Private Institutions cannot become “commercial shops” and charge exorbitant fees in name of building fund, infrastructure fund: HC

……… The private institutions cannot be permitted to operate like money minting institutions.

……. Over a period of time, education has become a commodity in India. All the genres of society are so overly obsessed with education that it has devalued the real essence of education. Education is no more a noble cause but it has become a business, therefore, the paradigm shift, especially in the higher education from service to business is a matter of concern. The commercialization of education has a dreadful effect that is so subtle that it often goes unnoticed.

 …… Educational Institutions are indulging in gross misleading advertisements. which can only be termed to be persuasive, manipulative and exploitative to attract the widest possible audience.

 …….. It is shocking that the private institutions have been raising their assets after illegally collecting funds like building fund, development fund, infrastructure fund etc. It is high time these practices are stopped forthwith and there is a crack down on all these institutions.

…… Himachal Pradesh High Court

The Himachal Pradesh taking serious cognizance of ill practices of certain educational institution to conduct in unauthorized manner, collecting exorbitant fees and issuing misleading advertisement has directed State Government to set up a Committee to investigate all the Institutions and further directed State Government to ensure that no fees is charged in name of building fund, development fund, infrastructure fund etc.

The Judgement was passed on a petition directed against the order passed in against the Petitioner Institutions to jointly and severally refund the fees taken from the students.

The petitioner is the so called franchisee of the Sikkim Manipal University based at Sikkim and claims to be running its study centre at Shimla. The students had filed petition under Section 11 of the H.P. Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory Commission), Act, 2010 claiming refund of admission fee paid to the petitioner for MBA PGDM course, on the ground that the same was exorbitant and had never been approved either by the State Government or by the UGC. These petitions were contested by the petitioner and vide impugned order, the petitioner was directed to refund the fee.

The order was challenged on the ground that the Education Commission had no jurisdiction to entertain the petition, as the dispute relating to Sikkim Manipal University was beyond its territorial jurisdiction

The Court considered the finding that neither the petitioner Institute had permission by the UGC to run the institute as a distance education programme study centre nor it had  obtained permission from the State Government and thus observed that the petitioner was concerned only with minting money and was least concerned with the prospects and future of the students. It also observed that “Education institution of the petitioner is no less than a commercial shop, where the aspiring needs of the students stand defeated due to the malpractices and frivolous activities of the petitioner. This is a classical example where the petitioner institute has presented an imaginary and illusory picture for making a successful career to the innocent students admitted in their institute, that too, by charging exorbitant fees and thereafter leaving them in the lurch to fend for themselves little knowing that even the courses undertaken by them may probably not even be recognized in the country. This practice is not only to be deprecated, but is also to be handled and dealt with a heavy hand.”

The Court considering various, guidelines and notification relating to territorial restrictions of a State Private University came to the conclusion that the petitioner could not act as a franchisee of the Sikkim Manipal University and dismissed the Petition.

However before it parted with the Judgement, it made certain important observations, regarding practice of educational institutions to issue misleading advertisements, charge exorbitant fees in different names, commercialization of education etc.:

  1. The private institutions cannot be permitted to operate like money minting institutions.

  2. Imparting education can never be equated with profit oriented business as it is neither commerce nor business and if it is so, then the regulatory controls by those at the helm of affairs have not only to be continued, but are also required to be strengthened.

  3. Over a period of time, education has become a commodity in India. All the genres of society are so overly obsessed with education that it has devalued the real essence of education. Education is no more a noble cause but it has become a business, therefore, the paradigm shift, especially in the higher education from service to business is a matter of concern. The commercialization of education has a dreadful effect that is so subtle that it often goes unnoticed.
  1. Mushroom growth of ill-equipped, understaffed and unrecognized educational institutions was noticed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and it was observed that the field of education had become a fertile, perennial and profitable business with the least capital outlay in some States and that societies and individuals were establishing such institutions without complying with the statutory requirements.
  1. Educational Institutions are indulging in gross misleading advertisements. which can only be termed to be persuasive, manipulative and exploitative to attract the widest possible audience. These institutes trap into their web the innocent, vulnerable and unsuspecting students. Their lucrative and mesmerizing advertisements hypnotize the students only to fall into an unknown world of uncertainties. Some institutes promise hundred percent placement, some claim excellent staff, some claim free wi-fi campus, some promise free transportation etc. But what should really matter is ‘education’. This problem is further compounded by the proliferation of coaching institutes which have only made ‘education’ more dirty and murkier.
  1. It is shocking that the private institutions have been raising their assets after illegally collecting funds like building fund, development fund, infrastructure fund etc. It is high time these practices are stopped forthwith and there is a crack down on all these institutions. Every education institution is accountable and no one, therefore, is above the law. It is not to suggest that the private education institutions are not entitled to their due share of autonomy as well as profit, but then it is out of this profit that the private education institutions, including schools are required to create their own assets and other infrastructure. They cannot under the garb of building fund etc. illegally generate funds for their “business expansion” and create “business empires”.

