The Telegraph
Thursday , January 23 , 2014
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Two-month wait for 44 deemed varsities

- UGC opinion not binding but Centre should give ‘due weightage’, says apex court

New Delhi, Jan. 22: The Supreme Court has granted the University Grants Commission (UGC) two months to decide whether 44 deemed universities planned to be de-recognised by the Centre should be allowed to continue.

The court said that while the recommendations of the UGC on their status were “not binding” on the Centre, the government must give “due weightage” to the higher education regulator’s opinion.

A bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen passed the order while disposing of a 2006 PIL seeking de-recognition of the 44 institutes on the ground that they did not meet standards for the “deemed” status.

The PIL alleged that the varsities were only money-spinners and treated as personal fiefs by their owners, with scant concern for academic excellence.

The HRD ministry had moved to withdraw their recognition, based on reports of two panels, after which the varsities challenged the government’s powers to take action and argued that only the UGC could do so.

In its order yesterday, the court said the UGC should give prior notices to the varsities on their alleged failure to meet standards and hear their explanations. The commission should also examine the reports of all panels.

“We feel it is appropriate to give a direction to the UGC to examine all reports, with notice to all 44 institutions. The institutions are free to raise objections against the reports and the UGC has to consider the same and take an independent decision in accordance with law, after affording a hearing, within a period of two months.”

Once that is done, the court said the UGC must “tender its advice” to the Centre. “Needless to say that the advice of the UGC is not binding on the Union of India but (it) has to be given due weight since the UGC is an expert statutory authority.”

The court clarified that it was not ruling on the merits of any of the reports. “We make it clear that we have not given our stamp of approval to any of the reports and it is for the UGC to consider all the reports, with notice to the 44 institutions, in accordance with the law,” Justice Radhakrishnan, writing the order, said.

In their appeals, the varsities have argued that the power to de-recognise them vested in the UGC and not in the Centre. The court has, however, so far refrained from deciding who has the powers to take such action.

The ministry had earlier told the court that one of the panels, Tandon Committee, examined the functioning of various institutions and found that the 44 did not satisfy any of the requirements. The ministry had also said it would put in place a mechanism to ensure the future of the students was not affected.

The 44 institutions were tested on nine parameters. These included conformity with UGC guidelines, governance, innovations in teaching, research output, faculty and admission processes.

The Tandon Committee had initially examined all 126 deemed universities in the country and classified them into A, B and C categories. The 44 varsities fell in category C, which signified the worst performance requiring revocation of recognition. It was suggested that those in the other two categories could continue.