Case BriefsSupreme Court

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, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 364 OF 2005, decided on 08.11.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The vacation bench of Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant, JJ has refused to grant extension of time to respective medical colleges/deemed universities for carrying out counselling for P.G. courses and has said,

“If we permit violation of schedule and grant extension, we shall be opening a Pandora’s box and the whole purpose of fixing a time schedule and laying down a regime which strictly adheres to time schedule will be defeated.”

The petition filed by Education Promotion Society for India which representing a large number of   educational institutions including medical colleges running post­graduate (P.G.) medical courses that showed concern over the large number of seats in these colleges that are lying vacant. It was argued that there is an acute shortage of doctors in India and, in fact, the Union of India has permitted increase of seats in government medical colleges without increase of infrastructure

“this shows that the intention of the State is to ensure that more and more doctors pass out and treat the patients.”

The petitioner also cited various orders of this Court where extension of time was granted to medical colleges for carrying out counselling. On this the Court said,

“In this case the petitioners want a general extension of time not on account of any particular difficulty faced by any individual college or university but generally on the ground that a large number of seats for the P.G. courses are lying vacant.”

Taking judicial notice of the fact that every year large number of nonclinical seats remain vacant because many graduate doctors do not want to do post­graduation in non­clinical subjects, the Court said,

“Merely because the seats are lying vacant, in our view, is not a ground to grant extension of time and grant further opportunity to fill up vacant seats. The schedule must be followed.”

[Education Promotion Society for India v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 780, decided on 21.06.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Granting a one-time relaxation in favour of those candidates who were enrolled during the academic years 2001-2005 and who, in terms of the judgment passed on 03.11.2017, are eligible to appear at the test to be conducted by AICTE, the bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit, JJ directed:

“All such candidates, who wish to appear at the forthcoming test to, be conducted by AICTE in May-June 2018 and who exercise option to appear at the test in terms of the judgment, can retain the degrees in question and all the advantages flowing therefrom till one month after the declaration of the result of such test or till 31.07.2018 whichever is earlier.”

In the present matter a clarification was sought on the judgment dated 03.11.2017, wherein the bench had suspended the admissions of the students enrolled in the Distance Learning Engineering Courses of certain Deemed Universities during the Academic Sessions 2001-2005 and directed AICTE to conduct appropriate tests of the students in order to determine whether their degrees should be restored or not.

Senior advocate V. Giri, brought to the Court’s notice that the controversy in the said judgment was principally concerning the cases of in-service candidates who were initially employed as diploma holders but while in service had been awarded degrees in Engineering by Deemed to be Universities in question through distance learning mode; and that this Court was not called upon to consider cases where such degrees themselves became the foundation for a subsequent employment or selection and further advancement in career. He, hence, submitted:

“an exception be made in favour of such candidates whose qualifications were independently considered by an authority such as UPSC and were selected through competitive selection process and in any case, even if the Judgment were to apply to such candidates, the suspension of their degrees and all advantages flowing therefrom till they pass the test as indicated in the judgment ought not to be insisted upon.”

Refusing to grant such exception, the Court said:

“The infirmity in their degrees is basic and fundamental and cannot be wished away.”

However, at the same time, the Court found some force in the submission that if the suspension of their degrees and all advantages were to apply as indicated in the judgment, the concerned candidates may lose their jobs and even if they were to successfully pass the test, restoration of their jobs and present position would pose some difficulty and hence, gave the aforementioned clarification.

The Court, hence, clarified that this facility is given as one-time exception so that those who have the ability and can pass the test in the first attempt itself, should not be put to inconvenience. If the candidates pass in such first attempt, they would be entitled to retain all the advantages. But if they fail or choose not to appear, the directions in the judgment shall apply, in that the degrees and all advantages shall stand suspended and withdrawn. It was further clarified:

“no more such chances or exceptions will be given or made. They will undoubtedly be entitled to appear on the second occasion in terms of the judgment but this exception shall not apply for such second attempt.”

The Court, hence, directed AICTE to conduct the test in May-June 2018 and declare the result well in time. AICTE shall however extend the time to exercise the option to appear at the test suitably. [Orissa Lift Irrigation Corp. Ltd. v. Rabi Sankar Patro, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 31, decided 22.01.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Stating that educational institutions are bound to reserve seats from persons suffering from disability, the bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ directed that all those institutions which are covered by the obligations provided under Section 32 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 shall comply with the provisions of Section 32 while making admission of students in educational courses of higher education each year.

