In a tacit endorsement of the UPA regime’s decision to blacklist deemed varsities over grave deficiencies, the Smriti Irani-led Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has rejected University Grants Commission (UGC)’s recommendations to clear 34 out of 44 blacklisted varsities and termed the higher education regulator’s reports as “flimsy” and “untenable”.
In its affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court, the ministry has stated: “UGC’s expert committees have inspected and submitted their reports in 2009 without cognisance to any criteria. The relevant provisions under the UGC Act, Guidelines and Regulations have not been taken into cognisance for inspection and formulation of the reports..it is technically and legally untenable for the ministry to take an informed decision on the basis of such flimsy reports”.
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The Tandon Committee, set up by then HRD minister Kapil Sibal in 2009, had recommended blacklisiting of 44 deemed varsities, asserting they were completely unfit for the recognition that endows an institution not only with authority to grant degrees but also an approval of quality, which in turn can draw students by large numbers. Of these, three voluntarily surrendered their deemed-to-be status or had gone on to become institutes of national importance. Subsequently, many of these universities challenged the report’s credibility in the top court.
However, putting a spanner in the controversy, UGC also came up with its own reports, recommending that only seven of the 41 blacklisted varsities should be deprived of the deemed- to-be university status.
With two conflicting reports on the table and none based on any fixed criteria of the respective scrutiny, a bench led by Justice Dipak Misra had asked HRD ministry to come clear on the validity of the UGC report as well as on the manner of conducting inspections.
The response has now stated that HRD ministry has rejected the UGC committee report, thereby turning down the regulator’s view that 34 of the originally blacklisted deemed varsities could be let off. It claimed that the reports by the UGC in respect of all 41 varsities, including eight others where the regulator had granted time for corrections, contained no specific advise or recommendation based on which the central government could form an “informed opinion” and take a statutory decision.
The ministry told the court that it was in favour of framing statutory rules to lay down criteria for the inspection of the deemed-to-be universities and that the government would need three months to do so.
Till such time the statutory rules are framed, HRD ministry said, no review of the deemed-to-be universities could be done and the UGC reports are to be ignored. “It is only after statutorily laid down specific criteria coming into existence that UGC should undertake the exercise of rendering its specific and categorical advise to the central government so that the government can form an informed opinion and can arrive at its own decision,” it added. The court will take up HRD ministry’s reply on April 23.