In a landmark judgment with far reaching consequences, the Supreme Court on November 3 came down heavily on deemed universities and declared invalid thousands of engineering degrees offered by four of them since 2001. It is beyond a straw of doubt that this is a major setback to thousands of students who pursued engineering studies through correspondence studies through correspondence courses offered by deemed universities in the last 16 years. This has certainly put them at grave risk of losing their precious jobs obtained on the basis of the certificates from these deemed universities.
As it turned out, the Bench noted grave oversight in the functioning of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and officials in the Ministry of Human Resources Development to permit such an illegality to go on from 2001 till 2005 in granting approvals. Giving benefit to the affected students who studied during this period, the Bench directed AICTE to conduct a fresh examination in all subjects within a month. Students will have to pass the exam in two attempts following which their degrees will be revived and all benefits that accrue based on these degrees will be restored.
It merits no reiteration that the Bench also made it clear that, “It goes without saying that any promotion or advancement in career on the basis of such degree on the basis of such degree shall also stand withdrawn. However, any monetary benefits or advantages in that behalf shall not be recovered from them.” It also must be borne in mind that the court also very rightly ordered a CBI inquiry into the conduct of officials involved in the grant of ex post facto approvals in 2006-07 to these institutes to conduct the courses though the UGC policy was against this. Those who are guilty of wrong doing must be punished most strictly because it is their wrong acts that has put in peril the future of thousands of students who graduated from these institutes!
Pulling up the UGC for its nonchalant approach, the Apex Court said it also showed “lack of effective oversight and regulatory mechanism for the ‘deemed to be universities’. It said “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.” UGC must reform its functioning approach because it has got a rap from none other than the highest court of India and this has put a serious question mark on its very credibility. I am sure that the think-tanks in UGC would now swing into damage control mode and take appropriate action to further contain the damage so that such an unpalatable situation never arises again!
As things stand, it has also been provided that those skipping the tests or failing to clear them will forfeit their degrees. The deemed institutions will foot their bill for conducting the test and will even refund the entire fees to the students who fail to clear. They will even return the fees to those students who secured engineering degrees post-2005.
Needless to say, while ordering to stop all further admission into these courses beginning this academic year, the Bench of Justices Adarsh K Goel and UU Lalit directed the Centre to set up a three-member expert committee to analyse and propose a roadmap to strengthen the regulatory mechanism for the deemed universities and higher education. The Committee will give its recommendations to the Centre by August 2018. The matter will be placed before the court for further hearing on in 2018.
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.