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AICTE has now expanded its reach from Institutions to the Universities, pertinently Deemed and Private Universities and mandated them to seek its approval for for all their existing Technical Programme(s) and Course(s). This provisions has been made mandatory in the AICTE Approval Process Handbook for the academic year 2018-19,

In 1994 AICTE had introduced Regulations to say, “no courses or programmes shall be introduced by any Technical Institution, University including a Deemed University or University Department on College except with the approval of the Council”. However, later Supreme Court in case of Bharathidasan University and Another v. All India Council for Technical Education and Others declared said Regulation to the extent it required a University to have approval for introducing any courses or programmes in technical education, to be bad. However, they were required to conform to the standards and norms laid down by AICTE for the purpose of ensuring coordinated and integrated development of technical education and maintenance of standards.

1.3.5      Institutions Deemed to be University/ Private University seeking approval for the first time from AICTE shall submit an application as a new Technical Institution for all their existing Technical Programme(s) and Course(s). Institution Deemed to be University having multiple campuses should apply separately for each campus for approval.

The Supreme Court recently in case of Orissa Lift Irrigation Corp. Ltd. vs. Rabi Sankar Patro & Ors. [2017 (13) SCALE 148], while dealing with the issue of conducting of engineering courses in Distance Education mode, also  discussed the Bharathidasan Judgement, and dealt with the aspect, as to whether, a Deemed to be University is also entitled to the same protection, as is to a University, established under a State Law, i.e., to start new courses in Engineering without the approval of AICTE.

The Supreme Court for that purpose, categorised the Deemed Universities, as

1] The first category could be of a Deemed to be University, which was conferred such status for its excellence in a field of technological subject, is now desirous of introducing courses or programmes integrally connected with the area- in respect of which it was conferred Deemed to be University status. For example, an Engineering College which because of its excellence in the field was conferred Deemed University status, now wishes to introduce courses in subjects like Robotics or Nano Technology which are Engineering subjects and integrally connected with its own field of excellence.

2] The second category could be of a Deemed to be University which was conferred such status for its excellence in subjects which are completely un-related to the field in which new courses are sought to be introduced. For example an Institution engaged in teaching Fine Arts and Music, for its excellence in that chosen field- or for that matter an institution engaged in teaching Law had been conferred such status. Can such a Deemed to be University claim immunity from regulatory control of AICTE and say that it is entitled, as a matter of right, to introduce courses in Engineering on the strength of the decision of this Court in Bharathidasan.

UGC had argued that Deemed Universities in the second category mentioned above are not entitled, as a matter of right, to introduce courses leading to degrees in Engineering without the approval of AICTE. It was also argued that, the conferral of status is only because of excellence in a particular field or subject which then entitles the Deemed to be University to utilise its excellence to conduct research and achieve advancement in that field. However merely because such status was conferred on the concerned institution, in his submission, would not entitle it to similar protection in the second category cases, as available to a University by virtue of the decision of this Court in Bharathidasan Case.

The Supreme Court came to the conclusion that a Deemed to be University in the second category mentioned hereinabove is still an institution of the stature of a “technical institution” and if it desires to introduce new courses it must fulfill the requirements of 1994 AICTE Regulations. A Deemed to be University which has achieved excellence in a particular field may be given deferential treatment but nonetheless it has to satisfy the requirements for new technical institution.

It seems that the decision of AICTE is based on the Judgement of the Supreme Court and now all the  Deemed and Private Universities will now have to seek approval of their existing programme who are first time applicant.

“Programme” means the field of Technical Education, i.e. Engineering and Technology, Pharmacy, Architecture, Planning, Applied Arts and Crafts, Hotel Management and Catering Technology, MCA, Management (MBA/ PGDM/ PGCM)

The new direction of AICTE will now apply to 123 deemed universities across the country and 282 private universities that are currently functioning in various States.

EduLegaL View:

There are many questions arising out of this prescription,

Firstly, the case of the Supreme Court was only relating to Deemed Universities, then why has AICTE made the process of approval also necessary for Private Universities, which are established under the State Law? Has AICTE gone beyond the order of the Supreme Court? Is it not a case of over-reach of statutory powers?

Secondly, in respect of the Deemed Universities also, is it necessary for the second category Deemed Universities or for all, in either case, is it only for the new courses to be introduced or for all earlier courses also.

All needs clarity, as this will lead to another litigation.

Ravi Bhardwaj | |

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