The Court in light of all these observations felt that there is an urgent need for Government intervention by conducting a fresh investigation of all these institutions and directed the Chief Secretary to Government of Himachal Pradesh is directed to constitute a committee which shall carry out inspection of all the private education institutions at all levels i.e. schools, colleges, coaching centres, extension centres, (called by whatever name), universities etc. throughout the State of Himachal Pradesh regarding requisite infrastructure, parents teacher associations, qualified staff and submit report regarding compliance of the H.P. Private Educational Institutions (Regulation) Act, 1997 within three months.

The Court directed the State Government to ensure that no private education institution is allowed to charge fee towards building fund, infrastructure fund, development fund etc.

In addition to this, the Principal Secretary (Education) is directed to issue mandatory orders to all educational institutions, whether private or government owned, to display the following detailed information relating to faculty, infrastructure, fees breakup, details of internship and placement, on the notice board which shall be placed at the entrance of the campus and on their websites.

EduLegaL View:

Commercialization of education is certainly a serious issue. It is opposed to public policy and Indian tradition. Education has never been commerce in this country. The object of establishing an institution has thus been to provide technical or professional education to the deserving candidates, and is not necessarily a commercial venture.

To put it differently, in the establishment of an educational institution, the object should not be to make a profit, inasmuch as education is essentially charitable in nature. There can, however, be a reasonable revenue surplus, which may be generated by the educational institution for the purpose of development of education and expansion of the institution.

Appropriate machinery can be devised by the state or university to ensure that exorbitant fee is not charged and that there is no profiteering, though a reasonable surplus for the furtherance of education is permissible. Reasonable surplus to meet cost of expansion and augmentation of facilities does not, however, amount to profiteering.

But nonetheless, after these borderlines have been drawn in plethora of judgements, the issue remaining a burning issue !

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

HC directs all Universities to evolve mechanism to decide eligibility at the beginning of academic year

” ……  A provisional admission does not create any vested right in the students. A provisional admission is a concession, which is granted to a student and the same cannot be elevated to a position of a creating a vested legal right. … ” 

“……… We therefore direct the State Government and the respective Universities in the State of Maharashtra to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible….”

The Bombay High Court, while being pained to see students-institutions wasting time in litigation in Court, has directed all the Universities in the State to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible.

The Petitioner in question could clear her backlog of the first year (IInd Semester- Applied Mathematics) subject, only in November, 2015 and before passing the same was granted admission to the Third year (Vth and VIth semester) which was wholly impermissible. The College and the University, for these reasons refused to allow the petitioner to appear for the viva- voce examination of the VIth semester which is to be held on 18th April,2016 and her form was not accepted.

The Petitioner then approached the Court seeking direction to allow the Petitioner to appear for the Viva Voce examinations and the written examinations for the sixth semester and continuation of studies in the seventh and thereafter in the eight semester in the engineering course in the Information Technology faculty.

The Court declined to entertain the petition relying on a rule that a candidate to be eligible to obtain an admission for the Third Year (V & VI semester) should have passed Semester I and II examination and when the Petitioner approached for admission to third year (V and VI semester) in the Academic Year 2014- 15 and was given provisional admission had not cleared the IInd semester examination namely the subject ‘Applied Mathematics’ in which she had failed and hence the Petitioner was not eligible for admission to Third Year.

The Court also ruled that a provisional admission does not create any vested right in the students. The Court also observed that a provisional admission is a concession, which is granted to a student and the same cannot be elevated to a position of a creating a vested legal right. The Petitioner in the present case was given provisional admission and hence she could have claimed any vested right.

