Report No. 123
Decentralisation of Administration of Justice: Disputes Involving Centres of Higher Education
1.1. Continuing the search for identifying areas where decentralisation at monolithic justice system can be effectively introduced, this report seeks to take a significant step in that direction in an area which has in recent years acquired high visibility profile because of numerous disputes arising in that area and landing into courts. Since the advent of independence, there has been tremendous upsurge in the thrust for higher education. Institutions providing professional courses in specialist branches, such as, medicine, engineering, agriculture, and science and technology in general, have multiplied many times. However, the demand for admission to such professional courses far outweighs the availability of seats.
There is keen and ferocious competition in obtaining admissions in such institutions. Consequently, numerous disputes arise between the institutions and the candidates seeking admissions, between university and such institutions, and even between the Government and those seeking admissions. In the absence of a specialist forum, these disputes are taken to civil courts at all levels, including the High Court and the Supreme Court of India.
The courts, because of their clogged dockets, have not been in a position to accord top priority to these disputes. Consequently, these disputes drag on and create more problems. The Law Commission, therefore, in its search for specialist tribunals, focussed its attention on different types of disputes arising in the field of education with a view to finding out whether the resolution of these disputes in the field of education requires any specialised training, the expediency of its early disposal and, consequently, reducing the pressure on the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
1.2. The Law Commission accordingly issued a working paper (Annexed hereto) with a questionnaire annexed to it on March 9, 1987, and gave it wide publicity. The working paper was sent to universities, teachers' associations, students associations, University Grants Commission, Association of Indian Universities, etc. Wide publicity was given to the working paper in print media.
1.3. The response of the affected interests in the field of education was very encouraging. The Association of Indian Universities circulated this working paper to all the universities with a request that every university may discuss the working paper in a one-day seminar in which all members of the university community may participate and forward their recommendations to the Law Commission. As a follow up action, the Association of Indian Universities organised a seminar on May 2, 1987, at Delhi. More than 61 Vice-Chancellors including Directors and Heads of various Departments of the Universities participated in the seminar. The seminar took each question from the questionnaire annexed to the working paper and responded to it.
For warding the recommendations of the seminar, the Secretary of the Association of Indian Universities informed the Law Commission that the President of the Association of Indian Universities, Prof. G. Ram Reddy, has set up a working group to study the matter in depth and establish liaison with the Law Commission. Amongst others, the seminar endorsed the Law Commission's proposal to set up a Central Educational Tribunal which should deal with alleged miscarriage of justice involving concerned Governments, universities and teachers and students in the universities and colleges.
Such a tribunal, according to the seminar, would provide an all-India perspective to educational problems and, to this end in view, a multi-level and integrated judicial system should be designed in such a way that the objective of decentralisation of administration of justice is fully realised. On the composition of the tribunal, the seminar expressed itself unequivocally saying that it should comprise of eminent educational administrators, Vice-Chancellors, Professors and Judges. It expressed an opinion that all disputes pertaining to educational matters should be under the purview of the tribunal. However, property matters should be dealt with by civil courts.
The seminar was of the view that such a tribunal would be able to tackle educational disputes expeditiously which will go a long way in ensuring peace in university campuses and contribute to academic standards. A working group was set up to follow up this important matter with Law Commission, University Grants Commission, Government of India, etc. The Association of Indian Universities promised that it would collect information pertaining to educational disputes of universities and colleges pending with various courts. Numerous other bodies representing affected interests responded to the working paper of the Law Commission.
Even though there was near unanimity in favour of setting up a Central Educational Tribunal, as tentatively described in the working paper, a dissent was expressed by some university teachers and associations of university teachers. Their apprehension was that such a tribunal would be over-shadowed by retired Vice-Chancellors and administrators in the Education Department and it would fail to inspire confidence about its integrity, impartiality, efficiency and capacity to fairly resolve the disputes.
1.4. The Law Commission immensely benefited itself from this comprehensive debate on the topic under discussion. With this acquired knowledge, it would be advantageous to first consider whether decentralisation in the administration of justice in the field of education is necessary. Would it be helpful both to the disputants and the society in general? Would it assist in speedy and fair resolution of disputes in the field of education? Should the forum be a participatory one?
At what level should it operate? What must be the criteria for selecting the personnel to man this tribunal? Who should be the appointing authority? In answering these questions, the Law Commission must bear in mind the objections raised by certain affected interests and must convince itself that there are rational and scientific answers to the dissent flied and that the experiment would far outweigh the supposed disadvantages. Thereby, the Commission must allay their apprehensions.