The Supreme Court on Wednesday cautioned High Courts against interfering with or quashing Cabinet decisions of State governments on policy matters.
“The decision of the Cabinet generally ought not to be interfered with in judicial review so lightly as has been done in the present case [in Himachal Pradesh]. The quashing of the Cabinet decision, without analysing the pros and cons, in the manner [that] seeks to restrict the State's constitutional authority and powers to frame policy especially in such vital areas like imparting technical education is not acceptable,” said a Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan.
Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The court does not substitute its views in the decision of the State government with regard to policy matters. In fact, the court must refuse to sit as appellate authority or super legislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation or policy decision of the government unless it runs counter to the mandate of the Constitution.”
As for human resource, especially manpower requirement in various professional and technical fields, “the government is free to frame its policy, alter or modify the same as to the needs of society. In such matters, the courts cannot interfere lightly as if the government is unaware of the situation.”
The Bench was allowing an appeal by the State government against a Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment quashing a decision that there would be no admission to three courses being taught by members of the HP Nizi Vyavsayik Prishikshan Kendra Sangh. The High Court, acting on a petition from the Sangh, quashed the Cabinet decision not to permit the institutes from offering three courses and also issued various directions to the State government.
Apart from these aspects, the High Court had procedurally committed an error in quashing the Cabinet decision, which was not challenged in the writ petition by raising valid grounds.
“The High Court has lost sight of the fact that education is a dynamic system and courses/subjects have to keep changing with regard to market demand, employability, availability of infrastructure, etc. No institute can have a legitimate right or expectation to run a particular course forever and it is the pervasive power and authority vested in the government to frame policy and guidelines for progressive and legitimate growth of society and create a balance in the arena inclusive of imparting technical education from time to time,” the Bench said.
“Inasmuch as the institutions found fit were allowed to run other courses except the three [mentioned], the doctrine of legitimate expectation was not disregarded by the State. Inasmuch as ultimately it is the responsibility of the State to provide good education, training and employment, it is best suited to frame a policy or either modify/alter a decision depending on the circumstance based on relevant and acceptable material,” the Bench said.