The Kerala High Court has asked the state government to examine whether Sree Narayanaguru Open University has received recognition from the University Grants Commission (UGC) for conducting distance education programmes and if yes, for which courses.
The high court’s direction to the Secretary, Higher Education, came on a couple of petitions by students challenging a state government order of June 9 which virtually injuncted all other varsities in the state, except the open university, from conducting distance education programmes.
The students wanted to be permitted to enroll in the distance education programmes to be conducted in other universities in Kerala.
They had contended that the open university did not have the requisite approvals from the UGC and due to the June 9 order of the government, other universities were forbidden from offering such courses.
UGC, on its part, had told the court that even this year it had not granted any approval to the open university to start distance education programmes and that the other approved universities can continue with the same if they have been sanctioned to do so.
The open university, on the other hand, had opposed the UGC contention and claimed that it had already obtained approval from the Commission with respect to certain courses under the distance education programme.
The state government had said that its order only stated that other universities in Kerala, approved for such purpose by the UGC, can conduct the distance education programme until the open university obtains recognition from the Commission.
After hearing all sides, Justice Devan Ramachandran said, “I am, therefore, of the firm view that a decision in this regard will have to be taken by the Secretary, Department of Higher Education, after hearing the petitioners and the representatives of the Open University.
“This will have to be done quickly, since any further delay would certainly be detrimental to the interests of the students.” Therefore, the court allowed the students plea with the directions that the Secretary, Higher Education Department will hear them and representatives of the open university on August 23 and if the varsity is unable to show it has received UGC recognition, the government will issue orders allowing other approved universities in the state to conduct the distance education programmes.
If the open university has obtained recognition in respect of some courses, then the government can issue appropriate orders confining conduct of the distance education programme by other universities to the other subjects, the court directed.
It also directed that the students would be at liberty to apply for and to be admitted by the various approved universities in their distance education programmes.
“The Secretary, Higher Education Department will ensure that the orders to be issued by him are communicated to the parties within 24 hours, including in the electronic mode, so as to enable them to invoke their remedies or liberties as may be available to them,” the court added.