Judgement Summary

PRANEETH K AND OTHERS V UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION

Coram- Ashok Bhushan, M R Shah,  Subash Reddy JJ.

  • Issues-
    • . Whether   the   revised   guidelines   dated 06.07.2020   requiring   the   Universities   to complete   terminal   semester/final   year examination   by   30.09.2020   is   beyond   the domain   of   the   UGC   and   does   not   relate   to “co­ordination   and   determination   of standards   in   institution   of   higher education”?
    • Whether   the   revised   guidelines   dated 06.07.2020   issued   by   the   UGC   are   non statutory,   advisory   only   and   contrary   to earlier guidelines dated 29.04.2020? 3. Whether   the   UGC   guidelines   dated 06.07.2020   are   violative   of   Article   14   of the Constitution of India?
    • Whether   the   UGC   guidelines   dated 06.07.2020   are   violative   of   Article   21   of the Constitution of India and the guidelines have   been   issued   disregarding   the   pandemic COVID­19?
    •  Whether the guidelines of the UGC dated 06.07.2020 are liable to be set aside on the ground   of   non­compliance   of   Section   12   of UGC Act, 1956?
    • Whether   the   State   and   State’s   Disaster Management  Authority   in   exercise   of jurisdiction   under   Disaster   Management   Act, 2005   can   take   a   decision   not   to   hold examination   by   30.09.2020   disregarding   the direction   in   the   UGC   guidelines   dated 06.07.2020?
    • Whether   the   State   or   State   Disaster Management   Authority,   in   exercise   of jurisdiction   under   Act,   2005,   can   take   a decision   to   award   degrees   to   final year/final   semester   students   by   promoting them on the basis of criteria of assessment formulated by the State/Universities on the result   of   previous   semesters/exams   and internal   assessment   of   final   year/terminal semester   in   disregard   to   the   guidelines dated   06.07.2020   which   require   holding   of examination   of   final   year/terminal   semester by 30.09.2020?
  • Judgment-
    • Issues-I
      • A Three Judge Bench of this Court had occasion to consider   all   legislative   entries   pertaining   to education including University education in Professor Yashpal and Anr. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh and Ors., (2005) 5 SCC 420. It said, UGC   will   also   have   the   power   to recommend   to   any   University   the   measures necessary for the reform and improvement of University   education   and   to   advise   the University concerned upon the action to be taken for the purpose of implementing such recommendation. The Commission will act as an   expert   body   to   advise   the   Central Government   on   problems   connected   with   the co­   ordination   of   facilities   and maintenance of standards in Universities
      • In the present case, the   Guidelines   dated   06.07.2020   provided   that Universities are required to complete the examination by   the   end   of   September,   2020   in   offline   (pen   and paper)/online / blended (offline and online mode) all terminal semester/final year examinations 2020.   The Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 intended that it is only after   holding   of   terminal   semester/final   year examination,   Universities   may   proceed   to   grant degrees.     The   challenge   to   Guidelines   is   on   the ground that Guidelines are beyond the domain of UGC and   does   not   relate   to   “co­ordination   and determination of  standards  in institution of  higher education”.  Court has held in Professor Yashpal case that the standards of education in an institution depends on various factors, one of which   includes   “the   standard   of   examinations   held including the manner in which the papers are set and examined”.
      • In  Modern Dental College and Research Centre and Ors. Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors., (2016) 7 SCC 353, the court held that The   enactment   in   question   does not run foul of any of the existing Central laws. As far as the introduction of a CET at a national level is concerned, the same was   not   enforced   during   the   period   of operation   of   the   State   statute.   In   any event, there being no Regulations regarding fixation or determination of fees of these institutions to ensure that the same does not   allow   commercialisation   or profiteering,   the   State   Legislature   was well   competent   to   enact   provisions regarding the same. In the judgment it was held, UGC interference is limited   “however,   that   would   not include conducting of examination, etc. and admission of students to such institutions or prescribing the fee in these institutions of higher education, etc.”
      • In the present case UGC has not demanded for conducting examination. The   examinations   are   to   be conducted by the respective Universities only. Hence, Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 are not beyond the   domain   of   the   UGC   and   they   relate   to   coordination   and   determination   of   standards   in institutions of higher education.