Before concluding the Judgement, the Court made following observations:

“ We would be failing in our duty if we do not sound a note of caution in such cases which would be in the interest of the institutions and the students. We are at pains to see number of such cases coming to the court at the fag end when the examination is about to commence. This is routinely happening. Many times it is seen that the institution is at fault for not scrupulously enforcing norms of the University in respect of matters which the University would want the institution to do. The students also many times being aware of the rules try to exploit the situation and try to create equities, and then approach the court at the fag end. In all these situations the students may ultimately suffer huge loss in terms of their academic career. Such situations which are not conducive to anyone are required to avoided. All mischief’s if any at which ever level are required to arrested and remedied at the threshold. This would result in maintaining of academic standards. It is least expected that the students and the institutions waste their time in litigation in Courts. We therefore direct the State Government and the respective Universities in the State of Maharashtra to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible. If the institutions and colleges are guilty of making such admissions/ when are against the rules stern action should be taken against such colleges which would be deterrent to these colleges to deviate from the binding academic rules.”

Thus the Court has directed all the Universities in the State of Maharashtra including Deemed Universities to evolve a mechanism by which the students at the beginning of the academic year are informed about the ineligibility of their admission and are prevented from unnecessary pursuing the course when not eligible. The Court has also warned the Institutions and has cautioned that if the institutions and colleges are guilty of making such admissions/ when are against the rules stern action should be taken against such colleges which would be deterrent to these colleges to deviate from the binding academic rules.

EduLegaL View

 There is no doubt that in spirit, this Judgement is very good and will help in maintaining academic and administrative discipline. However, it is also important to note that considering the diversity of this country and different timings and processes all over the Country, it is almost impossible to determine eligibility at the time of admission.

There are many situations, when essential documents required for eligibility like Migration Certificate, verification of caste certificate, equivalence of a foreign degree from AIU consumes time. Additionally, the Institutions are also working a huge volume. In some case, even results of compartment / improvements are also declared and hence with utmost respect to the Judgement, such blanket process and deadline cannot be laid down.

Yes, I agree that this should certainly happen before the commencement of the second year, so that a student does not waste his time, as has also been observed by the Court.

However, this Judgement certainly gives me a thought and if it has to become a reality, we should have UNIFORM ACADEMIC CODE in the Country, when all the examinations start on same and results are declared on the same date throughout the country.

UNIFORM ACADEMIC CODE ! Another debate in making !

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

 

 

Advertising Council finds Educational Ads fake, false and misleading

Advertising Standards Council of India [ASCI]  has been receiving several complaints from parents and students against misleading claims being made in advertisement of various educational institutions pertaining to claims of success in competitive examinations, guaranteed placement and passing, recognition and affiliation, ranking of the institutions, etc.

These Institutes as per the decision of the Advertising Council have made claims of Ranking in the Entrance Examinations, Number of successful students, Coaching and Learning Material Preparations and Contents, Test Series, Coaching Pedagogy to influence the aspirants to join their Institutes.

In December 2015, ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints relating to misleading advertisements and unsubstantiated claims. The CCC found that claims in the following advertisements were not substantiated and, thus, violated ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions.

1] Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd.: The claims in the advertisement, “2116 T.I.M.E students into the IIMs alone – a total of 7379 final selections in CAT- 2014” and “Process and Results validated by an independent third party on 21/09/2015”, were not substantiated.

2] CATKing (CLAP Digital Marketing Course): The claims in the advertisement with reference to Mr Rahul Singh – “He pursued his MBA from SP Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai”, “He also achieved a degree in Master of Information Technology from Virginia Tech”, and “Certification from a Harvard Business School Alumni”, were false, not substantiated with evidence, and were misleading.

3] CL Educate Ltd (CAT 16/17 Program): The claims in the advertisement, “Your Gateway to IIM”, “Closest to CAT”, “9629 IIM Calls by CL students in CAT’14”, “The most comprehensive CAT ‘16/17 classroom program”, were not substantiated with supporting data. Also, the claim, “9629 IIM Calls by CL students in CAT’14”, is misleading, as it does not match with the CA report on pages 6, 7, 8 – Clause 6 – Conclusion, the total adds up to 8793 only as against 9629 IIM calls as claimed in the advertisement.

false advertisement

4] Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd. (TIME Tuitions): The advertisement’s claims, “T.I.M.E., the national Leader in entrance exam training with 200+ centres across India” was not substantiated with supporting data.

5] Triumphant Institute of Management Education Pvt. Ltd (Aqua Regia the Science Quiz 2015): The claim in the advertisement, “Aqua Regia the Science Quiz 2015 – Certified by Guinness World Records & Limca Book of Records as the Largest Quiz Ever”, was not substantiated with supporting data.

