This is the second high court judgment in a span of two months, ordering the Council of Architecture (CoA), a body constituted under the Architects Act, 1972, to maintain the minimum standards of architectural education in the country and to function within its legal limits.
In September, 2014, the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that the CoA had no power to grant or withdraw approval from any college of architecture and recently, on November 10, 2014, the Calcutta High Court held that by conducting a competency test for the students of architecture, CoA had made an attempt to rise higher than the Act from which it was created.
“No matter how pious and laudable the intention of the CoA in maintaining basic standards of architecture education might be, it ought to realise that in the guise of larger public interest it cannot bypass or overlook the statute by which it was created,” the Calcutta High Court judgment stated.
The petition against the competency test, which has been challenged in other high courts, too, was filed in the Calcutta High Court by some students who had done diploma courses in architecture from various government polytechnic colleges and then appeared for an exam conducted by the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA).
In 2004, CoA arbitrarily decided not to register students who became the associate members of IIA, alleging that IIA’s examination standards were not in conformity with the minimum standards set by the CoA in 1983.
After the CoA move, many students with diplomas in architecture had to continue studies for getting a bachelor of architecture degree. Then, when the CoA decided to introduce a competency test for students who passed out from the institutes/colleges running without its (CoA’s) approval, about 136 students decided to take the matter to court.
In the Calcutta High Court, the CoA tried to put forward the argument that the test was an academic evaluation in consonance with the powers of the CoA under Section 21 of the Architects Act.
Setting aside the argument, Justice Dipankar Dutta cited the Supreme Court judgment in the matter of Yash Ahuja vs the Medical Council of India (NCI). The Apex court in this case had allowed the MCI to conduct a screening test for medical students receiving their education from outside India because the MCI Act had been amended by Parliament in 2001 in order to empower the MCI to conduct the test.
“It is, thus, clear that whenever the need to conduct screening tests was felt, the Parliament rose to the occasion and introduced necessary amendments,” Justice Dutta had stated.
Ordering the CoA to register the aggrieved students, he further added, “A power to order disqualification that has been conferred on the government by Section 20 of the Act cannot be usurped by the CoA.”