In a recipe for vegetable peas pulav, the instructions were very clear to boil the vegetables and peas separately, prepare spices separately and finally mix them with boiled rice for a good balance in taste and texture. However, a chef in a hurry ended up doing the entire process together—boiling and preparing all ingredients together. Result: vegetable peas pulav becomes ‘vegetopple pieces pulav’ putting the dinner in disarray.
Similar policy disarray in the case of the deemed universities should not happen. While the Supreme Court’s November 3, 2017, order in Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Ltd v/s Rabi Sankar Patro is tested for its per incuriam before appropriate courts, in a fresh round of litigation, the policy makers are obligated to implement the SC order in parts after understanding the whole—instead of misunderstanding the parts and implementing the whole.
The present SC order did not have the benefit of the Constitution bench order in Azeez Basha v/s Union of India in (1968 SCR (1) 833) in an issue concerning Aligarh Muslim University. SC’s 1968 interpretation of the word ‘established’ along with Section 22 and 23 of the UGC Act, is: by harmonious construct an institution which once was not empowered to award degrees recognised by the Central Government and then established under a Central Act (UGC Act, in the case of deemed universities) so that its degrees are recognised.
Consequentially, the fact that deemed university degrees are recognised by the government under Section 22 of the UGC Act makes it a university established under a Central Act, and so for the purposes of Section 23 of the UGC Act it can use the word University and needs to be considered.
However, more important is the issue of approval from AICTE. The SC order also held that 1994 AICTE Regulations are applicable for deemed universities and this has to be interpreted from the mood and language expressed and used by the SC. The SC while framing the two questions for consideration was clear that the issue was with regard to engineering degrees in distance mode and the competency of Distance Education Council (DEC) over AICTE (Para 35 of order).
While answering these two, the SC was of the opinion that there could be two categories of Deemed to be Universities. The first is, it has a status for excellence in a field of technological subject and wants to introduce a course like robotics or nano-technology.
The second was: a university which was conferred such status for excellence in subjects which are completely unrelated in which new courses are sought to be introduced. While the institution would teach finance and music, yet could it introduce engineering courses on the strength of the proposition laid down in Bharathidasan? Thus, the court also confined its decision to the second category of Deemed to be Universities.
In 2016, the MHRD and UGC both rightly stated that Deemed Universities need not obtain prior approval from AICTE for starting any professional or allied courses covered by the AICTE Act. Understanding the SC order in its whole, the AICTE needs to implement its policy decision in parts and not vice versa. AICTE approval for deemed universities is not necessary for those technical institutions which the AICTE independently recommended for conferment of Deemed University status before UGC’s independent recommendation.
AICTE’s sudden retrograde inclusion of such deemed universities is a faulty understanding of the SC order in parts and a hasty implementation of its approval process in whole. In short: AICTE needs to understand whole and implement parts and not the vice versa.
Dean, Planning & Development, SASTRA University