6] Triumphant Institute of Management Education (Times Google Search Result Validation): The claim in the advertisement, “Best Coaching Institute for CAT, GATE, Bank Exams, CSAT….” is an absolute claim and was not substantiated with comparative data versus other institutes.

7] Shyamli Institute of Hotel Management: The claims in the advertisement, “recognition of hotel management courses by UGC & AICTE”, “UGC & AICTE approved” and “job guarantee” (Naukri Sunishit) were not substantiated.

5] Knowledge Station India Private Limited (The Santa Kidz): The advertisement’s claim, “Rajasthan’s No. 1 School“, was not substantiated with supporting comparative data versus other institutes. Also, the claim, “India’s 1st Brain School with D.M.I Technology”, was not substantiated and was considered to be misleading by ambiguity as the advertisement does not give any credible references to authenticate the D.M.I. technology or how the school provides the implied unique brain development benefits of D.M.I Technology over conventional practices followed in other schools.

9] Mahendra Education Pvt. Ltd (Mahendra’s No.1 Institute): The claim in the advertisement, “No. 1 Institute in India”, was not substantiated.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) was established in 1985. One of the important functions of ASCI to ensure the protection of the interests of consumers in various categories. ASCI has therefore laid down guidelines with a view to achieve the acceptance of fair advertising practices in the best interests of the ultimate consumer.

The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI deals with complaints received from Consumers and Industry, against Advertisements which are considered as False, Misleading, Indecent, Illegal, leading to Unsafe practices, or Unfair to competition, and consequently in contravention of the ASCI Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising.

ASCI is also the “Executive Arm” of the Department of Consumer Affairs handling all complaints pertaining to misleading advertisements.

EduLegaL View: 

An old marketing strategy saying goes “ Jo Dikhta wahi bikta hai”, it would not be out of place to improvise it to say “Jo Dikhaya Jata hai, wahi bikta hai”.

Coaching Classes and Institutions have overgrown in India due to huge peer pressure and parental aspirations. It is one of the biggest sector, but still unregulated in majority part of the Country. It is high time that this sector is regulated.

Advertisements surprisingly have become one of most important medium to attract students recently amongst educational institutions.

Advertisements play a big role in deciding an Institution and it is required that it should be a responsible step devoid of inducements and falsehoods.

But my issue is, what next, what is the action that will be taken against these coaching institutions, who have indulged in misleading publications and advertisements and what about the students who found themselves on the wrong side relying upon the advertisements.

There is no effective legislation in place, which deals with these situations. MHRD look into the matter and bring effective legislation to ban such ads and take effective actions against the Institutions.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

Read Earlier Releases by EduLegaL on Misleading Ads in Education Sector:

Advertising Council finds ads of major Coaching Institutes for CAT, IIT and Law to be misleading
Advertising Council finds major Coaching classes Ads to be misleading
Advertising Council finds 41 Educational Ads fake, false, misleading, unsubstantiated
Advertising Council finds Ads of 25 Educational Institutions misleading

Making Energy Audit mandatory for Educational Institutions

 

Our country has been experiencing remarkable growth, both industrial and intellectual in last decade.  We all agree to a fact that any growth should be sustainable and inclusive in nature. Obviously, when we talk of growth, the stimulus for growth also becomes an integral part of the discussion. “Energy” or “Power” undoubtedly is one of the most important stimulus for growth and rank par is “Education”, which is indication of Human Resource Index of the Country.

Having said that “sustainability” can ensure that growth story is more enjoyable in terms of impact and longevity. I feel that considering the depleting character of natural resources, sustenance in terms of “Energy” becomes very critical. More particularly in education sector, as usage and consumption of energy in educational institutions is quite high and more often than not, in an unorganized manner. My idea is not paint the educational institutions in bad colour but to project the true picture.

In present scenario the energy conservation plays an important role. It is because consumption of energy is increasing day by day and the generation is not matching with it. The energy conservation helps in reducing the energy consumption and provide the savings. By adopting proper measures energy awareness to make the people aware the importance of energy the required result can be achieved.

Since, the advent of accounting practices, we have been used to the term “Audit”, which is generally used to study the manner and pattern of expenditure and also to point out the gray areas and suggest reformative measures.

