Students holding degrees granted before May 21, 2010, from deemed universities heaved a sigh of relief after a recent Delhi high court (HC) order that any new course/department started by deemed universities without taking the consent of the University Grants Commission (UGC) before May 21, 2010, was valid.
Many deemed universities had started courses at different points of time without taking requisite UGC permissions.
However, Delhi HC order also states that UGC approvals are mandatory for new programmes/departments launched after May 21, 2010.
UGC had argued before Delhi HC that deemed universities should have started degree courses in accordance with its (UGC’s) 2000 and 2004 guidelines, which mandated all deemed universities to first seek its approval.
However, Delhi HC, prioritising regulations instead of guidelines, ruled that guidelines could not be laid down without framing regulations, “which it (UGC) did only by inclusion of Regulation 12 in the Regulations of the year 2010 which came into force on 21st May, 2010.”
The guidelines of year 2000 or of 2004 or the instructions issued by UGC requiring deemed universities to obtain its prior approval before starting a new course “are of no avail and UGC could not have insisted so without framing the Regulation,” HC said.
For UGC, the news has its positives as well as negatives. While the Division Bench of the Delhi HC upheld the UGC (institutions deemed to be universities) Regulations 2010, a Single Bench of Karnataka HC had earlier struck down the Regulations, which UGC has challenged in the Division Bench.
“Now when the Division Bench of the Delhi HC has upheld the validity of Regulation 2010, it will make our case quite strong in the Karnataka HC . However, Delhi HC’s ruling that UGC can’t regulate such a matter by issuing guidelines instead of regulations is a big setback for us. It puts a question mark on several important guidelines which UGC has issued from time to time. We may challenge it in the Supreme Court,” a UGC source says.
The matter came to Delhi HC when the Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Science, (formerly Allahabad Agricultural Institute) filed a writ petition and said that UGC by a letter dated December 3, 2014, had informed the university that it had not taken approvals to start the departments of: i) public health, ii) pharmaceutical sciences, iii) medical laboratory technology (MLT), and, iv) nursing. The letter said that as per the UGC norms already circulated to the deemed university it can start only those courses which are allied to courses already approved by the UGC. Prior UGC approval is required for programmes which are not allied to the courses already approved.
The university was also informed by UGC that the courses being offered by its departments of i) public health, ii) pharmaceutical sciences, iii) MLT, (iv) radio imaging technology, and v) physiotherapy, were not allied to the courses approved by the UGC and hence “cannot be termed as valid”. The UGC also instructed the university not to admit students to the said courses.
The university challenged the validity of UGC’s letter and also questioned the validity of its previous guidelines of 2000 and 2004 and Regulation 2010, arguing that there was no provision in the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, which required a deemed university to seek UGC approval for starting a course.
Giving partial relief to both the university and UGC, the Division Bench said, “...even though UGC Act does not make any distinction between a university and a deemed university but the two cannot possibly fall in one class and UGC would be entitled to make such a provision for deemed universities only.”