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Recently, in a case involving the entitlement of the Deemed Universities to start courses through distance education in subjects leading to award of degrees in Engineering, has dealt a severe blow, to Deemed Universities, and restrained them from using the word “University”.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court before making such direction, had made following observation:

“We must also put on record what we have observed during the course of the hearing and consideration of the present matters. It has come to our notice that many institutions which are conferred the status of Deemed to be Universities are using the word “University”, which in our view is opposed to the spirit of Section 23 of the UGC Act. The UGC shall take appropriate steps fo stop such practice.”

After making such observation, the Apex Court proceeded to make the following 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.”

Relying on the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, UGC has issued direction to all the concerned Deemed Universities, to stop using the word University in its name. UGC in its letter has quoted, Section 23 of the UGC, 1956, which reads as under:

Prohibition of the use of the word “University” in certain cases: “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.”

UGC has also relied on the relevant provision of UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016 to take support to issue the direction,

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.”

Upon all these reliance, the UGC has directed the Universities 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 (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016.

Continuing with old liberty, UGC has however, permitted the Deemed Universities to mention the word “Deemed to be University” within parenthesis.

However, historically in many case the declaration or grant of Deemed University, was with the name “University”, in such cases, UGC has asked Deemed to be University may submit a proposal with alternative name (without using the word ‘University’) to the UGC/Ministry of HRD so that necessary amendment can be made by the Ministry of HRD.

The Deemed Universities have been directed to treat the matter as MOST URGENT and comply with the direction within 15 days.

EduLegaL View:

UGC as any citizen/person of this country is obviously bound by the direction of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

However, it seems UGC while relying on UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016, has lost sight of the fact that these Regulations, replaced UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010, which has quashed and declared unconstitutional by the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court. UGC (lnstitutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010, also had similar prohibition. How is that, a prohibition invalid under 2010 Regulations, is treated to be valid under 2016 Regulations. Moreover, transfer Petition regarding the 2010 Regulations, was pending in Supreme Court, when this direction has been issued.

I have also mentioned earlier, the Apex Court could have come to this conclusion, however, in my most humble and respectful view, it would have been better if the Hon’ble Court would have discussed the merger of Section 3 of the UGC Act, 1956, which empowers Government of India to declare a Deemed University, with Section 2[f] of the UGC Act, 1956, which defines the word Universities and which according to UGC can use the word University. This discussion would have settled this discussion once and for all.

Also, a plain reading of Section 23 of the UGC Act, 1956 itself includes Deemed Universities in its ambit. Moreover, Deemed Universities are treated at par with other Universities for granting degrees in terms of Section 22 of the UGC Act, 1956. If one sees the governance and the organisational structure of a Deemed University, it is similar to any regular Universities.

Ravi Bhardwaj, Advocate |



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