  • Issue -2
    • Guidelines have   been   issued   by   the   UGC   in   exercise   of   power under   Section   12.     Section   12   of   the   Act   provides that it shall be the general duty of the Commission to take all such steps as it may think fit for the promotion   and   co­ordination   of   University   education and   for   the   determination   and   maintenance   of standards   of   teaching,   examination   and   research   in Universities.  The words “all such steps” are of wide import.     The   steps   referred   to   in   Section   12   may include issuance of guidelines, directions, circulars etc.     The   Guidelines   dated   06.07.2020   has   to   be treated to have been issued in exercise of statutory powers   vested   in   the   Commission   under   Section   12. Guidelines   issued   in   exercise   of   statutory   powers, thus, cannot be said to be non­statutory.
    • The UGC(Minimum Standards of Instruction for the Grant of the   Master’s   Degree   through   Formal Education)Regulations,   2003 categorically   requires   Universities   to   adopt   the Guidelines   issued   by   the   UGC,   hence,   it   is   the statutory   duty   of   the   Universities   to   adopt   the guidelines issued by the UGC.   It is the statutory obligation   of   the   Universities   to   adopt   the Guidelines   and   the   Guidelines   cannot   be   ignored   by terming it as non­statutory or advisory.  
    • Issue-3
      • The   earlier   guidelines   provided   that   the examination may be conducted, however, an option was given with regard to  intermediate/year  students for their promotion on the basis of internal assessment and performance in the previous semesters. Holding of examination   for   the   Final   year   students   was   made necessary   by   the   impugned   guidelines.   The   Final year/terminal   semesters   examinations   are   important because the learning process is a dynamic interaction where the only way to figure out what students know is   to   seek   evidence   of   their   knowledge   and   to evaluate   it.   Performance   in   examination   especially Final   year/terminal   semester   examination   are reflection   of   competence   of   the   students.   Terminal semester/Final   year   examination   also   provides   an opportunity   to   the   students   to   improve   upon   their overall   score/marks   which   are   very   crucial   for academic excellence and opportunities of employment. Final   year/terminal   semester   examination   of   underGraduate   or   post­Graduate   is   an   opportunity   for student to show   his optimum calibre which pave his future career both in academics and employment. COurt does not find any unreasonableness or arbitrariness in the revised   guidelines   of   University   Grants   Commission dated   06.07.2020   which   require   all   Universities/ Collages to conduct at least the final year/terminal semester examination.
      • The   differentiation   made   by   revised   guidelines to hold Final year/ Terminal semester examination has a   rational   basis   and   there   is   an   intelligible differentia   between   the   student   of   Final year/Terminal   semester   and   other   students.  Court   thus rejects the challenge on the ground that there is any hostile discrimination between the students of Final year/Terminal semester and other students.
    • Issue -4
      • The University Grants Commission is conscious of increasing   number   of   covid   cases   throughout   the country   and   as   observed   above,   the   revised guidelines   have   extended   the   period   for   completion of the examination.
      • Ministry   of   Human   Resource   Development (MHRD),   has   issued   detailed   guidelines   for   conduct of examination which guidelines were duly vetted by Ministry   of   Health   and   Family   Welfare(MoHFW).
      • The Standard operating procedure for conduct of   examination makes it abundantly clear that UGC, MHRD, and Ministry of Health   and   Family   Welfare   are   fully   concerned with   the   health   of   all   stakeholders   i.e.   the students as well as exam functionaries.
      • Hence, court opines it is not violative of art. 21
    • Issue -5
      • The   revised   guidelines   dated   06.07.2020   have been challenged on the ground that it has been issued in the breach of Section 12(1) of the UGC Act, 1956.Section   12(1)   mandates   that the Commission  in consultation with the Universities and other bodies concerned shall take all such steps as   it   may   think   fit.
      •  It   is   submitted   that   before issuance of the revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020, the UGC was required to consult all the Universities and   other   bodies   concerned.   The   submission   is   that the   expression   ‘other   bodies   concerned’   used   in Section   shall   include   State   Disaster   Management Authority   which   has   been   constituted   in   each   state
      • and before issuance of guidelines dated 06.07.2020, it   was obligatory for the UGC to consult the State Disaster Management Authority.
      • But, this submission is misconstrued becasue, the   use   of   the   word   ‘Universities   or   other bodies concerned’ in the opening part of the Section has been with a purpose of referring the universities or other bodies for whom UGC does its functions. State Disaster management authority is not included in it.
    • Issue -6
      • With   regard   to   conduct   of   examinations,   the State   authorities   are   competent   to   assess   the situation in a particular State regarding possibility of   holding   of   examinations.   No   State   shall   permit health of its subject to be compromised that is why overriding power has been given to the State Disaster Management   Authority   and   the   State   Government   with regard   to   any   inconsistency   with   any   other   law   for the time being in force.
      • Hence, direction   of   the   University   Grants Commission in its revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020 insofar it directs the Universities and colleges to complete   the   final   year/terminal   examinations   by 30.09.2020   shall   be   overridden   by   any   contrary decision   taken   by   a   State   Disaster   Management Authority   or   the   State   Government   exercising   power under   the   Disaster   Management   Act,   2005.
    • Issue -7
  • State Disaster   Management   Authority   and   the   State Government   has   no   jurisdiction   to   take   a   decision that the students of final year/terminal examination should   be   promoted   on   the   basis   of   earlier   years assessment   and   internal   assessment   whereas   the   UGC guidelines dated 06.07.2020 directed specifically to conduct final year/terminal semester examination. The UGC guidelines dated 06.07.2020 in the above respect shall override  the decision of the State Government and the State Disaster Management Authority regarding promoting   the   students,   does   not     fall   within   the jurisdiction of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and shall   have   no   protection   of   Section   72   of   the Disaster   Management   Act,   2005.  
Standard

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