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The Bombay High Court recently upheld the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) regulation to bring down the intake of direct admission or a lateral entry to second-year engineering courses for diploma holders from 20% to 10% of the approved seats.
In doing so, the Court also emphasised thet there is no fundamental right to admission in any college or institute. As stated in the judgment,
“As we have seen, the AICTE regulates all technical institutes, and prescribes minimum standards applicable to all. There is no fundamental right to admission in any particular college or institute. There is no fundamental right to prestige.”
A Division Bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and GS Patel made the observation while dismissing a petition filed by engineering diploma students and their parents challenging the reduction in lateral entry intake. The petitioners had claimed that AICTE notification will affect lateral entry to reputed and prestigious technological institutes.
AICTE, an apex body which regulates technical education and educational institutes in India, had issued the notification on December 31, 2018 to cut the intake capacity for lateral admissions to the second year of technical courses by half.
The notification was issued to reduce vacancies across technological institutes from academic year 2019-20 as part of policy.
Earlier, technical institutes could laterally admit up to 20 % more students than the number of seats allotted to it. More than 50,000 lateral entry admissions to second year engineering were made in Maharashtra alone in the academic year 2018-19.
Senior Counsel Mihir Desai and Gayatri Singh appeared for petitioners, while advocate Abhijit Joshi appeared on behalf of the AICTE.
The petitioners had argued that they took up diploma courses anticipating that 20% lateral entry would be allowed to the second-year of the engineering course as it was a norm at the time of their enrolment. This being the case, it was contended that the AICTE cannot alter it.
The petitioner students further argued that the notification is meant to commercially benefit smaller colleges that have plenty of unfilled or surplus seats.
The petitioners contended that top, reputed colleges have a next to no vacancies in the first year in view of their prestige. In this backdrop it was argued,
“It is colleges of ill-repute, which suffer from poor quality faculty and infrastructure that have vacant seats, and reducing the quota of lateral entry thereby forces diploma students who would otherwise have secured admission to prestigious colleges to move to these lower quality colleges, which is also the admitted case of respondent AICTE.”
However, the Court dismissed the claim of prestige by the petitioners, observing,
“This lets the cat out of the proverbial bag. The claim, masked and disguised and made up to look like a fundamental right violation, discrimination, and arbitrariness, is nothing but a claim to prestige. It is not accidental that all three colleges named in this paragraph are in urban areas. The allegation that other colleges are of ill-repute and have poor faculty is without demonstrated basis.”
After perusing AICTE response and the data regarding lateral admissions, the Court held that the notification does not entail any denial of any lateral entry seat at all. The Court observed that there is overabundance of such seats.
The Court went on to remark,
“The world is so fiercely competitive may be regrettable, but we can do nothing to change it. We respect the petitioners’ dreams, hopes and aspirations of gaining engineering degrees from colleges of renown. It is not our intention to impede or in any way imperil these aspirations.“
In view of these observations, the Court dismissed the petition, while also stating,
“Courts are often said to be in loco parentis vis-à-vis students and children. This case is no different, and it is in precisely that role that we wish them all the best and every success in their careers as engineers.”