The Apex Court on 14th Feb in the matter of Marwari Balika Vidyalaya V. Asha Srivastava & Ors has held that “a writ petition challenging the termination of services of a teacher is maintainable against a private unaided educational institution”.
Petitioner: The above observation of SC bench was made in a case where the appellant ‘Marwari Balika Vidyalaya’ a Private School who challenged the Calcutta High Court judgment in which the HC had issued directions against the reinstatement of a dismissed teacher with back wages by invoking writ jurisdiction under Article 226. The prime contention raised by the school was that powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India could not have been invoked against a private entity. Respondent: The current respondent Asha Srivastava was dismissed from the school on grounds of 'indiscipline'. Affected by the dismissal Asha filed a writ petition before High Court of Calcutta for seeking action on the approval of her appointment.
Appellant’s Arguments: The appellant argued on basis of SC decision in Committee of Management, Delhi Public School & Anr. v. M.K. Gandhi & Ors (2015) which had dismissed a writ filed by a teacher seeking reinstatement as non-maintainable. However, that decision was distinguished by holding that question of prior approval by government authorities for dismissing a teacher was not involved there. Also one of the decision in Satimbla Sharma & Ors. v. St. Paul's Senior Secondary School & Ors which was referred by the appellant was a case demanding equal pay for private school teachers at par with government teachers. The SC in that matter had dismissed that claim holding that equality under Article 14 cannot be raised against a private entity. Appellant also mentioned the matter of Sushmita Basu v Ballgunge Siksha Samity which was a case for equal payment of dearness allowance to private school teachers as given to government school teachers. The SC had rejected that claim observing that writ against a private body cannot be claimed if there is no public law element involved.
Judgment: A division bench of Apex Court While dismissing the appeal remarked that the cases referred by the appellant have factual matrix which is different from the present matter. The bench relied on to the decision of Raj Kumar vs Director of Education and others in which it was held that “approval of the government education authorities was necessary even for dismissal of a private school employee”. However, in present scenario no such approval was obtained by the school in the instant case before retrenching the teacher. The bench in its judgment also referred to the decision in Ramesh Ahluwalia vs State of Punjab which had held that the employee of a private school can file writ petition in relation to service disputes. The court in present matter after referring to Raj Kumar and Ramesh Ahluwalia judgment came to a conclusion that school is discharging a 'public function' and Hence writ was maintainable against it. The bench observed that "It is apparent from the aforesaid decisions that the Writ Application is maintainable in such a matter even as against the private unaided educational institutions".