The other directions given by the Court in this regard are:

  • Insofar as law colleges are concerned, intimation in this behalf shall be sent by those institutions to the Bar Council of India (BCI) as well. Other educational institutions will notify the compliance, each year, to the UGC. It will be within the discretion of the BCI and/or UGC to carry out inspections of such educational institutions to verify as to whether the provisions are complied with or not.
  • UGC should constitute a committee consisting of persons from amongst Central Advisory Board, State Advisory Boards, Chief Commissioner of State Commissioners appointed under the Disabilities Act. The said committee will prepare a detailed study for making provisions in respect of accessibility as well as pedagogy and would also suggest the modalities for implementing those suggestions, their funding and monitoring, etc by June 2018.
  • The aforementioned committee will also consider feasibility of constituting an in-house body in each educational institution (of teachers, staff, students and parents) for taking care of day to day needs of differently abled persons as well as for implementation of the Schemes that would be devised by the Expert Committee.

It is important to note that the petition was filed only in respect of law colleges but considering the fact that these issues are of seminal importance, the Court decided to extend the coverage by encompassing all educational institutions. Stressing upon the importance of the issue, the Court said:

“a basic underline assumption, which is well recognised, is that everyone can learn; there is no such person as one who is ineducable; and that, accordingly, all disabled persons (from whatever disability they are suffering) have right to get not only minimum education but higher education as well. Not making adequate provisions to facilitate proper education to such persons, therefore, would amount to discrimination.”

The Court, hence, directed that the Report of the committee, as well as the Action Taken Report, shall be submitted before it in July 2018. [Disabled Rights Group v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1486, decided on 15.12.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a major decision in the matter relating to the students enrolled in the Distance learning Engineering Courses of certain Deemed Universities during the Academic Sessions 2001-2005, the bench of UU Lalit and AK Goel, JJ suspended the admissions and directed AICTE to conduct appropriate tests of the students in order to determine whether their degrees should be restored or not. It further added that students will not be given more than two chances to clear test/tests and if they do not successfully clear the test/tests within the stipulated time, their degrees shall stand cancelled and all the advantages shall stand withdrawn.

In the present case, it was contended before the Court that theDeemed Universities in question had set up “off campus centers” and “study centers” in violation of the Regulations framed by the UGC; that very same study center, at times was operating for more than one Deemed to be University; that these study centers completely lacked infrastructure and facilities for courses in Engineering and that the programmes through distance education mode were illegal and without approval.

Holding that the Deemed Universities were not justified in introducing any new courses in Technical Education without the approval of AICTE, the bench gave the following directions apart from the direction of conducting fresh admissions:

  • The entire expenditure for conducting the test/tests shall be recovered from the concerned Deemed Universities by 31.03.2018 and those students who do not wish to exercise the option, shall be refunded entire money deposited by them towards tuition fee and other charges within one month of the exercise of such option. The degrees of such students will stand cancelled.
  • If the students clear the test/tests within the stipulated time, all the advantages/benefits shall be restored to them and their degrees will stand revived fully.
  • As regards students who were admitted after the Academic Sessions 2001-2005, their degrees in Engineering awarded by the concerned Deemed to be Universities through distance education mode stand recalled and be treated as cancelled. However, the entire amount paid by such students to the concerned Deemed Universities towards tuition fees and other expenditure shall be returned by the concerned Deemed Universities by 31.05.2018.
  • CBI will carry out thorough investigation into the conduct of the concerned officials who dealt with the matters and went about the granting permissions against the policy statement and into the conduct of institutions who abused their position to advance their commercial interest illegally.
  • UGC will also consider whether the Deemed University status enjoyed by Universities in question calls for any withdrawal and conduct an inquiry in that behalf by 30.06.2018 as indicated above.
  • Deemed Universities will not carry on any courses in distance education mode from the Academic Session 2018- 2019 onwards unless and until it is permissible to conduct such courses in distance education mode and specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory/regulatory authorities in respect of each of those courses and unless the off-campus Centres/Study Centres are individually inspected and found adequate by the concerned Statutory Authorities.
  • UGC will take appropriate steps and implement Section 23 of the UGC Act and restrain Deemed Universities from using the word ‘University’ within one month from today.

The Court also asked Union of India to constitute a three members Committee comprising of eminent persons who have held high positions in the field of education, investigation, administration or law at national level within one month, for examining the issues indicated above and suggest a road map for strengthening and setting up of oversight and regulatory mechanism in the relevant field of higher education and allied issues within six months. The Court said that the Committee may also suggest oversight mechanism to regulate the Deemed Universities.

Asking the Union of India to file an affidavit in this Court of the action taken on or before August 31, 2018, the Court placed  the matter on 11.09.2018. [ORISSA LIFT IRRIGATION CORP. LTD v. RABI SANKAR PATRO, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1281, decided on 03.11.2017]