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Posted at: Nov 4, 2017, 2:22 AM; last updated: Nov 4, 2017, 12:42 PM (IST)

SC suspends engg degrees via distance learning

Lakhs of engineering graduates in spot, to take retest | Deemed varsities also restrained
SC suspends engg degrees via distance learning

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 3

Ruling that technical education could not be provided through correspondence courses, in a landmark verdict affecting millions of students across India, a Bench of Justice AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit today restrained educational institutions from providing courses in subjects such as engineering and computer science in the distance education mode.

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It suspended engineering degrees granted between 2001 and 2005 to all graduates through distance learning by JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Rajasthan, Institute of Advanced Studies in Education, Rajasthan (IASE), Allahabad Agricultural Institute, Allahabad, and Vinayak Mission Research Foundation (VMRF), Tamil Nadu, for want of adherence to statutory guidelines/policies.

The degrees would remain suspended till the students pass an examination under the joint supervision of AICTE-UGC. “Every single advantage” on the basis of the degree would also stand suspended till then, the court ordered, directing the CBI to carry out a thorough investigation into the conduct of officials who had granted permissions against the policy statement.

The conduct of institutions which abused their position to advance their commercial interest illegally would also be probed, the court said. It directed the UGC to take appropriate steps and implement Section 23 of the UGC Act and restrain deemed universities from using the word "university" within a month.

The court asked the All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) to conduct appropriate written and practical tests for the students, with expenses towards conducting the tests to be recovered from the universities concerned. The top court issued a series of directions likely to affect hundreds of distance education centres which have been offering technical courses through correspondence and distance learning.

"We restrain all deemed to be universities to carry on any courses in the distance education mode from the academic session 2018-2019 onwards, unless and until it is permissible to conduct such courses and specific permissions are granted by the statutory/regulatory authorities in respect of each of those courses and unless the off-campus centres/study centres are individually inspected and found adequate by the statutory suthorities. The approvals have to be course-specific.

"The Union of India may constitute a three-members committee comprising eminent persons who have held high positions in the field of education, investigation, administration or law at the national level within one month. The committee may examine the issues and suggest a road map for strengthening and setting up an oversight and regulatory mechanism in the relevant field of higher education and allied issues within six months," the court ruled.

The Bench, which also included Justice UU Lalit, affirmed a verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and set aside the verdict by the Odisha High Court that allowed technical education via correspondence.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had in 2015 ruled that a degree in "'computer science" obtained through distance education could not be considered on a par with a regular degree awarded by a university to students attending campus classes.

Spelling it out

  • Affected students (2001-05)  to get two chances to clear AICTE-UGC test, failing which their degrees will be “recalled and cancelled” 
  • If a student does not wish to appear in such tests, the money deposited towards tuition and other fee will be refunded
  • Students can exercise the option by January 15, 2018, and the institutes have to refund the students’ money by May 31


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