The commission to regulate the private educational institutions of Himachal Pradesh now is invalid and so are its assessment orders, circulars, and notices.
The Himachal Pradesh high court on Friday quashed the Himachal Pradesh Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory Commission) Act of 2010. A division bench comprising chief justice AM Khanvillkar and justice Kuldip Singh observed that Parliament had exclusive power to regulate universities and no state legislature was competent to do it on Parliament's behalf.
The matter falls within Entry 66 of the Union List. The bench added that the moot question of whether the 2010 Act was ascribable to Entry 32 of the State List (List II) or Entry 25 of List III was unanswered. The verdict was based on a petition that Private Universities Management Association had moved under Article 226 of the Constitution for quashing the state's 2010 Act.
"The assessment orders, circulars, and notices issued by the regulatory commission are without the authority of law," observed the court, adding: "The field of coordination and determination of standards in institutions of higher education is reserved for Parliament."
The state legislature has no power to prescribe offences and penalties for enforcing the standards laid down by University Grants Commission (UGC), All-India Council for Teachers' Education (AICTE), and other central authorities, when the central Acts themselves do not prescribe these, the court has held. That authority also is vested in Parliament, as is the matter of fees.
Fees, penalties extortionate
"The tax levied (by the state) is intended to exploit private universities for unjust enrichment of the state regulatory commission, and the fees and penalties prescribed are extortionate," the court further observed. The 2010 Act was also declared to be violating Article 14.
Advocate general Sharvan Dogra, appearing for the state, defended the Act and argued that the state alone was competent to regulate universities under Entry 32 of the State List and the impugned law was within its ambit. He said Entry 66 of the Union List did not cover the regulation of universities.
He said the entries on the Union and State Lists were mutually exclusive and the subject wasn't on the Concurrent List.
After the permission given to build private universities in the state snowballed into controversy, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in July 2011 formed Private Education Institution Regulatory Commission as interface between the government and central regulatory bodies for ensuring appropriate standards. Retired additional chief secretary Sarojini Ganju Thakur led the commission. Former Himachal Pradesh University registrar JB Nadda was first member.
256 private institutions
16 private universities