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Pvt law remedies devoid of public element not enforceable through writ jurisdiction against public authorities: HC

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Srinagar: The J&K High Court has held that private law remedies cannot be enforced through writ jurisdiction, even against public authorities and should have public element in them.

In the case titled Maheen Showkat Vs UT of J&K, the bench of Justice Javed Iqbal Wani said that private law remedies against public bodies are not enforceable through writ jurisdiction unless their functions had a public element.

The bench emphasized that where an action is essentially of a private character, a writ petition would not be maintainable.

The judgment by Justice Wani spelled out the boundaries between public and private law matters. It asserts that private remedies cannot be pursued through extraordinary writ jurisdiction, even when dealing with public authorities.

The judge underscored that while a body’s duty might render it amenable to writ jurisdiction, not all its functions are subject to judicial review unless they inherently possess a public element.

The writ petition involved a minor student, who according to her counsel, faced denial of admission to class 11th in a private school due to her father’s legal actions against the concerned school administration. The petitioner prayed that the girl student be admitted to the school and compensated for alleged harassment.

The counsel for the petitioner argued that actions by the school violated the girl child’s right to education and constituted harassment. He said that despite the school receiving government aid and being affiliated with the State Board of School Education, its actions were maliciously motivated by personal reasons.

After hearing the parties, Justice Wani observed that the petition primarily addressed private wrongs allegedly committed by the school administration. However, it lacked a discernible public element.

Referring to the cases titled St Mary’s Education Society vs Rajendra Prasad Bhargava, and K K Saksena vs International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, Justice Wani restated “private law remedies cannot be enforced through writ jurisdiction, even against public authorities”.

He said “it is manifest and evident that the petitioner has alleged private wrongs to have been committed by the respondents without having any public element therein being sine qua non for maintaining the writ petition and seeking the reliefs/writs as have been sought in the writ petition”.

The bench pointed out that the school girl had acquired a discharge certificate from the agitated school during the pendency of the writ petition. This rendered the matter infructuous, it said. The petition was accordingly dismissed without availing any reliefs prayed for through it.

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