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In a strongly worded judgment, the Supreme Court of India has berated the University Grants Commission (UGC) for failing to regulate ‘Deemed to be Universities’.
A Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit, in its judgment, has also restrained Deemed to be Universities from carrying on any courses in distance education mode from the Academic Session 2018- 2019 onwards unless specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory/regulatory authorities for the same.
The Court was hearing a batch of appeals against the decisions of Orissa High Court and Punjab & Haryana High Court.
By way of background, degrees in Engineering obtained by serving diploma holders through Open Distance Learning mode offered by certain Deemed to be Universities through “off campus Study Centres” were found valid by the High Court of Orissa whereas the decision rendered by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana was to the contrary.
This led to appeals in the Supreme Court which were heard together.
The Court after hearing all the concerned parties came to the conclusion that the permission to conduct distances education courses were granted without any authority. The colleges in question started their distance education courses without taking any approval from UGC and/or AICTE and when there was no approved engineering college or faculty at their main campus. The Court, therefore pulled up the officials who were responsible for allowing such course and ordered a CBI probe.
“The factual narration mentioned hereinabove makes certain things distinctly clear. The affidavit of Mr. Ved Prakash discloses how permissions were granted to introduce courses in the present cases without any authority. On one hand, the authorities were proclaiming their policy statements and on the other, despite there being complaints, they went about granting permissions. Their conduct and approach is difficult to explain on any rational basis and leaves much to be desired. We are, prima facie of the view that the conduct of the concerned officials needs to be looked into and investigated whether the exercise of power by them was completely genuine or colourable. We do not express any final opinion in that behalf but direct the CBI to carry out thorough investigation into the matter and to take appropriate steps after culmination thereof.”
Lamenting at the “extent of commercialization of education” by such Deemed to be Universities, the Court also had some strong words for the UGC which according to it, “completely failed” in regulating such Deemed to be Universities.
“The present case shows the extent of commercialization of education by some of the Deemed Universities. The commercialization of education seriously affects creditability of standards in education, eroding power and essence of knowledge and seriously affecting excellence and merit. The present case further displays lack of effective oversight and regulatory mechanism for the Deemed to be Universities. The UGC had completely failed to remedy the situation. Serious question has therefore arisen as to the manning of the UGC itself for its effective working. We have already found that facilities at Study Centres were never checked nor any inspections were carried out which has led us to direct suspension of degrees for the students enrolled during academic sessions 2001-2005 and annulment of degrees of students admitted after academic sessions of 2001- 2005. We have also found that there was complete and flagrant violation of norms and policies laid down by the authorities by the Deemed to be Universities.”
The Court, therefore proceeded to issue a slew of directions:
Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram served as Amicus Curiae in the matter.
Read the judgment below.