supreme Court dated 06-11-2020?

Whether petitioners are restricted by a reasonable cause from complying with the order of the Tribunal?

The Observations of the Court

1. The Honourable Supreme Court observed that section 85(1) of Maharashtra Public University Act, 2016 which talks about “Penalty to management for failure to comply with directions of the tribunal” and noted down that two things that the tribunal has to record before imposing penalty are

a. There is a failure on the part of the university to comply with any direction issued by a tribunal under section 83.

b. Non-compliance without any reasonable cause 

2. So the question that is of prime importance here is whether the employers are prevented by reasonable cause from not complying with the orders? Court refers to the order of managing committee decided to close the college of physical education through a letter dated 15-11-1998 and the statement made by the employers that the employees are allowed to join their respective office was totally irreconcilable as on 8-7-1999 it was informed that university will remain closed for the academic year 1999-2000 and yet, on 16-2-2000 a statement was made before the tribunal. Here the employers are not guilty of taking an inconsistent stand but are also complicit in persuading the tribunal to pass an order in their favour where they have knowledge that the fact that is stating before the tribunal is not true that is the employers endeavour to mislead the authority and Supreme Court referred to the judgment of Dilip Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh and others, (2010) 2 SCC 114, Kishore v. State of Uttar Pradesh and other, (2013) 2 SCC 398, and noted down that there are some principles which govern the obligation of a litigant while approaching the court for redressal of any grievance and consequence of abuse of process of court which does not allow a litigant to persuade the authority in such a way which is totally false and statements which are totally unreliable.

3. The Honourable Supreme Court further move down to test the reasonability of the cause sought to be ascribed by the employers. So, Section 92 of Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 covers the elaborate procedures for the closure of college which also mentions that no such closure can be made without the prior permission of the state government. Sub-section (1) of section 92 while prescribing the process for closure of college mentions that it starts with an application to the university and passes through many procedures which are also inclusive of the aspect of payment of compensation to the teachers and staff’s reach retrenched with the concurrence of management council and approval of a state government but in the instant case the employers did not cooperate with any of the committees and in the view of the court that the decision closing college could not be completed as it does not follow the procedure prescribed under section 92 of Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994. For explaining reasonable cause court referred to P. Ramnath Aiyer, which means that any cause which would constrain a person of average intelligence and ordinary prudence, probable cause, legal cause.

4. The conduct on the part of employers is far from reasonable and they have also persuaded the tribunal to pass order on the basis of submissions which they were aware would not be given a fact to.

5. Employers has also sought for quashing the order passed by Tribunal in Misc. Application but the main question that arise is whether the employer has precluded from agitating the issue of legality and correctness of the order on the ground of res judicata. The Honourable Supreme Court observed bar of res judicata applies to all kinds of civil proceedings including writ petitions and to decide the question one thing that has to be considered that whether the decision in the earlier petition was on merit or was dismissed in limine. For this court referred to the judgment of Daryao and other v. State of UP, AIR 1961 SC 1457, where the question was whether the dismissal of the writ petition filed by the party for obtaining an appropriate writ creates a bar of res judicata against the similar petition filed in Supreme Court under article 32.

6. The Honourable Supreme Court noted down that where a petition is dismissed in limine are not the dismissal would constitute a bar would depend upon the nature of the order, if the order is on merits it would operate as a bar and further refer to another judgment of Workmen of Cochin port v. Board of Trustees of the Cochin Port Trust and another, (1978) 3 SCC 119, where Supreme Court reiterated its previous judgment and noted down that if the court entered into the merits of the matter and dismiss petition then it would preclude a fresh consideration by the court and therefore in the present fact the grievance of the employers in the earlier proceeding was regarding the miscellaneous application the previous order passed by the Supreme Court clearly mentions that court has not entered into the controversy in question and therefore the previous order of the Supreme Court dated 6-11-2020 does not constitute res judicata.

7. The main question before this court was regarding the enforceability of the direction issued by the tribunal and With regard to the order of the tribunal imposing a penalty on the College of physical education Supreme Court is of the view that the conduct of the employer is blameworthy for reasons recorded below -

a. The college was not in existence.

b. Employees could not have been reinstated as the posts were non-est.

c. Even if notionally rain stated the employees could not have discharged the duties.

d. Even if notionally rain stated the employees could not have discharged the duties.

e. Employees possess the specialist qualification and they cannot be accommodated to any other post.

8. On the false affirmations made by the employers before the tribunal the employees did not opt for any other professional career which ruined their career and personal life also. Thus, employees deserve adequate compensation and therefore directed employers to pay 50 Lac to each of the employees.

The Decision Held by the Court

1. The Order passed by Tribunal in Misc. Application stands quashed and set aside.

2. Petitioners are directed to pay 50 Lac to each petitioner.

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