No Distance Education for Technical Courses without AICTE’s Approval

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Supreme COurt

Supreme COurtNovember 04, 2017

Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Corp. Ltd. v. Rabi Shankar Patro & Ors.

Date of Judgment: November 03, 2017

As the week ends, Supreme Court has given us a slice of news which is going to have a huge impact on educational institutions imparting distance course particularly technical courses in India. The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice U.U. Lalit have pronounced an essential piece of judgment which would go a long way in determining the status of Deemed to be Universities in India and the modus operandi of conducting distance education courses in India.

The Bench in the case came down heavily on imparting of technical education by the concerned Deemed to be Universities in the case. The concerned Deemed to be Universities in the case were:

The four concerned Deemed to be Universities in the case were:

  1. JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Udaipur, Rajasthan (JRN)
  2. Institute of Advanced Studies in Education, Sardarshahr, Rajasthan (IASE)
  3. Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Allahabad, U.P.
  4. Vinayak Mission’s Research Foundation Salem, Tamil Nadu

Background of the case: In the case, dispute revolved around denial of promotion of Respondents by the Petitioner on the ground that the Respondents have acquired Degree Qualification of distance/correspondence education course from JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth which is not recognized by AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education). It was stated that it was the policy of the AICTE, not to recognize the qualifications acquired through distance education mode at Diploma, Bachelors & Master’s level in the fields of Engineering Technology including Architecture, Town Planning, Pharmacy, Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Applied Arts & Crafts and Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) and that AICTE only recognizes MBA and MCA programme through distance mode.

Thus, it was principally submitted by the Petitioners that the degrees in Engineering obtained by the concerned candidates by distance education from JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth University and similar Deemed to be Universities were not recognized degrees and as such the concerned candidates could not be said to be Graduate Engineers eligible for benefits under the Law.

The Amicus Curiae in the case submitted that approval of UGC and IGNOU are required for distance learning education for general courses, and in the case of specialized technical courses, the satisfaction and recommendation of AICTE or such other specialized body would be additionally called for.

Key Issues Taken up By the Bench:

Importance of classroom education for technical coursesTechnical education leading to the award of degrees in Engineering consists of imparting of lessons in theory as well as practical. The practical forms the backbone of such education which is hands-on approach involving actual application of principles taught in theory under the watchful eyes of Demonstrators or Lecturers. Face to face imparting of knowledge in theory classes is to be reinforced in practical classes. The practical, thus, constitute an integral part of the technical education system.

AICTE’s Status- If according to AICTE such courses ought not to be taught in distance education mode. That is the final word and is binding – unless rectified in a manner known to law. What parameters ought to be satisfied if the regular course of imparting technical education is in any way to be modified or altered, is for AICTE alone to decide. That whether subjects leading to degrees in Engineering, could be taught in distance education mode or not is within the exclusive domain of the AICTE. Without the Guidelines having been issued in that behalf by AICTE expressly permitting degree courses in Engineering through distance education mode, the Deemed to be Universities were not justified in introducing such courses.

We therefore conclude that the Deemed to be Universities in the present case were required to abide by the provisions of 1994 AICTE Regulations and could not introduce courses

Engineering Degree granted to students who were enrolled during the academic years 2001 to 2005 shall stand suspendedDirect that all the degrees in Engineering granted to students who were enrolled during the academic years 2001 to 2005 shall stand suspended till they pass such examination under the joint supervision of AICTE-UGC. That in respect of students admitted after the academic sessions of 2001-2005, the degrees in Engineering awarded by the concerned Deemed to be Universities through Distance Education Mode shall stand recalled and be treated as cancelled. Any benefit which a candidate has secured as a result of such degrees in Engineering in the nature of promotion or advancement in career shall also stand recalled. However, if any monetary benefit was derived by such candidates that monetary benefit or advantage will not be recovered by the concerned departments or employers.

Use of the term ‘University’- Direct the UGC to consider whether the Deemed to be University status enjoyed by the concerned institutions, namely, JRN, AAI, IASE and VMRF calls for any such withdrawal and conduct an inquiry in that behalf. That many institutions which are conferred the status of Deemed to be Universities are using the word “University”, is opposed to the spirit of Section 23 of the UGC Act. The UGC shall take appropriate steps to stop such practice.

UGC’s Failure to Stop Commercialization of Education– The Supreme Court in the case made a scathing attack on the UGC incompetency in remedying the situation and expressed concern over manning of the UGC for its effective working

In the light of the aforesaid issues, the Supreme Court directed the Union of India to take the following immediate steps:

  1. 1994 AICTE Regulations, do apply to Deemed to be Universities and the Deemed to be Universities in the present matter were not justified in introducing any new courses in Technical Education without the approval of AICTE.
  2. Insofar as candidates enrolled during the Academic Sessions 2001-2005, in the present case the ex post facto approvals granted by UGC and their concerned authorities are set aside.
  • Consequent to aforesaid, all the degrees in Engineering awarded by concerned Deemed to be Universities stand suspended.
  1. The AICTE shall devise the modalities to conduct an appropriate test/tests. The option be given to the concerned students whose degrees stand suspended by 15.01.2018 to appear at the test/tests to be conducted in accordance. Students be given not 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. The entire expenditure for conducting the test/tests shall be recovered from the concerned Deemed to be Universities by 31.03.2018.
  2. 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. Needless to say their degrees shall stand cancelled and all advantages/benefits shall stand withdrawn.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.
  3. 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. All benefits secured by such candidates shall stand withdrawn. However, the entire amount paid by such students to the concerned Deemed to be Universities towards tuition fees and other expenditure shall be returned by the concerned Deemed to be Universities by 31.05.2018.
  • By 31.05.2018 all the concerned Deemed to be Universities shall refund the sums indicated above in and an appropriate affidavit to that extent shall be filed with UGC within a week thereafter.
  • The UGC shall also consider whether the Deemed to be University status enjoyed by JRN, AAI, IASE and VMRF calls for any withdrawal and conduct an.
  1. That all Deemed to be Universities are refrained from carrying 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.
  2. That Union of India may constitute a three members Committee to examine 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.