Distance Education in Technical field by Deemed Universities

Validity of Engineering by Postal Education.

Technical Education in India and Role of AICTE:

Technical education leading to the award of degrees in Engineering consists of imparting of lessons in theory as well as practicals. The practicals form 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 practicals, thus, constitute an integral part of the technical education system. If this established concept of imparting technical education as a qualitative norm is to be modified or altered and in a given case to be substituted by distance education learning, then as a concept the AICTE ought to have accepted it in clear terms. 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. The decision must be specific and unequivocal and cannot be inferred merely because of absence of any Guidelines in the matter. No such decision was ever expressed by AICTE. On the other hand, it has always maintained that courses leading to degrees in Engineering cannot be undertaken through distance education mode. Whether that approach is correct or not is not the point in issue. For the present purposes, 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.

Deemed University’s Commercial Venture:

The concerned Deemed to be Universities had gone far beyond their limits and to say the least, had violated binding policy statements. Even when they did not have any experience in the concerned field and had no regular faculty or college in Engineering, they kept admitting students through distance education mode. When there was nothing at the core, the expansion was carried at the tertiary levels in brazen violation. The idea was not to achieve excellence in the field but the attempts appear to be guided by pure commercial angle. We therefore, 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. If the concerned Deemed to be Universities fail to return the moneys to the concerned students as directed above, that factor shall also be taken into account while conducting such exercise.

Students holding such degree to undergo test.

The AICTE is directed to devise within one month from the date of this judgment modalities to conduct appropriate test/tests both in written examination as well as in practicals for the concerned students admitted during the academic sessions 2001-2005 covering all the concerned subjects. It is entirely left to the discretion of AICTE to come out with such modalities as it may think appropriate and the tests in that behalf shall be conducted in the National Institutes of Technology in respective States wherever the students are located. The choice may be given to the students to appear at the examination which ideally should be conducted during May- June, 2018 or on such dates as AICTE may determine. Not more than two chances be given to the concerned students and if they do not pass the test/tests their degrees shall stand recalled and cancelled. If a particular student does not wish to appear in the test/tests, the entire money deposited by such student towards tuition and other charges shall be refunded to that student by the concerned Deemed to be University within a month of the exercise of such option. The students be given time till 15th of January, 2018 to exercise such option. The entire expenditure for conducting the test/tests in respect of students who wish to undergo test/tests shall be recovered from the concerned Deemed to be Universities by 31.03.2018. If they clear the test/tests within the stipulated time, all the advantages or benefits shall be restored to the concerned candidates. We make it clear at the cost of repetition that if the concerned candidates do not clear the test/tests within the time stipulated or choose not to appear at the test/tests, their degrees in Engineering through distance education shall stand recalled and cancelled. 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.

Directions by Supreme Court:

I.  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.

II. 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.

III. Consequent to aforesaid direction No.II, all the degrees in Engineering awarded by concerned Deemed to be Universities stand suspended.

IV. The AICTE shall devise the modalities to conduct an appropriate test/tests as indicated in Para 47 above. 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 with the directions in Para 47 above. 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 as stated in Paras 46 and 47 above. The entire expenditure for conducting the test/tests shall be recovered from the concerned Deemed to be Universities by 31.03.2018.

V. 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 as mentioned in Para 47. VI 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.

VII. 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 as indicated in Para 48 above. 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, as indicated in Para 48.

VIII. By 31.05.2018 all the concerned Deemed to be Universities shall refund the sums indicated above in VII and an appropriate affidavit to that extent shall be filed with UGC within a week thereafter.

IX. We direct the CBI to 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, as indicated in Para 49 above and into the conduct of institutions who abused their position to advance their commercial interest illegally. Appropriate steps can thereafter be taken after culmination of such investigation.

X. 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 inquiry in that behalf by 30.06.2018 as indicated above. If the moneys, as directed above are not refunded to the concerned students that factor shall be taken into account while conducting such exercise.

XI. We restrain all Deemed to be Universities to 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. The approvals have to be course specific.

XII. The UGC is further directed to take appropriate steps and implement Section 23 of the UGC Act and restrain Deemed to be Universities from using the word ‘University’ within one month from today.

XIII. The Union of India may 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. The Committee may 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. The Committee may also suggest oversight mechanism to regulate the Deemed to be Universities. The Union of India may examine the said report and take such action as may be considered appropriate within one month thereafter and file an affidavit in this Court of the action taken on or before August 31, 2018. The matter shall be placed for consideration of this aspect on 11.09.2018.

[Source: Orissa Lift Irrigation Corp.Ltd. vs Rabi Sankar Patro, on 3 November, 2017]
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