Oka Vs. University of Mumbai & Ors
 Insc 125 (4
Thakker & Altamas Kabir
APPEAL NO. 967 OF 2008 ARISING OUT OF SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 4590
OF 2006 C.K. THAKKER, J.
present appeal is filed against final judgment and order dated August 8, 2005 passed by the High Court of
Judicature at Bombay in Writ Petition No. 1513 of 2005.
By the impugned order, the High Court dismissed the petition on the ground that
the writ petitioner could not be said to be 'aggrieved party'. In view of the
said finding, the High Court did not consider it appropriate to express any
opinion on the question raised in the petition.
Shortly stated the facts of the case are that the first respondent is University of Mumbai. Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 are Vice Chancellor and Registrar
respectively of respondent No.1, whereas Respondent No. 4 is the State of Maharashtra. The University is governed by the
provisions of the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994 (hereinafter referred to
as 'the Act').
4. On August 2, 1999, the respondent University issued a
notification calling for applications from registered graduates in the
prescribed form for getting their names registered in the electoral roll for
electing ten members in the Senate of the University.
writ-petitioner who holds LL.M. degree of the University applied for
registering his name in the said roll. The respondent-University, however,
addressed a letter to the writ petitioner, calling upon him to submit his
Bachelor Degree Certificate to ascertain whether he had obtained Graduate
Degree from the said University. According to the writ petitioner, if a person
has obtained Master Degree or Doctoral Degree from the University, his name
also should be included in the electoral roll and he cannot be denied
registration only on the ground that he had not obtained Graduate Degree from
writ petitioner, in the circumstances, approached the High Court by filing Writ
Petition No. 436 of 2000 challenging the interpretation placed by the respondent- University on the term 'Graduate'. The High Court found prima facie
substance in argument of the writ petitioner and admitted the petition by
issuing Rule nisi. But, by the time the writ petition came up for final
hearing, elections were over and the High Court did not think it fit to express
any opinion on the question of law raised by the writ petitioner and disposed
it of observing that the petition had become 'infructuous'. The question of law,
however, was kept open.
Once again when the elections were scheduled to be held, the question of
interpretation of the word 'Graduate' came up for consideration. The
writ-petitioner addressed a letter to the University on October 25, 2004 to re-consider the legal issue. The
respondent-University, however, disregarded the writ petitioner's request and
issued a notification on April
22, 2005 for election
of Senate. It insisted to register names of those persons who had obtained
Graduate Degree from the University. The writ petitioner, therefore, was
constrained to approach the High Court again by filing the present petition,
i.e. Writ Petition 1513 of 2005. Notice was issued by the Court and the
respondents appeared. An affidavit was filed on behalf of the respondents
wherein it was contended that the writ petitioner could not be said to be
'aggrieved party' in view of the fact that he was graduated from Bombay University and his name could be registered in the electoral roll.
other person had made any grievance who was graduated from other University and
obtained Master Degree or Doctoral Degree from Bombay University and was denied enrolment of his
name in the electoral roll. The petition filed by the writ petitioner,
therefore, was not maintainable.
High Court in the impugned order observed that the writ-petitioner himself was
a graduate who obtained B.A. Degree from the respondent-University. He could
not, therefore, have any grievance in the matter. The contention of the writ
petitioner was that the respondent-University was wrongly interpreting the word
'Graduate' in a restricted manner and several other persons who were not
graduated from respondent-University, but obtained Master or Doctoral Degree
from the University were not enrolled in the electoral roll. According to the
High Court, since the writ-petitioner was not 'aggrieved party', the petition
was liable to be dismissed and accordingly, it was dismissed. The said order is
challenged by the writ petitioner in the present appeal.
Notice was issued on February
27, 2006 by this Court
and on August 27, 2006, the Registry was directed to place
the matter for hearing on a non-miscellaneous day. That is how the matter has
been placed before us.
have heard the learned counsel for the parties.
learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the High Court was wrong in
dismissing the petition on the ground of locus standi. The Court ought to have
appreciated that the question was of interpretation of law and it ought to have
decided the issue one way or the other. According to the appellant, even in
past, the High Court did not decide the matter on merits and disposed of his
writ petition as 'infructuous'. Again the question has come up and even in
future, at every election, such question will arise. It was, therefore,
submitted that the High Court was wrong in not deciding the controversy.