It happened so that I was researching for legal audit, which I was about to conduct for an educational institution and I came across this noble concept of “Energy Audit of Educational Institutions”. After reading through some articles on Internet / Journals, I found that “Energy Audit” is a wide spectrum of energy study, which ranges from identifying major energy problem areas to implications of alternative energy efficient measures. It involves analyzing the actual consumption of electrical energy and measures of energy conservation. Energy Audit helps to understand more about the ways energy and fuel are used in any industry and help in identifying the areas where waste can occur and where scope for improvement exists.

India with the second largest population in the world is now one of the fastest growing economies with a rapid growth in GDP. In the past few decades the need for trained people is rapidly increasing in the industrial and other fields to support our countries technological growth. This has lead to the establishment of more and more technological and educational institutions in India. India has a large number of Universities, colleges, and other institutions and the number is growing rapidly in the past few decades.

It is well known that educational institutions consume resources like water, electricity; forest product’s and generates wastes like many industries. Establishment and operating of Universities are not covered by any of the environmental laws in India. As a result, the importance of making the Universities operate with self consciousness in the utility of resources inside the campus is least understood.

The educational institutes have a responsibility to become a role model for the nation to save energy and promote optimization. They should also develop and promote indigenous technology. They support a large number of faculties and training facilities which can be a good platform to raise the awareness and promote energy saving. The government run educational institutes should be more responsible towards energy saving and its proper management as they are the hub of all researches and innovations.

An energy study review of various international and national educational institutions indicates that 5-20% of energy can be saved. Some of the Reports that I have perused, of Aligarh Muslim University, National Institute of Technology, National Institute of Technical Teachers Training, Chandigarh and National Institute of Technology, Kurushetra, really highlight of importance of Energy Audit in educational institutions. 

Business-Energy-Audit

These Reports have suggested several measures like increasing substation to reduce line losses, the conventional regulators to be replaced by power electronic regulators, Biogas can also be used for heating purpose in hostels and residences, Better ventilation in buildings will lead to greater cooling, Using of electric sensor doors and many more. These Reports really make an interesting reading and it is these Reports and literature available there, which has formed the content of this write up.

In India, it is not mandatory to perform energy auditing in educational institution as it is not in the list of designated (power) consumer. However, considering the importance of energy and its consumption in an educational institution, I wish to suggest that Energy Audit of Educational Institutions should be made mandatory.

To start, Audit can be made mandatory in all the Universities including Central University, State University and Deemed University, because the Universities have large cluster of students in particular students on residential campus, as Hostel Buildings are the main cause of energy wastage. Thereafter we can proceed to Residential Schools and Colleges. 

 

Infact, “Energy Management and Conservation Practices”, should be made an important parameter while granting recognition to an Institution. I also suggest that “Energy Management and Conservation Practices”, should also be one of the parameters for the purpose assessing an educational institution for accreditation or ranking under National Assessment and Accreditation Council, National Board of Accreditation and National Institutional Ranking Framework.

 

Save Energy ! Save Life ! Green India !

Ravi Bhardwaj | Founder and Principal Consultant | EduLegaL

mail@edulegal.in

 

AICTE notifies series of reforms, recognises shortage of qualified faculty, allows relaxing PH.D. Criteria, recognises inter-disciplinary learning, and much more …

AICTE had in the year 2010 notified Regulations relating to Pay Scales, Service Conditions and Qualifications for the Teachers in Technical Institutions. In the year 2012, it had also passed Regulations for Career Advancement Scheme for the Teachers and other Academic Staff in Technical Institutions.

However, several issues were raised out of the implementation of these Regulations and Institutions made representations to AICTE, which prompted AICTE to reform the existing Regulations and clarify some issues.

