The Supreme Court on Thursday said while universities cannot dilute the standards prescribed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), they certainly have the power to stipulate enhanced norms and standards.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said the Ministry of Human Resources Development launched an initiative in September 2015, known as National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), for ranking institutions including universities in India.
The ranking is based on certain parameters such as: (i) teaching, learning and resources; (ii) research and professional practice; (iii) graduation outcomes; (iv) outreach and inclusivity; and (v) peer perception.
“No state-run university can afford to have a laidback attitude today, when their own performance is being measured by international standards. Therefore, the power of the universities to prescribe enhanced norms and standards, cannot be doubted," the top court said, as it set aside the Kerala High Court order and upheld state-run APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University’s decision to fix enhanced norms for affiliation of courses offered by colleges.
The bench also noted that unfortunately the AICTE has filed a counter-affidavit supporting the case of Jai Bharath College of Management and Engineering Technology and branding the fixation of additional norms and conditions by the university as unwarranted.
“The law is now fairly well settled that while it is not open to the universities to dilute the norms and standards prescribed by AICTE, it is always open to the universities to prescribe enhanced norms," it said.
Citing previous verdicts, the top court observed that AICTE is not a superpower with a devastating role undermining the status, authority and autonomous functioning of the universities in areas and spheres assigned to them.
The APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University is a state university and its Vice Chancellor filed an appeal in the top court aggrieved by the order passed by the division bench of the Kerala High Court directing the VC to reconsider the application for affiliation of a new B.Tech course, submitted by the Jai Bharath college, a self-financing college, solely on the basis of the extension of approval granted by the AICTE.
The bench observed that the regulations of the AICTE are silent as to how the students will get compensated, when penal action is taken against colleges which host false information online in their applications to AICTE.
“Ultimately, it is the universities which are obliged to issue degrees and whose reputation is inextricably intertwined with the fate and performance of the students, that may have to face the music and hence their role cannot be belittled," it said.