Conferment or Extension of Autonomous Status Independent Function of UGC: Madras HC

Conferment or Extension of Autonomous Status Independent Function of UGC: Madras HC

22.07.2021 | Education News | EduLegaL  | |
Madras High Court in Muthayammal Engineering College Vs. University Grants Commission and Others, and hearing three petitions[1], directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to decide independently on the application of the petitioner for extension of autonomous status, and not merely rely on approvals or rejections by affiliated Anna University.
A single judge bench of Hon’ble Justice D. Krishnakumar observed:

“It is for the UGC to consider the application to be submitted by institution like the petitioner with regard to the conferment of autonomous status unmindful of the rejection made in this regard by the affiliating University. In other words, it is not mandated that, unless the affiliating University forwards the application with recommendation, the application submitted by the institution cannot be considered by the UGC independently for the purpose of conferment of autonomous status.”

The petitioner college had applied to the respondent university for an extension of Autonomous Status under UGC Regulations 2018. Regulation 7.3 routes such application to UGC through the affiliating University.
19.02.2021, the respondent-university had submitted a rejection proposal towards an autonomous status extension application received from the petitioner to UGC on two grounds:

  1. failure to obtain accreditation by NAAC with A Grade / NBA; and
  2. Average pass percentage of students insufficient as prescribed in Anna University Guidelines 2018.

10.03.2021 the UGC reviewing and accepting the proposal directed the respondent-university to revoke the petitioner’s autonomous status. Subsequently, on 01.04.2021 the autonomous status of the petitioner was revoked.
The petitioner contended that opportunity for representation was not provided while adding that the accreditation by NAAC was a new requirement and regulations provided a five-year window for accommodating such changes. Concerning the issue of pass percentage criteria, the reliance was placed on Mahendran Institute of Technology, Namakkal v. Anna University & Anr. in which it was observed that autonomous status was conferred despite inadequate pass percentage. The petitioner contended that the power of granting/revoking autonomous status vested in the UGC, and by directing the respondent University to perform it, UGC had unlawfully delegated its powers.
However, the University contended that its actions were in accordance with Regulation 7.3 and its orders do not warrant interference.
The Court examined Regulation 7 of the UGC (Conferment of Autonomous Status Upon Colleges and Measures for Maintenance of Standards in Autonomous Colleges) Regulations, 2018. Though Regulation 7.3 prescribes that the University may forward the application or reject it, the UGC is the final authority in deciding the grant of status as per Regulations 7.6. However, in the present case, prima facie it appears that UGC passed orders merely relying upon the communications of the University. It was held:

“In order to reconcile the Regulation 7(3) of the Regulation, which has been quoted hereinabove, the application initially has to be routed through the affiliating University, then the University can either forward the same to the UGC with its recommendation or the University can reject the same with reasons. Even if it is rejected, according to Regulation 7(3), it has to be forwarded only to UGC for further action at the end of UGC. That is what intended by the Regulation making authority, who made the Regulations, 2018.”

The court, in conclusion, observing that UGC had not taken the decision independently and based only on the merits of the application and had passed the impugned order, it directed UGC to consider the application afresh, and pass orders in the light of UGC Regulations, 2018. Concerning the pass percentage of students of the petitioner college, UGC was to follow the precedent set in Mahendran Institute of Technology (Supra) case. It additionally added that the communications of the University were to be taken only as inputs and that the application was to be decided and processed within six weeks as expeditiously as possible.
[1](W.P.Nos.9631, 9636 and 5545 of 2021)
Vaibhav Karadale | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL

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