Curtains down on Viplav Sharma Case in SC, Decade of suffering for Deemed Universities ends, what next?

SC2A case, pending for last 1 decade has finally come to an end in Supreme Court on 26.08.2016. The PIL has been disposed off simplicitor noting the acceptance of assessment done by NAAC and criticizing the manner in which grading of the Deemed Universities was done by a Tandon Committee, by ignoring the Statutory Authorities and on basis of power-point presentation and not physical inspection.

During the intervening period, Deemed Universities were being treated as sub-standard institutions unworthy of academic and geographical expansion on basis of findings of Tandon Committee and infact some odd 40 of them were “doomed”, as they were de-recognised by the Central Government on the basis of findings of the Supreme Court.

In the year 2006, one Viplav Sharma filed a Petition [PIL] in Supreme Court raising some issues relating to Deemed Universities. During the course of proceeding, MHRD constituted a committee headed by Prof. Tandon to review the functioning of the Deemed Universities. The Committee on basis of power point presentation in a room, without conducting physical inspection graded Deemed Universities in A, B and C Categories. According to the Tandon Committee while “A”, satisfied the satisfied the criteria of Deemed Universities, “B” Category were granted 3 years to take corrective measures and “C” Category Universities were sought to be de-recognised. The then Central Government accepted the report of Tandon Committee. All the “C” Category Deemed University challenging the findings and approached Supreme Court, which ordered maintaining “STATUS QUO” in the matter.

The findings of Tandon Committee also prompted MHRD / UGC to notify the UGC [Institutions Deemed to be Universities] Regulations, 2010, which was also challenged by several Deemed Universities in different High Court in the country. By Judgement dated 22.05.2014, the Regulations were quashed and were declared to be invalid and unconstitutional.

UGC Deemed University Regulations, 2010 declared illegal by Hon’ble Karnataka High Court

Summary of the Judgement of the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court on UGC Deemed Universities Regulations, 2010

Later, Supreme Court, though without commenting on legality of the Tandon Committee, expressed opinion that it is UGC which is mandated body to review Universities and asked UGC to inspect all the Deemed Universities and submit report.

For some reason, best known to UGC, it also followed the same process and methodology of Tandon Committee to assess the Deemed Universities. On being pointed out, SC reprimanded the UGC and asked them to assess Deemed Universities after conducting physical inspection.

SC disapproves UGC process of inspection by photographs and video-camera

UGC conducted inspection and found 7 of them to be still deficient, to which it granted a year to improve and remaining were cleared subject to approval by MHRD.

In the meantime, Supreme Court taking cognizance of the fact that NAAC, is a statutory autonomous body constituted under UGC Act, 1956 to undertake the functioning of assessment and accreditation, directed NAAC to assess the “C” Category Deemed Universities. NAAC after conducting inspection submitted its report. Surprisingly and contrastingly, many of those who were doomed by Tandon Committee got flying ranks from NAAC.

Decide on universities’ accreditation: SC to NAAC

Failed by Tandon Committee, passed by NAAC

During the proceedings on 19.04.2016, Supreme while accepting the NAAC Assessment, expressed its strong desire to dispose the PIL, with the observation that, “….. in all possibility, we would have closed the matter and a decade old public interest litigation which has, as submitted at the Bar, yielded certain results would have come to an end …..” . However, then Petitioner raised the contention that the Deemed Universities cannot use the expression “University”, in its name, as they are not Universities within the meaning of Section 2[f] and Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956. The Supreme Court keeping this issue open categorically observed that for all other purpose the Petition will not be heard on any other issue.

After come hearing which happened on 12.07.2016, 27.07.2016 and 29.07.2016, in the hearing dated 12.08.2016, the Petitioner expressed its desire to withdraw the Petition in light of order dated 19.04.2016. Finally in the hearing on 26.08.2016, the Supreme Court observing that, issue of using expression “University” by Deemed University was not an issue in the PIL , disposed the Petition. However, it did allow the Petitioner to take appropriate recourse available under the law regarding the issue of using of expression “University” by Deemed Universities.

So, finally curtain was drawn on the decade old Petition, which questioned the very existence of the Deemed Universities.

EduLegaL View:

EduLegaLIt was necessary that faith in power and mandate of statutory authorities should be restored. Tandon Committee had eroded this faith, which was further compounded by the inaction and reliance of MHRD on its findings. Finally and again Indian Judiciary has ended the continued agony and pain of a decade for Deemed Universities.

Issue, is what next, MHRD should disown Tandon Committee and its findings and should come clear on its policy relating to Deemed Universities. Right to establish and administer educational institution is a fundamental right, and it cannot be restricted by executive fiats, in nature of Tandon Committee. The field can only be governed and regulated by a just and fair law.

This conclusively proves that the “drawing room” method of out-sourced assessment by Tandon Committee was completely flawed. Eventually, the law of the country prevailed and Institutions have been given justice after long tiring struggle of 10 years. In true words, meaning, mandate and manifestation of law and supremacy of a statutory academic regulators has been restored.

Ravi Bhardwaj

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