At, High Court of Kerala
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE A. MUHAMED MUSTAQUE
For the Appearing Parties: Santhosh Mathew, Arun Thomas, Jennis Stephen, Vijay V. Paul, Karthika Maria, Anil Sebastian Pulickel, Divya Sara George, Jaisy Elza Joe, Thomas Abraham, K. Jaju Babu, M.U. Vijayalakshmi, Advocates.
1. These writ petitions are filed by Snehacharya Institute of Management & Technology aggrieved by the decision of the University of Kerala declining affiliation for an additional intake of 60 students in Bachelor of Hotel Management and Catering Technology (BHMCT) course and affiliation of Bachelor of Vocation Hotel Management and Catering Technology (Food Processing). In W.P.(C).No.22782/2019, the challenge is in regard to decision in BHMCT course and W.P. (C).22783/2019 is related to B.Voc. Food Processing course.
2. All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) granted extension of approval with intake of 180 students for the BHMCT course for the academic year 2019-20. The petitioner thereafter, submitted an application for affiliation with increased intake of 180 seats. By decision of the University dated 29.6.2019 (produced as Ext.P7 in W.P.(C).No.23782/2019), the University decided to grant a conditional affiliation for an additional batch of 60 students in BHMCT course for the academic year 2019-20. It is apparent that the University declined to grant affiliation for full intake as approved by AICTE. This resulted in filing W.P.(C).No.13004/2019 by the writ petitioner before this Court. This Court in W.P.(C).No.13004/2019 ordered that inspection shall be conducted by the University in regard to the deficiencies pointed out in declining affiliation for the entire intake. The University appears to be harbouring on the point of insufficient infrastructural facilities as a reason for denial of approval for full intake. The University, after conducting inspection, noted deficiencies in class rooms and by order dated 29.8.2019 decided not to grant affiliation for the additional intake of 60 students. The University also observed certain deficiencies in the qualification of the teachers engaged by the petitioner. This resulted in filing W.P. (C).No.23782/2019.
3. Aicte granted approval to the petitioner to start Hotel Management programme - Bachelor of Vocation with specialisation in Food Processing. The initial approval was granted in the year 2018 as evident from Ext.P2 produced in W.P.(C).No.23783/2019. The petitioner could not start the programme during the academic year 2018-19. Thereafter, AICTE extended the approval for the academic year 2019-20 as well. Ext.P12 is the said order. However, the University decided not to grant affiliation to the new B.Voc Food Processing course stating inadequacy of infrastructural facilities.
4. One of the objections raised by the University was in regard to the structural stability of the building after the alteration made by the petitioner to create new classrooms. This Court on 2.9.2019 passed an order directing the competent Structural Engineer to conduct an inspection and file a report as prescribed under the Kerala Municipal Building Rules in the presence of the representatives of the University. One, Anees Mohammed H., Structural Engineer submitted a report regarding the structural stability. He is of the view that the condition of the building is good. Ext.P30 produced in W.P.(C).No.23783/2019 is the said report. The University has also raised objections to the report of the Structural Engineer referring to a report prepared by T.S.Ramesh, Assistant Executive Engineer, who was present at the time of inspection by the Structural Engineer. Ext.R3(b) produced in W.P. (C).No.23783/2019 is the report of the Assistant Executive Engineer which shows that the Structural Engineer had not taken into account the original structural designs and structural drawings while preparing the report.
5. In these proceedings, the Court has to consider the power of the University in declining the affiliation sought, once an approval is granted by AICTE on the ground of lack of infrastructural facilities.
6. AICTE is an apex body to conduct survey on the facilities available for technical education. No technical educational institution can be established without obtaining prior approval of AICTE. AICTE was constituted by an enactment of the Parliament. In terms of Section 10 of AICTE Act,1987, AICTE has the power to undertake survey in different fields of education and to collect data thereto. AICTE has powers under Section 11 of the AICTE Act to cause inspections to be conducted to ascertain the standards of teaching, examination and research. The standards prescribed by AICTE would bind the University unless any superior standards have been prescribed under a State enactment. Once AICTE grants an approval, the University cannot sit upon as in appeal over such decision of AICTE and review the same stating that the institute lacks infrastructural facilities. The competency of the University in such circumstances is only to examine the matter, either referable under the affiliation norms or with reference to higher standards prescribed under the State enactments.
7. The learned counsel for the petitioner relies upon the decision of the Full Bench of this Court in Vikram Sarabhai Educational Trust & B.Ed. College, Keipamangalam v. University of Calicut and Anr,2008 SCCOnLineKer 108 wherein at para 13, it was held as follows:
"13. There may be a case where recognition is granted by the NCTE, holding that the College has all infrastructural facilities and it may be found by the University that no such facilities are available. In such a case, it can be rightly said that the recognition has been obtained by fraud. If the University feels that the affiliation has been granted illegally, it has several options before it. It may bring the same to the notice of the NCTE, so that the Council can cancel the affiliation under Section 17 of the Act. It may challenge the recognition granted by filing an appeal under Section 18 of the Act before the National Council for Teacher Education. The University can also challenge the recognition before this Court by filing a Writ Petition. In an appropriate case, for example, where recognition has been obtained by fraud, the University may even collaterally attack the validity of the recognition granted, in enforcement proceedings, like the present Writ Petition."
It was observed therein that the Unviversity cannot collaterally attack an approval granted by the AICTE by declining the affiliation, pointing out factors relating to infrastructural facilities.
8. Similarly, a learned Single Judge of this Court in Lourdes Matha Catholic Education Society v. University of Kerala and Ors,2009 SCCOnLineKer 4454] had held that the University canno
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t decline affiliation on the ground of lack of infrastructural facilities once AICTE has granted approval. 9. No doubt, the University has every power to bring to the notice of AICTE, the lack of infrastructural facilities so as to pursue AICTE to revoke its decision granting the approval. 10. In the light of the discussions as above, I am of the considered view that the University has no power to decline an affiliation, once approval is granted by AICTE on the ground of lack of infrastructural facilities. Thus, the writ petitions are allowed. The University is directed to grant affiliation in accordance with the university regulations within one week from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment.