Single bench to hear education cases `is the way forward' Single education bench 'is the way forward'

Such a bench will ensure that there is only one round of litigation at the High Court Move will cut down on litigation at the High Court The filing of hundreds of petitions is unnecessary; the court can take up a representative case and give its ruling, says a senior lawyer

A. Subramani

CHENNAI: The filing of a large number of petitions against the new admission policy, that too on the very first day of the new judicial year of the Madras High Court, has revived the debate on the need to set up an exclusive bench for education matters.

Senior lawyers, citing the long drawn and bitter legal battle over discrepancies in the entrance examination questions last year, say formation of a Full Bench devoted to education matters is the need of the hour. Such a bench can overrule, if need be, division bench rulings and ensure that there was only one round of litigation at the High Court-level.

Senior counsel K. Chandru says that allowing the filing of several hundreds of petitions by students was unnecessary.

"The court must take one petition as a representative case and decide for all similarly placed people. Allowing everyone to file petitions will not serve any purpose, other than making the lawyer concerned happy," he adds.

As of now, all education-related writ petitions go before a single judge, whose orders are anyway challengeable in the High Court itself. Only after the Division Bench disposes of the matter, can it appealed at the Supreme Court. "All this may not be over before the commencement of an academic year, and posting them before a division bench straightaway will save one entire round of litigation for parents and wards," says senior counsel K.M. Vijayan.

Having a special education bench, at least in the months preceding the start of the academic calendar, is not a new phenomenon for the Madras High Court. It did have a Bench comprising Justice Bhakthavatsalam and Justice D. Raju for two consecutive years — 1993 and 1994. It dealt with sensitive cases involving teacher-training institutes, entrance examination of the Annamalai University, etc., remember advocates. For some reason, the practice was abandoned in 1994, they add.

Tracing the origin of the spurt in education-related cases, Mr. Chandru said the advent of entrance examination saw a boom in such cases, with last year seeing a bitter tug-of-war over the entrance test questions and their answer keys.

The introduction of 69 per cent reservation of seats and the rural quota, besides the arrival of self-financing colleges and their management quota, has resulted in huge number of cases being filed every year.

An exclusive education bench will be an escape from regular admission work and final hearing matters, and academic matters will get fullest attention, say lawyers, some of whom are fighting the cause of their own wards.

They point out that a couple of years ago, the then Chief Justice B. Subhashan Reddy had issued an administrative circular to Judges stating that education cases must be heard and disposed of at the earliest.

But one question that weighs on the minds of lawyers advocating a special bench is the shortage of judges in the High Court. As against the sanctioned strength of 42, the court as on date has only 24 judges, of whom, at least five have to sit in Madurai. Is it possible to spare two or three judges exclusively for education matters in these circumstances is the question.

Recommended for you