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The Supreme has recalled its earlier order suspending all the Engineering Degrees acquired in distance education mode until the declaration of the result and has also excluded the Diploma Holders from the AICTE Examination / revalidation process. Earlier, in Judgement dated 03.11.2017, the Supreme Court had suspended all the Distance Education Degree for the students enrolled between 2001-2005 and for students enrolled thereafter, the degrees were rendered illegal and invalid.

However, Supreme Court was later approached with several application seeking clarification and modification of directions issued in its Judgment and Order dated 03.11.2017.

The various categories of the Candidates, who has approached Supreme Court seeking clarification were:

A] Those who were holding diplomas in Engineering, enrolled in courses leading to award of B.Tech degree through distance learning mode or have acquired Graduate Degree from Distance Learning Mode. Later, on the basis of these degrees underwent selection by Union Public Service Commission or any other statutory corporation and entered certain services and are presently engaged in the service on the basis of such selection by UPSC / statutory corporation. Some applicants were also those who have joined Private Sector, Corporate Sector or are in foreign countries.

B] The students though completed B.Tech courses in Computer Science through distance education mode in 2004 but instructions were imparted in ITM International and they were awarded degrees by Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Deemed to be University. Later they acquired degrees in M.Tech and other qualifications based on such B.Tech degree and have thereafter advanced in career.

C] The candidates had acquired first degrees in Engineering from a regular and approved Institution and as such their first degrees are not invalid or irregular on any count. However, these candidates had later acquired Master’s degrees in Engineering from Deemed to be Universities through distance education mode.

D] Those who were awarded diplomas in Engineering through distance education mode by the concerned Deemed to be Universities.

E] Those who had enrolled themselves in courses offered by Vinayaka Missions Research Foundation (VMRF) through distance education mode, which was granted Deemed to be University status for its excellence in subjects including engineering and technology unlike other Deemed to be Universities.

It was generally argued by the Counsels that an exception be made in favour of such candidates whose qualifications were independently considered by an authority such as UPSC and were selected through competitive selection process.

Mr. Kapil Sibal, learned Senior Advocate argued that in the main judgement, Court was principally concerned with first degrees in engineering which were acquired through distance education mode and not the Master’s degrees.

Mr. Dhruv Mehta, learned Senior Advocate argued that this Court was concerned with courses leading to degrees of Engineering and not to diplomas and as such rigor of the Judgment ought not to apply to pure and simply diploma holders. He therefore contended that the public notice issued by AICTE was beyond the scope of the matter.

Mr. Anupam Lal Das, learned Advocate submitted that VMRF was granted Deemed to be University status for its excellence in subjects including engineering and technology and therefore the case of VMRF stood on a different footing and the courses offered by VMRF were not in any way found to be on the wrong side.

One of the most important argument was regarding suspension of Degrees till the results are declared by AICTE, through an examination, which was to be conducted as per the direction of the Supreme Court. It was argued that may result in loss of job for candidates, who had independently undergone fresh selection and were directly appointed and even if they were to successfully pass the test conducted by AICTE, restoration of their original position and jobs would itself become a difficult proposition.

The Supreme Court while heard the matter at length on 08.01.2018 and the Judgement was pronounced on 22.01.2018.

The Supreme Court noted that earlier judgment pertained to validity of degrees in Engineering conferred by the Deemed to be Universities through distance education mode and this Court was not called upon to consider validity of diplomas conferred by such Deemed to be Universities. However the advertisement issued by AICTE covers diploma courses as well. The Court therefore validity of such courses leading to diplomas was not the subject matter of the judgment.

However, on the issue of having higher qualification on basis of such distance education degrees, the Court rejected the argument all such degrees whether post-graduate or graduate, were invalid and no distinction can be drawn.

The Supreme Court also considered the point that the candidates after securing the degrees in Engineering through distance education mode, have advanced in career and that their ability was tested at various levels and as such requirement of passing the examination in terms of the judgment be dispensed with in their case, however refused to make any exception in that case.

However, Supreme Court found some force in submission that if the suspension of their degrees and all advantages were to apply as indicated in the judgment, the concerned candidates may lose their jobs and even if they were to successfully pass the test, restoration of their jobs and present position would pose some difficulty and therefore granted a one-time relaxation in favour of those candidates who were enrolled during the academic years 2001-2005 and who, in terms of the judgment, are eligible to appear at the test to be conducted by AICTE.

The Court said that all such candidates, who wish to appear at the forthcoming test to be conducted by AICTE in May-June 2018 and who exercise option to appear at the test in terms of the judgment, can retain the degrees in question and all the advantages flowing therefrom till one month after the declaration of the result of such test or till 31.07.2018 whichever is earlier, however, at the same time clarified that if they fail or choose not to appear, the directions in the judgment shall apply, in that the degrees and all advantages shall stand suspended and withdrawn.

EduLegaL View:

Though it is great to see that Supreme Court has re-considered the aspect of suspension of the degrees, which is one of the positive of the Judgement, which means that Degrees will remain until the declaration of the result.

But I am mainly concerned with the students, who enrolled after 2005. If their degree was illegal, then certainly the degree for students who enrolled uptil 2005, were also acquired on grant of ex-post facto approvals, which was also against the law. Their case should also have been considered sympathetically. With all respect, while agreeing with the interpretation done by the Court “accommodative justice” should have been rendered in this case and not “adjudicative justice”.

In any case, now the argument cannot continue !

Ravi Bhardwaj | | |

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