Anandi Mukta Sadguru Shree Muktajee Vandas Swami Suvarna Jayant Mahotsav Smarak Trust v. V.R. Rudani

In this landmark judgement, the Supreme Court held that a writ of mandamus could be issued against a private body if the relationship is such that resembles that of a public body.
CITATION1989 AIR 1607
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice K.J. Shetty
DATE OF JUDGEMENT21.04.1989

Introduction

This case specifically questioned one of the prerogative right named as “mandamus”: when will it be applied and its exceptions on application.

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: The Appellant was a public trust and its trustees were running a science college at Ahmedabad. The college initially had a temporary affiliation to the Gujarat University. From 15.06.1973 onwards, the college had permanent affiliation.

A dispute between the University Area Teachers Association and the University was referred to the Chancellor of the University who gave his decision on 12.06.1970. The award was accepted by the State Government as well as by the University. The latter issued direction to all affiliated colleges to pay their teachers in terms of the award. The appellants instead of implementing the award served notice of termination upon 11 teachers on the ground that they were surplus, and approached the University for Permission to remove them. The Vice-Chancellor did not accept their request. Thereupon the Trust decided to close down the college. The retrenched persons demanded arrears of salary and allowances, provident fund and gratuity dues, and closure compensation. However, the management did not pay these dues. The employees then moved to the High Court to issue a writ of mandamus directing the Trust to pay the retrenched employees their legitimate dues. The High Court accepted the writ petitions.

Issues

The main issue in the case was: Whether or not a writ mandamus could be issued against a private body.

Summary of Court Decision and Judgement

Dismissing the appeals, guidelines were given by the Supreme Court as to when the mandamus would apply to private bodies and to what extent it would help to claim such rights under Article 226 of the constitution.

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Analysis

The Court was only concerned with the liability of the management of the college towards the employees. Under the relationship of master and servant, the management is primarily responsible to pay salary and other benefits to the employees.

However, if the rights are purely of a private character, and if the management of the college is purely a private body with no public duty, an action of mandamus will not lie.  These are two exceptions to mandamus. But once these are absent and when the party has no other equally convenient remedy, mandamus cannot be denied.  In the present case, they are subject to the rules and regulations of the affiliating University and their activities are closely supervised by the University authorities. Employment in such institutions, therefore, is not devoid of any public character.

The words “any person or authority” used in Article 226 are not to be limited only to statutory authorities. They may cover any other person or body carrying public duty. What is relevant is the nature of the duty imposed on the body.

Mandamus is a very wide remedy which must be easily available ‘to reach injustice wherever it is found’. Technicalities should not come in the way of granting that relief under Article 226.

Conclusion

The present case is one of the cases which are a departure from the English Law. Under the English Law, the prerogative writ of mandamus is confined only to public authorities to compel performance of public duty, and ‘public authority’ there means every-body which is created by statute and working under the statute. However, in India, when there is the existence of this relationship between the State and the body, mandamus cannot be refused to the aggrieved party. Article 226 confers wide powers on the High Court to issue writs in the nature of prerogative writs. Under Article 226, writs can be issued to “any person or authority”.  It can be issued “for the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights and for any other purpose. This case is a pioneer in Indian history where the application of writ was interpreted widely.

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