  • Recognising the importance of inter-disciplinary learning, it has clarified that Ph.D acquired from inter- disciplinary Centres/ Departments in relevant area in relevant discipline in which faculty has acquired BE/ B. Tech. and ME/ M. Tech. Degree can be considered by the Institutions.
  • Realising the shortage of competent and qualified faculty, in filed of Pharmacy, it has clarified that qualification of M. Pharm (Quality Assurance) to the post of Lecturer/Asst. Professor in Pharmacology can be considered by the Institution. Similarly, in field of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, it has allowed the Institutions to consider relaxing Ph.D qualification in HMCT Programme due to scarcity of Masters/ Ph.D degree personnel in HMCT.
  • The qualification of Ph.D acquired for the various level of posts directly after B.E/B.Tech. awarded by a University following the process of registration, course work and evaluation etc. as prescribed by UGC or awarded by the Institutes of national importance (i.e. IITs/IISc/ NITs etc.), duly recognized by the MHRD can also be considered for the appointment of faculty/Principal/ Director in Technical Institutions, provided the candidate should have obtained at least first class at Bachelor’s level in Engineering /Technology.
  • MS degree acquired from NIT, IIT and IISC Bangalore etc., can be considered equivalent to ME/ M. Tech., for appointment as Asst. Professor in Engineering disciplines, provided MS degree has been acquired from the Institutes of national importance as recognised by MHRD and the basic degree should be BE/B. Tech. in relevant branch and in case if awarded by an accredited foreign Universities/ Institutions shall be considered provided that the equivalency of MS degree has been approved by AIU.
  • Recognised integrated B.E/B.Tech. Degree, Integrated B/E./B.Tech.-MBA and Integrated B.E./B.Tech.-M.Tech., and Dual Degrees awarded shall be recognised for direct recruitment & promotion of faculty under CAS.
  • It has also laid down guidelines for considering Industrial experience for appointment of faculty. Though it say that working experience in public sector undertaking is preferred, however it clarifies that work experience in private sector can also be considered provided the Industry has a successful continuous standing of at least 10 years. The area of operation of Industry shall be related to the relevant field of discipline. 50% of the total service rendered in industries shall be considered as an equivalent to teaching experience provided total experience is at least 10 years and above.
  • Academic performance index (API) requirement of teachers appointed in Regulatory/ Advisory bodies & Funding Agencies of State/ Central Govt. on deputation/ Lien/Foreign service shall be relaxed and the ACR/self appraisal performance report shall be taken as equivalent to API, provided the candidate has scored at least “Very Good” and above rating in the ACR.

EduLegaL View:

It is good to see that the Regulators have touched the reality and have realized that there is shortage of faculty, according to the qualifications, which have been prescribed by them. This was long awaited measure. Infact this seems to a parallel of acclaimed “economic liberalisation” to “educational liberalisation”.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

Information Panel puts ceiling to cost for seeking copies of answer sheet only at a cost of Rs 2 per page, censors practice of charging exhorbitant fees

In a major relief to the students, the Central Information Commission has directed all the Universities in India, including deemed Universities and all examining bodies to provide copies of answer sheet only at a cost of Rs 2 per page. It has also directed UGC and Association of Indian Universities, to circulate, publicize and insist on implementation of the rule in all academic/examining bodies. It has also directed MHRD to circulate this order to all examining bodies including Universities and make it mandatory for them to bring uniformity in the rules and regulations by fixing cost at not more than Rs 2 per page of answer sheet.

CIC was examining the rule of Delhi University, which prescribed Rs. 750/- per application for seeking copy of the Answer Sheet. CIC has not only prescribed this ceiling, at the same time it has held that rules prescribing a student to pay exorbitant fees for seeking copy of answer sheets are in violation of Right to Information Law and must be changed to allow a student to exercise his Right to Information.

CIC gave this ruling while hearing a Complaint / Appeal regarding constraints including huge fees being charged for providing certified copy of evaluated answer sheet. The aggrieved student was questioning the regulation of Delhi University alleging that it enables University to impose unreasonable time­ frames and cost constraints on their right to secure copy of answer­sheet. CIC also ruled that such rules are against the law settled by Supreme Court of India.

Section 7 of RTI Act says: “…provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed…” Section 7(2)(a) says that the PIO has to ‘give details of further fees representing cost of providing the information as determined by him together with the calculations made to arrive at the amount in accordance with fee prescribed under sub-section(1) requesting him to deposit that fees….”. As per Section 7(2)(b), the PIO has to inform the applicant “concerning his right with respect to review the decision as to the amount of fee charged or the form of access provided…”. Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules 2005, framed by the Central Government mandates the following rates, (a) rupees two for each page or actual cost in case of larger size paper.

CIC relied on Judgements of the Supreme Court in case of CBSE v Aditya Bandopadhyay and ICAI v. Shaunak Satya, which has held that evaluated answer-book is an ‘information’ under the RTI Act and cannot be under any exemption prescribed under RTI Act.

