UGC Act governs open universities, says high court

  • Jeevan Prakash Sharma, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 29, 2015 17:40 IST

The judgment of Sikkim High Court delivered on June 26, 2015, has made it clear that UGC regulations will prevail upon state legislatures in the matters of higher education. Here’s the complete lowdown on the case:

SMU’s Argument

Sikkim Manipal University filed a writ petition in the Sikkim high court pleading that its application dated July 10, 2012, to Ignou-DEC for the continuation of recognition granted to distance education programme (DEP) was kept pending and Ignou-DEC ordered it to cease fresh admissions pending decision.

SMU argued that it started DEP in different parts of the country in 2001 with the permission of the UGC. UGC, in 2005, asked SMU to take permission from DEC, which, in August 2007, not only granted retrospective recognition to its programmes, but also gave provisional recognition for 2007-08, which was later extended for the academic year 2008-09. On October 15, 2009, DEC’s chairman granted regular recognition from 2009-10 to 2011-12.

On March 10, 2010, DEC decided to allow universities to offer courses beyond the boundary of their own state if that particular university’s act permitted so. However, it reversed its position on June 8, 2012. “This was violative of the petitioner-university’s right to admit students on an all-India basis mandated by the state act, argued SMU.

On December 2012, when DEC’s regulatory role was vested with UGC, it invoked Regulation 2003 and asked the private universities to restrict its DEP to its own state. SMU objected to the application of 2003 regulations of several grounds. The University also objected to the transfer of power from DEC to UGC by an executive order.

UGC’s Argument

UGC argued that it was vested with the power to recommend to any university the measures necessary for improvement of university education. It also submitted that from SMU’s prospectus, it was clear that it was offering unapproved programmes. UGC alleged that while granting regular recognition from 2009-10 to 2011-12, it was clearly said that SMU was permitted to offer programmes only within the state. However, the university violated it. UGC argued that in view of the specific policy directive of the government of India, unless all deficiencies were first rectified, there were restrictions on UGC to grant permission.

HC’s ruling

The Sikkim high court held that “the UGC Act under which the UGC has been created has supervening influence over all other legislations on the subject of education for maintenance of minimum standards in the country.” The court asked SMU to approach UGC for recognition of its DEP.

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