11 Sep 2023 4:20 AM GMT
While clarifying that the Court cannot, through a judicial order, direct the implementation of a Scheme formulated by the Central Government, which can be implemented only at the option of the State Government, the Patna High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought a directive for the state government to implement the guidelines related to the Post Matric...
While clarifying that the Court cannot, through a judicial order, direct the implementation of a Scheme formulated by the Central Government, which can be implemented only at the option of the State Government, the Patna High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought a directive for the state government to implement the guidelines related to the Post Matric Scholarship scheme for students belonging to the Scheduled Caste in India.
The division bench of Chief Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Partha Sarthy observed, “The State Government has also raised concerns about optimum disbursal of funds ensuring maximum coverage of all marginalized sections of the society; which cannot be brushed aside. These are all matters coming within the policy domain of the State; in which this Court would not interfere and issue directions to overstep the wisdom of the Executive Government.”
The PIL sought a direction to Bihar government and the National Commission for Scheduled Caste to enforce Clause 8 of Annexure-2 Guidelines pertaining to the Centre's Post Matric Scholarship scheme for Scheduled Caste students in India, with a focus on the period from 2020-21 to 2025-26.
Clause 8 of the Guidelines specifically addresses the issuance of Freeship Cards, as defined in Clause 3(g). The petitioner alleged that the State of Bihar had not fully adhered to the Central Government's Guidelines, leading to arbitrary limitations on the maximum amounts allocated for Post Matric Scholarships, including tuition fees and other non-refundable fees for eligible beneficiaries under the Scheme.
Principal Secretary to the Department of Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribe Welfare in Patna submitted that the Guidelines for the implementation of the scheme imposed financial obligations on both the Central Government and the respective State Governments or Union Territories, which were to be included in their respective budgets. Furthermore, he submitted that the cost-sharing ratio between the Central Government and the State Government was clarified as 60:40, with only a 5% annual increase covered by the Central Government. Any additional financial burden beyond this ratio was to be borne by the State Government.
The Government Advocate highlighted disparities in the fees charged by different educational institutions for the same courses, which had been rationalized with the approval of the State Cabinet. Additionally, a maximum scholarship ceiling for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students had been set for the financial year 2015-16.
It was pointed out that in compliance with the court's directives, a meeting involving various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, was convened on 29.07.2021. During this meeting, several issues were discussed, including funding patterns, the amounts to be released under the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme, income ceiling adjustments, and ensuring quality education for Scheduled Caste students.
It was further pointed out that a departmental resolution was subsequently passed, requiring the approval of the State Cabinet for setting an upper ceiling for the scholarship of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students, considering the financial burden involved. The Government Advocate submitted that the Guidelines referred to by the petitioners applied exclusively to Scheduled Caste students, while the State of Bihar had a separate scheme for Scheduled Tribe students.
The Court at the outset noted, “the Guideline is for implementation of a Scheme framed by theCentral Government; which is not statutory in nature and there is no mandate on the State Government to implement it; especially if better schemes are available for the targeted category.”
The Court underscored that the primary objective of the Scheme was to enhance the enrollment of scheduled caste students in higher education, with a specific focus on those from the most economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Court emphasized that according to the Scheme's provisions, State Governments were expected to devise suitable methods for identifying eligible students based on local conditions. They were also encouraged to make special efforts to identify the poorest households through various sources, ensuring that eligible students were enrolled under the Scheme with a sense of urgency.
Referring to paragraph 10.3 of Guidelines, the Court pointed out that it clearly indicated that the decision to implement the Scheme rested with the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations, and the Guidelines were applicable only if the State chose to implement the Scheme.
“We decline interference to the Scheme already formulated by the State Government and refuse to issue any positive directions based on the Guidelines produced at Annexure-2. We dismiss the writ petition with the fervent hope that the State would always remain alive to the needs of the marginalized and constantly endeavor in uplifting the downtrodden,” the Court concluded.
Counsel For the Petitioner/s: Mr.Vikash Kumar Pankaj, Advocate, Mr. Pratiyush Kumar, Advocate
Counsel For the UOI: Dr. K.N. Singh, A.S.G., Mr. Prabhat Kumar Singh, Advocate, Mr. Sriram Krishna, Advocate
Counsel For the State: Mr. Prashant Pratap, GP-2
LL Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Pat) 105
Case Title: Rajeev Kumar and Anr vs. The Union of India and Others
Case no.: Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.18297 of 2022
Click Here To Read Order