A bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit directed a CBI inquiry against the conduct of UGC officials who had granted ex-post facto approvals to the four deemed universities against the policy and into the conduct of these institutions which had abused their position to advance their commercial interests.
The top court observed that commercialisation of education "seriously affects credibility of standards in education, eroding power and essence of knowledge and seriously affecting excellence and merit" and directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to restrain such institutions from using the word 'University' within one month from today.
The Supreme Court directed that degrees of students who have pursued engineering in academic session 2001-05 from four deemed universities -- JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Institute of Advanced Studies in Education (IASE), Rajasthan, Allahabad Agricultural Institute (AAI) and Vinayaka Mission's Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, will remain suspended. The court has also recalled the engineering degrees awarded to students who were admitted after the academic session 2001-05 in these four deemed universities in distance education mode.
The court also set aside the ex-facto approvals granted by the UGC to these four deemed universities, terming them as "incorrect" and "illegal", saying that such institutions were not justified in introducing any new course in technical education without the approval of AICTE.
"It goes without saying that any promotion or advancement in career on the basis of such degree shall also stand withdrawn, however any monetary benefits or advantages in that behalf shall not be recovered from them," Justice Lalit, who penned down 118-page verdict for the bench, said.
The top court directed the AICTE to hold tests for the students whose degrees would stand suspended by January 15, 2018 and said these students should not be given more than two chances to clear the examination. The bench clarified that if the students clear the tests within the stipulated time, all the advantages shall be restored to them and their degrees will stand revived.
If the students do not successfully clear the examination within the stipulated time, their degrees will stand cancelled and every single advantage on the basis of that degree shall also stand withdrawn, it said.
It also withdrew the benefits accrued on the basis of such degrees but directed that the entire amount paid by such students to the concerned deemed universities towards tuition fees and other expenditure shall be returned by May 31, 2018.
The top court directed the Centre to constitute a three-member committee comprising eminent persons who have held high positions in the field of education, investigation, administration or law at the national level within one month.
No course-specific approvals will be granted for distance learning courses to off-campus centres or study centres unless they are individually inspected and found adequate by the statutory authorities.
It said the Committee may examine the issues and suggest a roadmap for strengthening and setting up of oversight and regulatory mechanism in the relevant field of higher education and allied issues within six months.
It said the panel may also suggest an oversight mechanism to regulate deemed universities and the Centre could examine its report and take appropriate action within a month and file an affidavit on the action taken by August 31, 2018.
The verdict came on a batch of appeals challenging the orders of the High Courts of Orissa and Punjab and Haryana by which the former held the degrees in engineering obtained by serving diploma holders through distance learning mode offered by certain deemed universities to be valid, whereas the latter termed such degrees to be invalid.
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