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The case of Ajay Hasia versus Khalid Mujib has vital importance in the history of the constitutional developments in India, in particular, the jurisprudence that revolved around Article 12 of the Constitution of India, 1950 (hereinafter referred as “the Constitution”). Prior to this case, the definition of ‘State’ as it was mentioned in the language of Article 12 of the Constitution, was largely indecisive, and there were no conclusive parameters which could be referred to in order to assess whether any given body in a case would fall under the ambit of what ‘state’ is under Article 12. However, when the Supreme Court delivered the judgment by in the case of Ajay Hasiya, the Court reiterated and approved the parameters which could be tallied and crossed off in order to assess whether any given body would fall within the definition of State under Article 12 of the Constitution. The case laid down that for a body to fall within the definition of ‘state’ under Article 12, it is not enough that the government has regulatory power over any statutory or non-statutory body, rather, the control that the government exercises should be deep and pervasive, alongside the fact that the concerned authority or body is completely dependent upon the government for its financial and administrative operations. The Ajay Hasia case provided validity to the judgment which had been given in the case of Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. The International Airport Authority, AIR 1979 SC 1628 (hereinafter referred as “International Airports Authority”), thereby giving enhanced credibility to these parameters.
Facts of the Case
Of the several colleges which were sponsored by the Government of India at the time when this case was filed, the Regional Engineering College in Srinagar was one of these colleges. Other than this, there were 14 other similar colleges which were funded by the Government of India. The establishment of the college was done by a statute and the management of the college was carried on by a society which had been registered under the Registration of Societies Act, 1898 of Jammu and Kashmir. However, the case at hand arose due to the challenge made by the petitioner to the procedure for admission in the college. The procedure was peculiar to the Regional Engineering College, where two tests were conducted in order to process the admissions. Firstly, there was a written test conducted by the college, Secondly, there was a viva test. The aggrieved petitioner, in this case, had filed this petition in regards to the procedure followed in the admission process of the petitioner.
Arguments on behalf of the Petitioner
- The written test of the petitioner went without hitches whereas, in terms of the viva conducted, the petitioner was not given much time, and the questions which were presented to the petitioner were very formal questions about the trivial data, but no questions whatsoever were asked to the petitioner regarding the subject in question.
- Further, when the results of the admission process were announced, the petitioners had been able to secure considerably good marks in the written half of the admission exams, but they were not able to get admitted into the college because of the significantly lower marks which they had been allotted during the viva conducted as a part of the admission process. The same was not true for the other candidates, who had gotten admissions into the college despite having scored low on the written examinations. This was simply because they had scored high on the viva conducted during the admission process.
Aggrieved, the petitioner filed a writ petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, wherein the petitioner had filed a challenge to the admission examinations conducted by the college on several grounds, such as the infringement of the right to equality as it had been enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution.
After the petitioner approached the court under Article 32, the Court in Ajay Hasia versus Khalid Mujib, was presented with the questions as to –
- Whether the Regional Engineering College was within the ambit of ‘state’ as defined by Article 12 of the Constitution?
- Whether the admission process alleged here violated the right to equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution?
The court placed reliance on the submissions of the petitioner and vitiated the viva voce test of the petitioners since the Court arrived at the conclusion that the interview was only held for not more than 2 to 3 minutes in duration, which was not enough in order to assess the candidature of any applicant for the admission into the desired course. The Court indeed came to the conclusion that the process of admission which had been adopted by the Regional Engineering College was violative of the right to equality of the applicants for admission into the impugned college. The parameters which were laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of International Airports Authority in order to assess the status of a statutory or a non-statutory body received approval by the Court in this case as well, and it was established that keeping in mind the Memorandum of Association and the Rules of the society which were governing the College, the College was indeed inclusive of the ambit of the word ‘state’ as it had been used in Article 12 of the Constitution. The composition of the Committee was filled with representatives who had been appointed by the Central Government. Moreover, the funds received to manage and run the college were provided entirely by the Central Government and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. These two factors were taken into account by the Court to conclude that all the criteria and parameters which had been laid down in the International Airport Authority case were satisfied, making the college undeniably fall within the scope of the word ‘state’ as is mentioned in Article 12.
The Court’s decision in the Ajay Hasia versus Khalid Mujib, was a revolutionizing decision, as it reaffirmed the decision of the Court in the International Airport Authority case, making the then laid down parameters the benchmark for assessing whether anybody, whether statutory or non-statutory, was an instrumentality or an agency of the State or not. The decision in Ajay Hasia was a landmark. This was more so because the judgment established that merely involvement of the government in the functioning of the body is not sufficient, nor is nominal regulatory control. Rather, the involvement and the control of the government over the body must be pervasive, and the body in question must be financially and administratively dependent on the government in order to establish that the impugned body is indeed an instrumentality of the State for the purpose of Article 12 of the Constitution.