New Delhi, Nov. 18: The University Grants Commission has turned down a human resource development ministry recommendation to get government auditor CAG to inspect the accounts of the 120-odd deemed universities, saying it was not legally tenable.
The higher education regulator does not usually go against suggestions that come from the government and its rare act of defiance, sources familiar with the development told The Telegraph, has left behind a bitter taste.
According to the sources, the ministry had written to the UGC quoting the regulator's own guidelines and regulations that provide for an audit of the accounts of all the deemed universities, a status that allows them autonomy in deciding on courses, syllabi, admissions and fees.
In its guidelines in the year 2000 for declaring an institution a deemed-to-be university, the UGC had said the accounts of all such varsities would be open to examination by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Its 2010 deemed-to-be-university regulations, which replaced the guidelines, reiterated the same provision for audit of accounts. But though the guidelines, and later the regulations, have been in place for a long time, the UGC has never requested the CAG for auditing the accounts of the deemed universities.
Following the ministry's letter, the UGC said it might not be legally tenable to audit the accounts of self-financing private deemed universities, which account for most of the deemed universities.
The UGC partially funds around 20 private deemed universities and fully funds three government-run deemed universities. Various government departments, like the HRD and culture ministries and the department of science and technology, fund a few other government-run deemed universities. Nearly 80 private deemed universities are self-financed institutions.
Sources said the HRD ministry would again ask the UGC to take the CAG's opinion if an audit was possible.
Legal expert Ravi Bhardwaj endorsed the UGC's stand, saying the CAG's mandate under the Comptroller and Auditor-General's (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act, 1971, was to audit the accounts of institutions that receive substantial government funds.
"These institutions (deemed universities) get their accounts audited by chartered accountants and submit returns to the income tax department. This system of dual examination will kill the system," he said.
"Allow the institutions to spread their wings in innovation and research and not keep such radars on their head," Bhardwaj added.
Professor R.K. Chauhan, vice-chancellor of Lingaya's University, a private deemed university in Haryana, said private deemed universities should not be treated in isolation. "If the accounts audit is a must, this should also apply to private universities set up under various laws (enacted) by state legislatures."
Chauhan, a former UGC secretary, also pointed out that government-run deemed universities had not been audited so far.