In a major setback to the Deemed University, the Apex Court refused entertain the application seeking re-consideration of its earlier order, by which it has observed that Deemed Universities are not entitled to use the word “University”. It had also directed UGC to ensure compliance of the direction.
“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.”
Following the direction, UGC directed the Universities by public notice dated 10.11.2017 to restrain from using the word ‘University’. It has also cautioned the Deemed Universities, that if the directions are not followed, UGC will initiate necessary action against the Deemed to be University in accordance with the UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016.
Clause 20.0: “An Institution deemed to be university shall not use the word ‘University’ suffixed to its name but may mention the words “deemed to be university” within parenthesis suffixed thereto.”
Continuing with old liberty, UGC has however, permitted the Deemed Universities to mention the word “Deemed to be University” within parenthesis.
Recently by another notice of 29.11.2017 taking cognizance of non-compliance of its direction, it also threatened to recommend withdrawal of the Deemed University status.
In the meantime, some of the Deemed Universities approached Supreme Court seeking to be impleaded in the main matter, as they were not heard in the matter earlier and also further modification of the direction whereby they were restrained from using the word University.
It was argued by Deemed Universities that Section 23 of the UGC Act does not prohibit deemed varsities from using the word “university”. It was also submitted that the Universities have been using the word for years and a huge amount of goodwill and reputation has been created due to such usage, and due to the direction of the Supreme Court.
No institution, whether a corporate body or not, other than a University established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act shall be entitled to have the word “University” associated with its name in any manner whatsoever:
Provided that nothing in this section shall, for a period of two years from the commencement of this Act, apply to an institution which, immediately before such commencement, had the word “University” associated with its name.
The Supreme Court however rejected the arguments of several senior counsels Mukul Rohatgi, Gopal Subramanium, K.V. Vishwanath and refused to interfere with its earlier and dismissed the Petition. The Court was of the view that Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 permits only those universities, which have been established by a Central / State Legislation to use the word “University”, however a Deemed University is basically recognised as a deemed university and hence cannot use the word ‘university’.
I have a question, if the Government allowed these Deemed Universities to use the word University whether actively or passively, then was the Government honest in making the argument of restrictive interpretation of Section 23 of the UGC Act to deny Deemed Universities the continuance to use the word University.
Now that the application seeking modification has also been dismissed, the only option left is to challenge the vires of Section 23 of UGC Act, 1956 to say that it discriminatory as against the Deemed Universities and hence violative of Article 14 of Constitution of India. It amounts to creating a class within class without any reasonable justification as both the categories of Universities engage in same function and activities.
Another option could be if government of India is persuaded to amend Section 23 of UGC Act to specifically include deemed University within the scope of Section 23 of UGC Act, 1956.