Policy decisions of the State Government should be in conformity with Article 14 of the Constitution

Himachal Pradesh High Court: While reviewing the arbitrariness of the Notification issued by the Government which cancelled the establishment of Government Degree Colleges in Kotla Behr,  the Division Bench of Rajiv Sharma and S.T Thakur JJ., observed that, Policy decisions must conform to Article 14 of the Constitution. The Court further held that, setting up a new degree college should be in conformity with the State’s obligation for equitable distribution of resources and funds across the State. It was further observed that the attempt of succeeding Government should not be to march over the decisions of outgoing ruling party, but must be guided by doctrine of good governance for the State.

As per the facts of the case, the impugned Notification issued by the State Government led to the de-notification of the Government Degree College at Kotla Behr. V.S. Thakur, learned counsel for the petitioner argued that, the State arbitrarily de-notified 8 Government colleges of Kotla Behr via Notification dated 02.03.2013. The petitioner further contended that, as per the Guidelines of 02.01.2014, a new college was required at Kotla Behr as well, but the government did not follow uniform policy for opening of  new degree colleges. Appearing on behalf of the respondents M. A Khan argued that, de-notification of degree colleges at Kotla Behr was a ‘Policy Decision’.

The Court pointed out that the respondents re-opened all the colleges except that of Kotla Behr without any justification which signifies the arbitrariness and unreasonableness in the decision making process. The Court while answering the contention of respondents, relied on the  Supreme Court  decision of Kumari Shrilekha Vidyarathi v. State of U.P, (1991) 1 SCC 212,  and observed that Article 14 of the Constitution is also applicable to governmental policies and if policy or any action of government fails to clear the test of reasonableness, it would be held unconstitutional. Further the Court relied on the judgment of Andhra Pradesh Dairy Development Corporation Federation v. B. Narasimha Reddy, (2011) 9 SCC 286, and stated that the succeeding government is duty bound to continue and carry on the unfinished work of previous government. Based upon the above observations, the Court found the Notification dated 02.03.2013, to be arbitrary and thus quashed it, and directed the respondents to reopen the Government Degree College at Kotla BehrAsha Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2015 SCC OnLine HP 1742decided on 20.07.2015

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