High Court quashes Act prohibiting private law colleges

Rules the legislation isultra vires the Constitution

Updated - December 02, 2016 11:59 am IST

Published - October 27, 2016 12:00 am IST - CHENNAI

The Bench observed that private sector has a big role to play in the field of education.— File photo: S.S. Kumar

The Bench observed that private sector has a big role to play in the field of education.— File photo: S.S. Kumar

: The Madras High Court on Wednesday quashed the Tamil Nadu Establishment of Private Law Colleges (Prohibition) Act, 2014, which imposed a blanket ban against the establishment of new private law colleges in the State declaring it as ultra vires the Constitution.

Justifying the judicial intervention, the First bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice R. Mahadevan said, “The nature and application of the ban sought to be imposed by the legislation seemingly storms the boundaries of reasonable restrictions; we are of the considered view that this legislation deserves judicial scrutiny.”

Referring to various Supreme Court judgments, the Bench made it clear that it is beyond any cavil that the right to impart education (including legal education) is a fundamental right protected under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution.

Passing the landmark judgement, the Bench noted that in a modern democracy like India, both the State and the private stakeholders play a big role in the field of education.

“The problems are myriad. The educational institutions run by the government often face a challenge of quality education, while private educational institutions, run on a commercial basis, seek to create financial burden on those desirous of education. Thus, a balance has to be maintained between providing quality education at affordable cost,” the Bench said.

Rejects State’s contention

Refusing to accept the justification of the State government that the ban was imposed in view of past experience that private persons were not able to provide legal education at affordable cost to the economically and socially weaker sections, the Madras High Court has made it clear that the restriction is against the fundamental right to impart education provided by the Constitution.

“This is not a case where the majoritarian concept of “will of the people” would apply, as it infringes the valuable rights conferred under Part III (fundamental rights) the Constitution.”

The issue pertains to the enactment of the Tamil Nadu Establishment of Private Law Colleges (Prohibition) Act, 2014 prohibiting establishment of private law colleges in the State perpetually.

Assailing the validity of the Act, the Advocates Forum for Social Justice, S.M.M. Educational Foundation and Vanniar Educational Trust approached the high court seeking to declare the statute as illegal and unconstitutional.

During the arguments, the government justified the ban relying on a circular issued by the Bar Council of India (BCI) dated September 3, 2015, to all the State governments asking them to restrict the number of ‘no-objection certificates’ granted for a period of three years to check the mushrooming of law colleges in the country.

But refusing to concur with the contentions, the Bench said, “The circular issued by the BCI has nothing to do with this legislation, which is a subsequent development, and it is only a ‘request’ to all State governments – the objective being to have some kind of a study for the requirement of law colleges for each State.”

Pointing to the information provided by the BCI, the judges said that there was a great imbalance in the availability of colleges across the country.

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