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Relief for HP pvt varsities as HC quashes regulatory Act
Experts say court verdict to have far-reaching consequences for quality education in the state
Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 19
The Himachal Pradesh High Court today quashed the State Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory) Act, 2010. The verdict will have far-reaching consequences for the higher education sector, which is already in a mess in the state in the absence of effective regulation.

The BJP government had drawn flak for "wholesale" opening of private universities ó as many as 16 of which are already functional ó and it was a major issue in the Assembly polls. The government had enacted the law to set up a regulatory body after irregularities surfaced in the functioning of these institutions.

The steps taken by the regulatory commission over the past three years did help in improving the situation somewhat as it brought about a modicum of transparency in their functioning. However, with the commission ceasing to exist, the government will find it all the more difficult to rein in these "unbridled horses". The students' future will be at stake.

While delivering the verdict, Chief justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh declared the Act unconstitutional on the ground that the State Legislature was incompetent to enact such a law on a subject covered by the field occupied by Entry 66 of the Union List.

Holding the law enacted in 2010 ultra vires and void ab initio, the court also quashed the assessment orders, circulars, notices passed by Himachal Pradesh Private Education Institution Regulatory Commission, maintaining these were issued without authority of law.

"Parliament's power to enact law on that subject is both exclusive and overriding and the State Legislature had no power to prescribe offences and penalties for enforcing the standards laid down by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Teachers Education (AICTE) and other central Authorities," the court observed.

A paradoxical situation has emerged where the state has powers to set up an institution of higher education, but it cannot regulate it. The verdict will provide reprieve to the universities which committed glaring irregularities such as enrolling students even before the institution came into existence, admitting students after matriculation instead of Plus Two as mandated by the UGC, Violating admission norms, filling more than approved number seats and registering research scholars to Ph.D courses without approval of the UGC.

The worst sufferers will be the students as B.Tech and other degrees of those admitted after Class X cannot be recognised. The commission had also checked exploitation of students and forced the erring institutions to refund the excess money charged from them. Former HPU Vice Chancellor Sunil Gupta said the higher education sector would be ruined without effective regulation. The best way to salvage the future of students is to dissolve the private universities and make them affiliated with central and state universities. 

The knots in higher learning

  • The previous BJP govt set up a regulatory body after irregularities surfaced in the functioning of these institutions
  • HC says the State Legislature incompetent to enact such a law
  • Experts say a situation has arisen where a state has powers to set up an institution, but it canít regulate it

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