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St.Teresa's College Represented by Its Manager, Ernakulam v/s Mahatma Gandhi University Represented by Its Rregistrar, Kottayam & Another

    WP(C) No. 21500 of 2019

    Decided On, 27 July 2022

    At, High Court of Kerala


    For the Petitioner: Baby Issac Illickal, Isaac Kuruvilla Illikal, Advocates. For the Respondents: Asok M. Cherian, Sc, S. Krishnamoorthy, CGC, Surin George, IPE.

Judgment Text

1. St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, which is an autonomous institution under the provisions of the Mahatma Gandhi University Act (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’ for short), impugns Exts.P7, P8 and P9 orders issued by the said University, through which, the unaided M.Phil. Programme being run by them has been ordered to be stopped with effect from 2019-2020.

2. The petitioner asserts that the reasons stated in the impugned orders are untenable and that the University obtains no jurisdiction to have imposed a complete ban on their activities, which can only be construed to be a blatant violation of the “University Grants Commission (Conferment of Autonomous Status upon Colleges and Measures for Maintenance of Standards in Autonomous Colleges) Regulations, 2018” (hereinafter referred to as the ‘UGC Regulations’ for short), which sanctions full autonomy to the institutions like them to begin and run any course, subject to the provisions thereunder. They thus pray that impugned orders be set aside, pointing out that, through the earlier interim orders of this Court, same has remained stayed until now.

3. Sri.Surin George Ipe – learned Standing Counsel for the Mahatma Gandhi University (“M.G.University” for short), answered the afore submissions of the petitioner, as made by their learned counsel - Sri.Issac Kuruvilla Illikal, saying that impugned orders were issued because a legitimate suspicion arose that the petitioner and certain other institutions similarly placed, were conducting their M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream without having any regular teacher, but with the aid of external Research Supervisors and retired academic persons. He submitted that this is contrary to the specific mandate of the University Grants Commission (UGC), as available from its notification dated 05/05/2016 - which is called the ‘University Grants Commission (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of M.Phil./Ph.D. Degrees) Regulations, 2016 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘UGC M.Phil. Regulations, 2016’ for short). He submitted that, therefore, when the petitioner does not have regular faculty, they cannot be allowed to run any M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream; and thus prayed that this writ petition be dismissed.

4. Sri.S.Krishnamoorthy – learned Standing Counsel for the UGC, explained that the impact of the ‘UGC M.Phil. Regulations, 2016’ is that an autonomous College can be allowed to conduct the M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream only if they have sufficient regular teachers to act as Supervisors. He also affirmed that external supervisors or retired hands cannot be allowed to do so; adding that this is a pure question of fact, which will have to be verified by the University on a case to case basis. He reiterated that if the petitioner herein has regular teachers – which is to mean teachers who are appointed through a selection process akin to an aided college teacher - they can be allowed to conduct the course, but not otherwise.

5. In reply, Sri.Issac Kuruvilla Illikal, learned counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the impugned orders have been issued by the University not with specific reference to his client, but as a general one; and on an uncorroborated suspicion that the petitioner and others do not have regular teachers on their pay roll. He submitted that, on the contrary, his client has regular teachers, who were appointed through a valid selection process, as is mandated under the applicable Regulations of the University, as also that of the UGC; and hence that the impugned orders, issued without a proper verification, can only be seen to be mischievous and wholly inappropriate.

6. An assessment of the afore rival contentions would render it luculent that the real question involved in this case is whether the petitioner – College has regular teachers to act as Research Supervisors for their M.Phil. Programme, as is required by the ‘UGC M.Phil. Regulations, 2016’. Interestingly the impugned orders do not say anywhere that such teachers are not available in the petitioner – College, but appear to have proceeded in an omnibus manner to assume that no such teachers are available and therefore, that an M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream cannot be permitted to be continued by them.

7. Pertinently, even though Sri.Surin George Ipe says that the proceedings against the College started with Ext.P5 order of the University dated 13.04.2018, it also does not mention that there are no regular teachers in the College; but solely that the petitioner had begun the Course without their permission. It is thus incontestable that, as far as the petitioner is concerned, there has been no assessment by the University whether they had or have regular teachers to act as Research Supervisors for the M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream.

8. At this juncture, the submissions of Sri.S.Krishnamoorthy afore recorded are pertinent because the UGC maintains that if an autonomous college has regular teachers as Research Supervisors, they must be allowed to continue the M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream.

9. In the afore circumstances, I am left without doubt that the impugned orders cannot find my favour, it having been issued without an assessment as to whether the petitioner – College has regular teachers on their pay roll to act as Research Supervisors; and consequently that they deserve to be set aside.

Resultantly, this writ petition is allowed, with the following directions:

(a) Exts.P7, P8 and P9 are set aside.

(b) The competent Authority of the M.G. University is left liberty to inspect the petitioner – College and to verify whether they have regular teachers to act as Research Supervisors, as per the mandate of the ‘UGC M.Phil. Regulations, 2016’.

(c) Since the admission of the students by the petitioner - College for the academic years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 was done on the strength of the interim orders of this Court dated 06.08.2019 and since this Court has now set aside the impugned orders, such persons will be given the requisite degrees and certificates by the M.G. University, notwithstanding the liberty reserved to them in (b) above.

(d) Consequentially, the continuance of the M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream b

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y the College ahead will be governed by the exercise above, though I record the submissions of their learned counsel - Sri.Issac Kuruvilla Illikal, that they do not propose to continue it for the academic year 2022-2023. (e) I also leave liberty to the M.G.University to impose any legally sanctioned detriment, or to visit the petitioner - College with any consequence as the law may permit, if they are to find, through the afore exercise, that they have been conducting the M.Phil. Course in the self financing stream without regular teachers acting as Research Supervisors. However, I reiteratingly clarify that no detriment can be imposed on the students until the 2021-2022 batch for this purpose.