CIC also relied on the Judgement of Rajasthan High Court in relation to the exorbitant fee charged by a University to extent of Rs 1000 for copy of answer sheets, which had held that charging of exorbitant fees of Rs.1,000/- for the purpose of providing copy of answer-book to a student by the respondent-University is in violation of object and purpose of the Act of 2005 and is an ill-intended attempt on the part of the University to discourage the students from seeking certified copies of their answer-books.

CIC felt that imposing time and cost constraints over and above the norms prescribed by RTI Act and Rules and charging Rs 750 per paper, which far more than Rs 2 for copy per page (as prescribed) will impose economic burden on a student, who has paid an examination fee to meet the expenditure to conduct examination including the cost of evaluation. This is a huge amount over and above the fee collected, for recounting and re­evaluation. CIC also felt that charging so high a fee/cost will not only deny the accessibility, but also immunize the public authority from being accountable to students. The resultant situation is: If a student cannot pay Rs 750, the Delhi University will become not accountable for its evaluation! This is against objective and scheme of RTI Act.

answer sheet.jpg

 

It finally held that that “prescribing unreasonable cost and time constraint will in fact amount to complete denial of information to the students on grounds of their economic status, which is in violation of Article 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India. No citizen shall be discriminated on the basis of his access to resources or any criteria including poverty as per his fundamental report to equality. It is very sad that educational institution like university is not mindful of the basic fact and they are going on denying information to the students, by imposing high cost, which means if you cannot afford, you cannot access. Thus, charging of Rs 750 per answer sheet will amount to breach of sections 3, 6 and 7 of the RTI Act.”

 It thus held that high cost of Rs 750 per paper for securing copy of answer­sheet and time conditions that a student has to approach only after 61 days and before 75 days after result declared will unreasonably restrict the right to access to his own answer book and breakup of marks awarded.

EduLegaL View

There are two concepts of law “substantive” and “procedural”. While RTI Act, 2005 guarantees “Right to Information” to an Indian Citizen, which is substantive law. Rules made by Public Authorities prescribing the condition for implementation of this “substantive law” is part of “procedural law”.

Public Authorities by way of delegated legislation cannot frame a “procedural law” by which exercise of “substantive law” becomes difficult or impossible. The “procedural law” has to aid the “substantive law”.

Making RTI Rules, to make it difficult for a student to exercise his Right to Information is infringement of liberty of students to get a photocopy of answer script and their right to access the information. The rules cannot prescribe unreasonable time and cost constraints, as “Right to access the Information” is inherent in “Right to Information”.

Read the Full Judgement.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in

 

Statutory Councils not in support of pursuing two degrees simultaneously

University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued a Notice dated 15th January 2016 stating that its consultations related to allowing students to pursue two degrees simultaneously has not received a positive response and hence the possibility of allowing a student to pursue two degrees has hit a road block.

Earlier, in year 2012, a Committee headed by Mr. Fuqran Kamar, Vice-Chancellor, Central University of Hyderabad, Mr. Manoj Kumar Mishra, Vice Chancellor, University of Lucknow and Prof. Sudhanshu Bhushan, NUEPA, New Delhi had recommended that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional degree simultaneously under open or distance education mode from the same or different university. However, students should not be allowed to undertake two regular degrees at the same time, the committee had held.

The Committee had also recommended that students enrolled in a regular degree course should be allowed to pursue an additional one Certificate/Diploma/ Post Graduate Diploma in regular or distance mode, from the same or different university.

The Committee was not in favour of allowing two degree programmes under regular mode simultaneously as it may create logistic, administrative and academic problems.

The University Grants Commission finally at a meeting on July 31, 2013 decided to accept its Committee’s recommendations on permitting pursuit of an additional degree programme, in the manner as aforesaid.

However, recently, UGC has notified that it had sought the comments of statutory councils on the issue of allowing pursuing two degrees simultaneously, but the responses of the Statutory Council was not encouraging. UGC has therefore directed the Institutions that they shall conduct their programmes in accordance with the First Degree and Master Degree Regulations, 2003 prescribed by the UGC and also follow the norms and parameters prescribed by the Statutory Council concerned, wherever relevant.

EduLegaL View:

The recent notice, without any clarity on the earlier Resolution has added to confusion for academic governance.

Pursuing two courses simultaneously allows a student to do value addition to him and enhance his knowledge and skill. It also adds to the prospect to his employability.

Not allowing pursuing two degree programmes in name of “logistic, administrative and academic problems” is a weak response to the growing demands of the students and such issues can easily be addressed.

Ravi Bhardwaj | mail@edulegal.in