Let me begin at the very beginning by first and foremost explicitly pointing out that in a landmark judgment with far reaching consequences that shall benefit many students and teachers, the Uttarakhand High Court on June 19, 2018 in the case of Dr Bhupal Singh Bhakuni v State of Uttarakhand & others in Writ petition (PIL) No. 127 of 2014 ordered the State to establish a National Law University (NLU) in Uttarakhand within three months. It also directed the State to run the NLU from government buildings or a hired private accommodation until the construction of the campus is complete. It must be complied with promptly by the State.
Needless to say, it is rightly pointed out in para 2 of this judgment that, 'A question of great public importance has been raised in this writ petition for establishment of National Law University. The grievance of the petitioners, precisely, is that though the National Law University of Uttarakhand Act, 2011 (Uttarakhand Act No. 11 of 2011) has been promulgated and came into force but despite that, the State Government has not established the National Law University in the State of Uttarakhand. This Court has passed number of orders, but no steps were taken pursuant to the orders passed by this Court from time to time.' This is really what is most unfortunate. The State of Uttarakhand should have complied with it but we see that inspite of the Court passing a number of orders no steps were taken by the State of Uttarakhand in this regard.
As it turned out, the Bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh directed that the first academic session should begin from September this year. Meanwhile, the State is expected to begin construction for the NLU in District Udham Singh Nagar, where the Court noted that the Government had land measuring about 1800 acres available. As for the modalities of functioning of the NLU, the Court directed the State to formulate Regulations under the National Law University of Uttarakhand Act, 2011 within a month, and make all appointments to the NLU as per such Regulations within three months.
It would be pertinent to mention here that the Uttarakhand High Court was hearing two petitions - one by Dr Bhupal Singh Bhakuni and another by Dr Mahendra Singh Pal pointing out that despite enactment of the 2011 Act, an NLU has not been established in the State. In response to the petitions, the authorities had pointed out that the Act provided for establishment of the head office of the NLU at Bhowali, Nainital. It had however submitted that the land required for the establishment of the University was not available at Bhowali, and therefore requisite amendments had to be made to the Act in order to proceed forward.
Availability of sufficient land
Truth be told, the Court noted that sufficient land is available in District Udham Singh Nagar, and rapped the State for delaying the establishment of the NLU. The Court minced just no words in observing that, 'The Court has not accepted the plea raised by the State Government that the land is not available. We have already noticed hereinabove that sufficient land is available. There are always teething problems as and when a new establishment including a University is to be set up. This could be overcome if there was a will of the State to establish/start the University as per Section 3 of the Act of 2011. The University could be established and thereafter the classes could start in any government building or rented accommodation.' Very rightly said!
To be sure, the Court further opined that the requirement of a library can be avoided as of now, as the students can download judgments and statutes online. Very rightly said! There can be no denying or disputing it! We can see for ourselves how quickly the judgments are uploaded in different websites from which anyone can quickly download and have the entire judgment with him/her within no time!
Laudable object lost in red tapism
Truly speaking, the Uttarakhand High Court also refused to accept the contention that this was a policy matter to be left to the State, rapping it for having avoided establishing an NLU in the State despite the enactment of the legislation way back in 2011. It observed clearly and categorically that, 'We are not dealing with the policy matter but we are dealing with the enactment which has been legislated especially for the establishment of University u/s 3 of the Act. The same has not been implemented yet except the prolonged correspondence. The laudable object of the University has been frustrated in the rigmarole of redtapism. The State machinery should have been sensitive to establish the University in the right earnest at the earliest.' But most unfortunately that was not to be!
But at least now the State machinery should comply by what the Uttarakhand High Court has said so explicitly! It further came down heavily on the State and left no punches to further remark that, 'The current PIL has been pending before the Court for 4 years now, and due to the State's lethargy, brilliant students of the State have been deprived from getting the standard legal education under the National law University.' Who can deny it?
State's responsibility to gather funds
It cannot be lost on anyone that when confronted with the lazy submission that funds had to be gathered for establishing the NLU, the Uttarakhand High Court shot back saying that it was the State's responsibility to address this concern. It observed in no uncertain terms that, 'The State Government was aware of this contingency at the time when the National Law University of Uttarakhand Act, 2011 was legislated. It was for the State Government to garner the funds. There cannot be any compromise as far as the field of education is concerned. The National Law University could have been a feather in the hat of the State of Uttarakhand.'
Be it noted, senior advocate CD Bahuguna then promptly stepped forward to take the laudable initiative to pay a sum of Rs 1.00 lakh for creating the corpus for running the University. While approving of the idea, the Uttarakhand High Court then directed Bahuguna to collect donations from members of the Bar, Judges as well as the public at large, after opening a separate fund for collecting such donations. The amount shall be received only by way of cheque/draft/NERT.
Directions Given By Court
Before winding up, it would be extremely important to bring out here what the Uttarakhand High Court directed in para 36 of this landmark judgment. It held clearly and categorically that, 'Accordingly, we allow both these petitions by issuing the following mandatory directions: -
A. The State Government is directed to start the National Law University in the State within three months from today.
B. The respondent-State is directed to run the University from the government buildings or by hiring a private accommodation at a reasonable rate.
C. The State of Uttarakhand is directed to raise construction for the University preferably in Tarai area including in District Udham Singh Nagar where the government land measuring about 1800 acres is available.
D. The first academic session shall start from September, 2018. Necessary permission shall be obtained by the National Law University from the Bar Council of India.
E. The respondent-State, till date, has not framed the Regulations within a period of one month from today. All the appointments in the University shall be made as per the Universities Act and the Regulations, framed thereunder, within a period of three months from today including appointment of teaching faculty and ministerial staff.'
All said and done, it is a landmark and laudable judgment with far reaching consequences. It must be implemented at the earliest by the State Government. It should not waste any time further by not implementing it by indulging in dilly dallying as the Uttarakhand High Court has itself noticed in this very case. This has callously been the attitude of the State Government by not ensuring the creation of a National Law University at the earliest! To say the least, one hopes that now the State Government will pay heed to what the Uttarakhand High Court has directed so rightly!