With the Himachal Pradesh High Court last week quashing the State Private Educational Institutions (Regulatory) Act of 2010, the state now lacks a mechanism to monitor its 16 private universities and an equal number of private institutes, mainly engineering colleges, officials said Friday.
A government Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Commission, set up in 2010 under the act, has been automatically set aside. The scrapping of the commission has wide ramifications for higher education, said a government functionary here.
But Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has made it clear that a regulatory body was required to maintain quality of education. "We are considering to file an appeal against the high court judgment. We are taking legal opinion. A final decision in this regard will be taken only after that," he told reporters here.
The judgment came on the petition of the Himachal Pradesh Private Universities Management Association, which was seeking setting aside of the act and quashing of notices issued to them.
A division bench of Chief Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh Oct 19 declared the act unconstitutional on the ground that the state legislature was incompetent to enact such a law on a subject covered by the field occupied by Entry 66 of the Union List.
Entry 66 of the Union List stipulates that a teaching university will not come within the purview of the State legislation on account of the specific nature of determination of standards in institutions for higher education being in the Union List for which Parliament alone is competent to legislate. "Accordingly, we may have to declare the Act of 2010 ultra vires and void ab initio," they ruled.
The bench, in its 40-page judgment, said: "Parliament's power to enact law on that subject is both exclusive and overriding and the state legislature had no power to prescribe offences and penalties for enforcing the standards laid down by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and other central authorities".
Official sources told IANS that the regulatory commission had played a crucial role in pointing out irregularities by the universities.
These were: enrolling students even before the institution came into existence; admitting students even without fulfilling minimum qualification; filling more than approved number of seats and registering research scholars to Ph.D courses without UGC approval.
Last month, said an official, the regulatory commission issued notice to five private universities for non-compliance of admission norms prescribed by it for undergraduate engineering courses. They were APG University in Shimla and Shoolini University and Manav Bharti University, both in Solan, Baddi University of Emerging Science and Technologies in Baddi and Sri Sai University in Palampur.
In 2012, the regulatory commission imposed a fine of Rs.1 crore on Manav Bharati University for a number of irregularities.