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Universities can't dilute standards prescribed by AICTE but can stipulate enhanced norms & standards

universities cannot dilute the standards prescribed by AICTE, they certainly have the power to stipulate enhanced norms and standards.

The Source Of Power For The Syndicate To Prescribe Norms And Standards For Affiliation, Is Sec.30(2) of the University Act, 2015.

APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University & Anr. v. Jai Bharath College Of Management And Engineering Technology & Ors.

Civil Appeal No. 4016 Of 2020 (@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.11482 Of 2020)

10th December, 2020.

Counsel for Appellants: Mr. Chander Uday Singh.

Counsel for Respondents: Mr. S. Krishnamoorthy, Ms. Priyanka Prakash, Mr. Anil Soni.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court Justices S.A. Bobde, A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian in an appeal filed by Respondent No.1 aggrieved by the order passed by the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court directing the Vice Chancellor of the University to reconsider the application for affiliation of a new B.Tech course, submitted by the first respondent, which is a self­ financing Engineering College, solely on the basis of the extension of approval granted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, which is a State University set aside the impugned judgment.

The writ petition filed by the first respondent challenging the denial of affiliation for starting a new B.Tech course in Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, was taken up along with similar writ petitions filed by other colleges and all of them were disposed of by a learned Judge of the High Court by a Judgment by which the Judge held:

(i) that in view of the requirements of Section 14 of the University Act read with Section 30(2)(xiv), the Syndicate cannot be said to be lacking in authority for fixing the norms for affiliation;

(ii) that the norms fixed by the Syndicate in its resolution as communicated by the Order of the Registrar would be applicable to both programmes and courses;

(iii) that in view of the resolution of the Syndicate, NOC from the State Government and NBA accreditation are no longer necessary;

(iv) that as a consequence, the State Government Order was liable to be set aside; and

(v) that the University may have to reconsider one portion of its decision, after taking note of the recommendation contained in Annexure 1 and Clause 7 of Annexure 14 of the Approval Process Handbook and a clarification issued by AICTE.

Not satisfied with the partial relief granted and the directions issued by the learned Judge, the first respondent filed a writ appeal before the Division Bench of the High Court which partially allowed the writ appeals, holding:

(i) that the Syndicate did not have the power to take the decisions, as there was no University Statute in force on that date and that in the absence of the Statute, the Vice­ Chancellor alone had the power under section 14(6) of the Act to make any recommendation to the Board of Governors in the matter of affiliation; and

(ii) that the University cannot go beyond AICTE Regulations. Hence, the present appeal was filed.

The court observed that

"Section 30(1) vests upon the Syndicate, the executive powers of the University, including the general superintendence and control over the institutions of the University. Sub­section (2) of Section 30 lists out the powers available to the Syndicate, subject to the provisions of the Act and the Statutes. Thus, the source of power for the Syndicate to prescribe norms and standards for affiliation, is Section 30(2). Section 30(2) begins with the words “subject to the provisions of the Act and the Statutes”. So, if there is something in the Act or the Statutes which regulates or controls the power of the Syndicate, then the Syndicate may be bound by such prescription. But if there is nothing in the Act/Statutes or if there are no Statutes at all, then it cannot be said that the power itself is unavailable. The power of the Syndicate to propose norms and standards flows out of the Act and not out of the University Statutes. Therefore, the absence of Statutes, till they were made for the first time on 07.08.2020, did not mean that the power under Section 30(2) could not have been exercised. " (Para 33)

The High Court erred in thinking that in the absence of the Statutes, recourse was available only to the Vice Chancellor under Sec.14(6), overlooking for a moment that the power under Sec.30(2)(iii) would not become otiose due to the absence of the Statutes. Under Clause (xi) of Sec.42, it is clear that the Statutes can provide for the conditions and procedure for affiliation. The absence of the Statutes would only mean the absence of Statute­ stipulated conditions and procedure for affiliation, but not the absence of the very power of the Syndicate flowing out of Sec.30(2)(iii). Therefore, it was not necessary for the Vice Chancellor to fall back upon Sec.14(6) on the ground that there were no Statutes at that time. The section says that in the absence of a Statute, it is the Vice Chancellor who has the power to regulate any matter which is required to be regulated by Statutes or Regulations. It cannot be interpreted to mean that the Syndicate itself will be powerless in the absence of the Statutes and that the Vice Chancellor will have the power. Hence, the court is of the view that the High Court was in error in holding on the first issue that the resolutions passed by the Syndicate prescribing norms and standards for the grant of affiliation for additional courses, are ultra vires the Act.

In R. Chitralekha v. State of Mysore and Ors. AIR 1964 SC 1823, the Constitution Bench of this Court pointed out that the question regarding the impact of Entry 66 of List­I on Entry­ 25 of List ­III must be determined by a reading of the Central Act and the State Act conjointly. The Court pointed out that a State Law providing for such standards, having regard to Entry 66 of List ­I, would be struck down as unconstitutional only if the same is found to be so heavy or devastating as to wipe out or appreciably abridge the Central field and not otherwise. As regards the role of the Universities vis­ à ­vis the AICTE, this Court held in Bharathidasan University and Anr. v. All India Council for Technical Education and Ors. (2001) 8 SCC 676, that AICTE is not a super power with a devastating role undermining the status, authority and autonomous functioning of the Universities in areas and spheres assigned to them. The court observes that the view taken by the High Court is unsustainable and points out that while universities cannot dilute the standards prescribed by AICTE, they certainly have the power to stipulate enhanced norms and standards.

Hence, the appeal stands allowed.

M. Maheswari



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