The learned counsel for the respondents, on the other hand, submitted that the
High Court was justified in dismissing the writ petition on the ground that the
petitioner was not aggrieved person. The writ petition was not in the nature of
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and when the writ-petitioner himself was
graduated from the respondent- University, his name could be there in the electoral roll. The High
Court, hence, refused to enter into larger question. The counsel, however,
admitted that there may be certain persons who might have been graduated from
other Universities and obtained Master Degree or Doctoral Degree from Bombay University and whose names on that ground might not have been
registered in the electoral roll. But it was submitted that this is the
provision of law, the University has rightly interpreted it and refused to
register their names. He further submitted that the constitutional validity or vires
of the provision had not been challenged by the writ-petitioner. In the light
of the statutory provisions, the University decided not to register names of
persons who were graduated from other University and no fault can be found
against such action. He, therefore, submitted that the appeal deserves to be
Having heard the rival contentions of the parties, in our opinion, it cannot be
said that the High Court was wrong in dismissing the writ petition filed by the
writ-petitioner- appellant herein. It is expressly stated by the High Court
that the writ-petitioner obtained B.A. Degree from Bombay University.
the writ-petitioner was graduated from the respondent-University. His name,
therefore, can be registered in the electoral roll for electing members of
Senate. He was not, therefore, an 'aggrieved party'. The writ petition was not
in the form of PIL and it cannot be said that the High Court ought to have
decided the question. To that extent, therefore, the grievance voiced by the
writ- petitioner is not justifiable.
is, no doubt, equally true that there may be some persons who might have
obtained Graduate Degree from Universities other than the respondent-University
and Master Degree or Doctoral Degree from Bombay University. According to the interpretation
adopted by the respondent-University, their names cannot be registered under
the Act. We have, therefore, to consider whether the action of the University
is illegal, contrary to law or otherwise objectionable. The learned counsel for
the respondents, in this connection, referred to the relevant provisions of the
2 defines certain terms and the word 'University' is defined in Clause (36) of
Section 2 which reads thus;
means any of the universities mentioned in the Schedule.
The Schedule to the Act specifies Universities. The term 'Graduate' is not
defined in the Act. Section 3 provides for "Incorporation of
Universities". Section 6 deals with "Jurisdiction and Admission to
Privileges of University". Section 24 enumerates Authorities of the
University. One of the Authorities of the University is "Senate".
Section 25 declares that Senate shall be the Principal Authority for all
financial estimates and budgetary appropriations and for providing social
feedback to the University on current and future academic programmes and also
provides for its constitution. Section 26 lays down functions and duties of
Senate. Chapter XI relates to Enrolment, Degrees and Convocation.
99 is a material provision and provides for Registered Graduates. Sub-section
(1) of the said section is material and reads thus;
Subject to the provisions of sub-section (2), the following persons shall be
entitled to have their names entered in the register of registered graduates or
deemed to be registered graduates, maintained by the university, namely:-
who are graduates of the university;
are graduates of the present university from which corresponding new university
. . . . . . . . .."
Section 100 enables the Chancellor to remove name of any person from register
Clause (a) of sub-section (1) of Section 99, in our opinion, is clear and unambiguous.
It specifically and unequivocally declares that only those persons who are
'Graduates of the University' are entitled to have their names entered in the
register of registered graduates. As already observed earlier, University means
any university mentioned in the Schedule. It is not even the case of the
writ-petitioner either before the High Court or before us that name of any
person who has graduated from the University as defined in Section 2(36) of the
Act has not been included in the register. It, therefore, cannot be said that
the interpretation of the respondent-University is unwarranted, illegal or
contrary to statutory provisions. In our opinion, the learned counsel for the
respondent-University is also right in contending that the constitutional
validity of statutory provision has not been challenged by the writ-petitioner
and, as such, the Court is called upon only to interpret the provision as it
stands treating it to be valid and intra vires. If it is so, the limited
controversy before the Court is whether the University is right in interpreting
the relevant provision of law in Section 99 read with Section 2 of the Act.
Learned counsel for the appellant, however, submitted that the repealed
statute, namely, the Bombay Universities Act, 1974, treated persons who had
obtained Graduate Degree from other university, but Master Degree or Doctoral
Degree from Bombay University as eligible and qualified to be included in the register of
registered graduates of the University. In our opinion, however, the above
circumstance, instead of supporting the writ- petitioner may support the
respondents as it can be said that though there was such provision in the
previous Act, the Legislature consciously and deliberately departed from it and
the registration was restricted to those who must have graduated from the
said contention, therefore, cannot take the case of the writ-petitioner
was then contended that in several other Universities, such persons who had
obtained Graduate Degree from other universities, but obtained Master degree or
Doctoral Degree from those Universities have been treated as eligible to get
their names registered in the register of graduates. Even on that ground, the
impugned action of the respondent-University cannot be said to be legal or
proper. We are afraid, we cannot uphold the contention of the writ-petitioner.
for the Legislature to provide for registration of graduates and in absence of
any challenge to the constitutional validity, we have to give literal
interpretation to the expressions used and terms defined in the statute book.
already noted by us, considering Section 99 in the light of Clause (36) of
Section 2 of the Act, it cannot be said that the University was wrong or had
committed any error in interpreting the provision and in depriving any person
of his right. If it is so, no grievance can be made against such
interpretation. We, therefore, see no substance in the argument raised by the
For the foregoing reasons, the appeal deserves to be dismissed and is,
accordingly, dismissed. On the facts and in the circumstances of the case,
however, there shall be no order as to costs.