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Supreme Court Asks Centre To Maintain Status Quo On 44 Deemed Universities

PTI 25 Jan 2010, 15:55:30 IST
PTI

Giving temporary relief to nearly two lakh students, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to maintain status quo on 44 deemed universities facing de-recognition for being run as family fiefdoms and not meeting requisite standards.

The court also issued notices to all the 44 deemed universities as also their parent varsities to file their response on the Government's decision to de-recognise them.

At the same time, the court asked the UGC to place its earlier report on the basis of which the Ministry had accorded deemed status to these institutions.

A bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A K Patnaik passed the order notwithstanding the Government assurance that no follow-up action would be taken against these institutions without court's consent.

The students from these universities received a bolt from the blue last week when the Centre informed the apex court that it had decided to de-recognise the institutions following the report of an expert committee which went into the issue.

Amidst strong protests from the aggrieved universities on the Government's decision, the apex court assured them that it would not pass any adverse order without hearing them as the issue not only involved several institutions but also the fate of the affected students.

In a bid to assuage the students thrown into uncertainty, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had assured that not a single student will be adversely affected and that all of them will get a university degree.

The court directed the Government to submit the reports of the Review Committee and the Task Force on the basis of which the HRD ministry had decided to crack the whip on the universities.  The committee had found that these universities were being run as family fiefdoms rather than on academic considerations.

It had found 44 such institutions having deficiencies and suggested that they should be given three years' time to rectify.  Nearly two lakh students are pursuing higher studies in these 44 institutions in 13 states which have been recommended for non-continuation of the deemed status as neither on past performance nor on their promise for the future have the attributes to retain the deemed status.

Overruling concerns of state governments or by simply ignoring their views, the University Grants Commission (UGC) granted deemed-to-be-university status to at least 11 of 44 institutes now blacklisted by the government, reports The Indian Express.

According to the latest audit scrutiny report of UGC records, another four institutes were granted the status despite not meeting minimum eligibility criteria — and against recommendations of committees of experts asked to assess fitness of the institutes — while another four who got it did not even maintain the required corpus fund. Still another five institutes were accorded the status though the required movable and immovable assets were not legally vested with them at that time.

While the UGC claims that it is the 44 institutes which are in the dock and not the Commission, audit findings of UGC records, accessed by The Indian Express, show there were “various instances of violation of established guidelines and specific recommendations of Expert Committees and state governments for the purpose of declaring an institution as a ‘deemed to be university' between 2004-05 and 2008-09”.

UGC Secretary R K Chauhan confirmed they had received the audit findings but claimed that the Commission had given adequate time to state governments for views on the institutes.“We have replied to the audit findings. We have gone by the guidelines for granting deemed university status and views of state governments were taken into account. We send two letters to each state government by registered post and if there is no response, we go ahead. Due time and opportunity was given to state governments,” Chauhan said.

But the audit — it was conducted by Director General of Audit, Central Revenues (DGACR) and will be part of the CAG report to be made public during the Budget session of Parliament — suggests otherwise. This is what the audit findings record:

* The Tamil Nadu government was against grant of deemed university status to four institutes saying they did not have adequate research and academic facilities but the UGC overlooked their advice and conferred the status to Saveetha Institute of Medical & Technical Sciences, Chennai, Vel's Institute of Science, Technology and Advanced Studies, Ponnaiyah Ramajayam Institution of Sciences and Technology and Noorul Islam College of Engineering. The HRD Ministry, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, has said all four institutes are unfit for the status.

* The Manav Rachna International, Faridabad, Nehru Gram Bharti Vishwavidyalaya, Allahabad and Modi Institute of Education and Research — the three de novo category institutes are among the 44 blacklisted — were conferred this status in October 2008, June 2008 and February 2004 respectively despite recommendations to the contrary by committees of experts. While Nehru Gram Bharti won the status despite not fulfilling eligibility criteria in terms of infrastructure and faculty strength, Manav Rachna was granted the status against the recommendations of the All India Council for Technical Education, the national regulator for technical education.

* In March 2008, the Uttarakhand government said the deemed university application of Graphic Era University should be kept pending. But it was granted the status in August 2008.

* In April 2005, the Karnataka government said it did not think Bangalore's Jain University was fit for deemed university status as it imparted undergraduate education and did not meet most UGC requirements. But in December 2008, it was granted the status. In April 2008, Karnataka said it was not recommending the status for Christ College, Bangalore. But in July 2008, the HRD Ministry notified it as a deemed university.

* Despite the Haryana government's view to the contrary, Maharishi Markandeshwar University, Ambala was granted deemed university status in June 2007.

* In June 2007, Pondicherry said Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth should not be given deemed status. But it was granted the status and notified in August 2008 — even against AICTE recommendations.

* Orissa's Shiksha O Anusandhan in Bhubaneswar, along with its seven constituent institutes ranging from management to pharmaceutical and computer sciences, were granted deemed-to-be-university status between July 2007 and September 2008 though “six out of the seven constituent units had not completed the mandatory period of ten years of existence”.

* Violation of regulations continued with Modi Institute of Education and Research, Rajasthan; D Y Patil Educational Society, Maharashtra; Academy of Maritime Education & Training and Koneru Lakshmaiah Education Foundation despite discrepancies in the corpus fund that institutes seeking deemed university status are required to hold.

* As many as 10 institutes, including several blacklisted, did not maintain movable and immovable assets the way it is required under UGC rules. Yet these were granted deemed university status, says the audit finding.