Employees of government-aided minority educational institutions are entitled to approach the High Court against disciplinary proceedings initiated against them and there is no embargo on invoking the writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Allowing a writ appeal filed in the Madurai Bench against the dismissal of the Principal of American College here, a Division Bench comprising Justices V. Ramasubramanian and D. Hariparanthaman said: “Disciplinary proceedings initiated against such employees cannot be said to be beyond the pale of judicial review under Article 226.”

The Bench held that none of the Supreme Court decisions emphasising the right of minority educational institutions to appoint persons of their choice as Principal/Headmaster could be applied in cases of termination/dismissal from service as these cases involved infringement of right to livelihood guaranteed under Article 21.

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian said: “A candidate seeking appointment or promotion to the post of Principal/Headmaster does not have a vested right except a right to be considered. In contrast, a person appointed as Principal/Headmaster gets certain rights vested in him by virtue of such appointment.”

T. Chinnaraj Joseph Jaikumar had filed the present case against his dismissal from the post of Principal of American College. Citing the Supreme Court ruling in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case (2002), the college management claimed that the Principal, being an employee of a minority institution, was not entitled to file a writ petition.

Rejecting the contention, the Division Bench said special tribunals had not been constituted, as suggested by the apex court, to redress grievances of employees subjected to punishment. “Therefore, as on date, employees of minority institutions, especially those receiving grant-in-aid of the State, cannot be shut out from this court.”

Further, “The suggestion was to create special tribunals as an alternative to other forums. It was not a suggestion to create a forum to replace the writ jurisdiction… After the Supreme Court decision in L. Chandrakumar’s case (1997), even orders of administrative tribunals, constituted as alternative to writ jurisdiction, became vulnerable to writ jurisdiction,” the judges pointed out.

The Bench rejected the contention that the College was administered by the ‘Governing Council of American College,’ a society registered in June 1934 and that a writ against a society was not maintainable. It said the court was empowered to issue directions to any person or authority when an element of public duty was cast upon them.

The Supreme Court in Anadi Mukta Sadguru’s case (1989) held that even a trust was amenable to writ jurisdiction. It was held therein that when public money was paid as government aid, the aided institutions discharge public functions and they become subject to the rules and regulations.

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