Architects Act, 1972 will prevail over AICTE Act as far as recognition of degrees and diplomas of architecture education is concerned

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ and Deepak Gupta and Anirudhha Bose, JJ has held that norms and Regulations set by the Council of Architecture (CoA) and other specified authorities under the Architects Act, 1972 would have to be followed by an institution imparting education for degrees and diplomas in architecture.

The question before the Court was that whether the mandate of CoA or that of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) would prevail on the question of granting approval and related matters to an institution for conducting architectural education course, if there is any contradiction in the opinions of these two bodies.

Both of them are regulatory bodies constituted by Parliamentary legislations having power to approve or recognize and thereafter monitor working of such an institution. However, the Court held that

“so far as recognition of degrees and diplomas of architecture education is concerned, the Architects Act, 1972 shall prevail. AICTE will not be entitled to impose any regulatory measure in connection with the degrees and diplomas in the subject of architecture.”

The Court said that under both the statutes there are overlapping areas under which the respective Councils could make Regulations. Though these Acts, by themselves, do not come into direct conflict the inconsistencies have surfaced in implementing the power given to the Councils constituted under the respective enactments. It, however, noticed that

“The process of recognition and effect thereof are more expansive under the 1972 Act. All “authorities” require recognition by the Central Government to conduct any degree or diploma course in architecture education to qualify for being recognised qualification. The CoA under the said Act plays a key role in the process of recognition.”

It was also noticed that there is no exclusion or exemption of any institution from undergoing such recognition process except the subsisting ones at the time the Act became operational. The CoA has also wide monitoring power under Section 18 and 19 of the Act of every authority which grants recognized qualification under the said Act.

“The scheme of the Act thus demonstrates that lack of recognized qualification under the 1972 Act would in substance disentitle a person from being registered as an architect. He would not be able to legally represent himself as an architect in India.”

The Court, further, held that the CoA is not the ultimate decision-making authority, but it is the Central Government in relation to process of recognition of degree or diploma in architectural education or withdrawal thereof. Such decision is required to be taken after consultation with the CoA. But since CoA has been conferred with power to make regulations in relation to, inter-alia, recognition norms and monitoring of institutions imparting architectural education, CoA’s role in such process is critical.

On AICTE, the Court said that it’s he approval power is direct. But in the event AICTE’s norms come into conflict with that of CoA, any report or representation the CoA may make to the Central Government would be dependent upon the decision of the Central Government.

“The Central Government’s decision, taken under the provisions of the 1972 Act in such a case would obviously prevail, the latter being an authority superior to both the Councils constituted under the two statutes.”

The Court, hence, held that in respect of the provisions of Section 2 (g) of the All India Council of Technical Education Act, 1987, the definition of “technical education” would have to be given such a construction and the word “architecture” should be treated to have been inapplicable in cases where the AICTE imports its regulatory framework for institutions undertaking technical education. It said,

“This construction of the definition clause is necessary as the external context requires it to prevent an unworkable outcome in implementation of the 1987 Act.”

[AICTE v. Shri Prince Shivaji Maratha Boarding House’s College of Architecture, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1445, decided on 08.11.2019]

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