delhi high court

Delhi High Court: In a petition filed by the petitioner highlighting the inaction of the University Grants Commission (‘UGC’) with respect to Universities/ Institution/ Colleges providing unspecified courses, a division bench of Satish Chandra Sharma and Sanjeev Narula, JJ., did not pass specific order and directed UGC to comply with the provisions of the UGC Act, 1956.

The petition seeks directions directing the UGC to ensure compliance by all universities and deemed-to-be universities and colleges and institutes, with Notification dt. 05-07-2014 issued by the UGC and connected notifications to ensure uniformity in degree nomenclature. It further seeks direction in mandamus directing the UGC to ensure wide publication of a consolidated specified degrees at least twice a year, prior to the commencement of each academic session and maintain and publish a list of approved degrees for each registered university and deemed-to-be university and college and institute on its website.

The petition further seeks to conduct a process of normalization of nomenclature of already issued unspecified degrees to the equivalent approved nomenclature with directions to issuing universities and deemed-to-be universities and colleges and institutes to re-issue fresh, normalized degree certificates in terms of the specified degrees and that the word “may” should be interpreted as “shall” in Section 13 of the UGC Act, 1956. It also seeks to revise the amount of penalty of Rupees One Thousand only provided in Section 24 of the UGC Act, 1956, to be commensurate with the nature and scope of the breach if any and appoint an independent committee of retired judges to inquire into and fix accountability into the systemic failure, spanning the tenures of multiple UGC officials, that has resulted in large scale conferment of unspecified degrees.

The facts of the case reveal that the UGC, with the approval of the Central Government, published a notification dated 05-07-2014 pertaining to the specification of degrees which specifies the nomenclature of degrees in the Gazette of India. Thereafter, on 11-07-2014 the Secretary, UGC addressed a letter to the Vice Chancellor of all the Universities wherein it was clearly stated that Section 22 of the Universities Grants Commission Act, 1956 (‘UGC Act, 1956’) is mandatory and binding on all the Universities, and that the Universities are to award the degree(s) only within the framework of the said provision.

UGC has further issued two notifications being University Grants Commission [Categorisation of Universities (Only) for Grant of Graded Autonomy] Regulations, 2018 and University Grants Commission (Conferment of Autonomous Status Upon Colleges and Measures for Maintenance of Standards in Autonomous Colleges] Regulations, 2018 with an objective to determine, promote and maintain the standards of higher education in higher education institutions and to coordinate and determine the standards of higher education in universities, respectively.

The Court noted that the University Grants Commission has been constituted under the provisions of the UGC Act, 1956 that came into force w.e.f. 05-11-1956. The Act was enacted to make provisions for the coordination and determination of standards in universities. The UGC under the Act has been entrusted with the duty to take such steps as it may deem fit for the promotion and co-ordination of university education and for the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in universities.

The Court further noted that Respondent 2 has issued various letters to all the universities to ensure that they comply with provisions of the UGC Act regarding the specification of degrees and that Respondent 2 is taking all necessary measures to ensure strict compliance with the UGC Act, 1956 regarding the specification of degree. Furthermore, the UGC stated in their letter that when such universities/ colleges wish to award a degree other than one specified by the UGC or change the duration of the course specified as a minimum in the said notification, it shall approach the UGC for its approval six months prior to starting the degree programme with full justification on the course to be started. It is also pertinent to mention herein that a list of specifications of degrees issued vide gazette notification is also available on the website of the UGC.

The Court held that no order is required to be passed in the present writ petition. However, UGC is directed to take appropriate necessary actions to ensure compliance with the provisions of the UGC Act, 1956.

[Rahul Mahajan v Ministry of Education, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6117, decided on 27-09-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Vikram Singh Kushwaha, Advocate for petitioner

Mr. Manoj Ranjan Sinha and Mr.Deepak Sain, Advocates for respondents

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