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Report No. 123

Chapter IV

Existing Infrastructure for Resolution of Disputes at University Level

4.1. Numerous disputes arose between the universities and their karamcharis, universities and their members of teaching faculty, universities and students, apart from disputes with the Government and the Vice-Chancellor. When the disputes arose between the universities and their karamcharis, an attempt was made to find a firm set up under the labour laws for resolution of disputes. Questioning the power of the Government to make a reference in exercise of the power conferred by section 10 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, in respect of disputes between universities and their karamcharis, it was contended that the activities of the university cannot be comprehended in the expression 'industry' as defined in section 2(j) and, therefore, reference was incompetent.

This contention found favour with the courts because, in its view, education seeks to build up the personality of the pupil by assessing his physical, intellectual, moral and emotional development. They found it incongruous to speak of this educational process in terms of industry. It was held that education itself is not within the scope of the Act.1 This approach held the field for a period of one and a half decades with the result that a forum for compulsory adjudication of disputes with a view to preserving harmony and avoiding confrontation in the educational institutions was made unavailable to the karamcharis of the university, leaving them the only option to resort to direct action. During the interregnum, the dynamics of emerging scenario necessitated a radical rethinking.

A question was posed as to what is strange in regarding education as an industry. The answer was its respectability, its lofty character, its professional stamp, its cloistered virtue which cannot be spoiled by commercial implications and the raucous voices of workmen. Negativing all these inhibitions, the court held that the realists have now asserted 134„ the cultural field, educational managements depend so much on governmental support and some of them charge such high fees that schools have become trade and managers merchants'.

The court concluded that, 'with evening classes, correspondence courses, admissions unlimited, fees and Government grants escalating and certificates and degrees for prices, education-legal, medical, technological, school level or collegiate-is riskless trade for cultural entrepreneurs and hapless nests of campus (industrial) unrest. Imaginary assumptions are experiments with untruth.2 Approaching thus, the court overruled the earlier judgment in Delhi University case.

1. University of Delhi v. Ram Nath, AIR 1963 SC 1873.

2. Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board v. Rajappa, 1978 (2) SCC 213 (266).

4.2. The decision in Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board case, which overruled numerous earlier decisions disclosing an elitist approach founded on unwarranted assumptions, however, generated a fierce debate in the society. The court rejected those unwarranted assumptions in holding that Government and charitable hospitals which render service without any intention of earning profit, liberal professions like the office of solicitors, clubs like Madras Gymkhana Club and Cricket Club of India, Khadi and Village Industries Board and education are not comprehended in the expression 'industry' as defined in section 2(j). In the process, the court overruled as many as seven earlier judgments.

This radical stance of the court so much upset a former Chief Justice of India that 'Industrial Disputes Act was intended to resolve matters not between employers and employees in 'grotesquely inflationary latitude' (as the learned Judge expressed himself, but in the selling of capitalist system, which even a tyro knows, led to fight between the owners of land and means of production on the one hand and the wage earners on the other.1 He was so much worried at the lengthening of the list of industry by court's judgment that, according to him, it will come to an end when the enthusiastic but fallacious and populist judicial activism gets tired.

Ultimately in a democracy, pressure groups do succeed when those chagrined by the overruling of the earlier judgments lend support to a demand that the Parliament should set right the matter by denuding the effect of the judgment which overruled earlier judgments.2 Accordingly, Government of India introduced a Bill, styled as the Hospitals and Other Institutions (Settlement of Disputes) Bill, 1982, in the Parliament. That it has still not been processed further effectively supports the earlier statement, namely, pressure groups often appear to succeed.

By the Bill, the Government of India wanted hospitals, educational institutions, institutions owned or managed by an organisation wholly or substantially engaged in charitable, social or philanthropic activities, institutions engaged in khadi or village industries and every institution engaged in any activity of the Government relatable to the sovereign functions of the State, including all activities carried on by the Departments of the Central Government dealing with defence research, atomic energy and space, to be excluded from the operation of the Industrial Disputes Act and to be governed by the Act which may come into force after the Bill is passed by the Parliament.

The proposed Act envisaged a Grievance Settlement Committee or a Consultative Council or a Local Consultative Council to be set up, which will have jurisdiction to settle disputes between the employer and workmen of the employer of such institutions governed by the Act. As the Bill has not became law, the machinery therein envisaged has not come into existence. However, to the extent the decision in Bangalore Water Supply holds the field, provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act are available to the employees of all such institutions provided they fall within the definition of workman. The situation at present is wholly unsatisfactory.

1. M. Hidayatullah, former Chief Justice of India and former Vice President of India, in his Foreword to the Third Edition of the Law of Industrial Disputes by Mr. G.P. Gupta.

2. Ibid.

4.3. Some States have enacted statutes providing for setting up of tribunals for the adjudication of disputes or differences between the teachers and the management of any affiliated college or recognised institution or between the university and members of its teaching faculty. Some illustrative cases may be examined.

4.4. Section 42A of the Poona University Act, 1974, provides for setting up of such tribunals. A tribunal was actually set up by an order dated 28th February, 1979, and it became operational from 1st March, 1979. A retired District and Sessions Judge was appointed as the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal. Broadly stated, the jurisdiction of the tribunal, as spelt out in section 42B, extended to the disciplinary matters between teachers and karamcharis of the affiliated college and university on the one hand and the management of the affiliated college or university on the other, as the case may be. This tribunal was to have only an appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of the disciplinary committee set up under the university statutes.

4.5. There are parallel provisions in statutes setting up Shivaji University and Nagpur University and similar tribunals have been set up with almost identical jurisdiction covering the same subject-matter.

4.6. There is also an Educational Tribunal set up by the Government of Gujarat almost on the same lines.

4.7. It is necessary to recall here that every Act setting up a university makes provision for setting up a domestic disciplinary tribunal for deciding disciplinary matters. The educational tribunals set up by the States generally enjoy appellate jurisdiction. It is not the intention of this report to deal with disciplinary tribunals set up by the universities under the Act under which they are set up. In fact they are to be retained as grass-root fora.

Decentralisation of Administration of Justice - Disputes Involving Centres of Higher Education Back

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