New Delhi, April 24: The Supreme Court on asked the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) to proceed with the grading of 41 deemed universities.
It noted that the government was framing rules to put in place criteria for the grant of deemed university status and accreditations to the academic institutions that would eliminate subjective considerations.
"In our considered opinion, the NAAC shall look into the matter (of grading the deemed universities) and will decide the issue of accreditation and proceed as per law," said the bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice Prafulla C. Pant, who noted that admissions to the universities were fast approaching.
The court said that "any decision given by the NAAC shall be subject to the result of the writ petition, as well as the further deliberations in the backdrop of rules framed by the Union of India".
Initially, there were 44 institutions having deemed university status but later three withdrew. Noting that nowadays, the status of an educational institution comes with students seeking admission, including their parents, the court said "admissions are dependent on grades. That counts".
"As the admission time in the universities is fast approaching, the NAAC shall decide the matter within two weeks hence. If the NAAC has already accredited a university, the same status shall remain with the university till the next date of deliberation," the court said in its order and listed the matter for August 18 for further hearing.
Not heeding to the Centre's plea that the NAAC should go for the gradation of the deemed universities while keeping an officer of the human resource development ministry in the loop, the court said: "Needless to emphasise, NAAC while determining the accreditation, shall act with utmost objectivity."
At the outset of the hearing, counsel Sanjay R. Hegde, appearing for petitioner Viplav Sharma, told the court that the position spelt out by the Centre was a "vote of non-confidence" both in the Tandon Committee and the University Grants Commission.
The court was told that if there was subjectivity in pointing out deficiencies in 44 deemed universities by the Tandon Committee, then by the same measure there was an element of subjectivity in the grant of deemed university status to all 128 institutions.
Counsel said this as Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta wanted the court to put the matter on hold as the government was engaged in framing rules to lay down the criteria for the grant of deemed university status and the accreditation.
Mehta told the court the government has consulted all stakeholder statutory bodies: All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), National Board of Accreditation (NBA), NAAC and UGC for framing of the rules. He said inputs by the statutory bodies have been received. The court's order on came during the hearing of the 2006 PIL by which petitioner advocate Viplav Sharma had pointed to indiscriminate conferring of deemed university status in an arbitrary manner without application of mind and following criteria.
The Tandon Committee that was set up to review the existing institutions deemed to be universities, in its report submitted on October 19, 2009, had divided the institutions having deemed university status in three categories.
In respect of the first category, the report found their working satisfactory and recommended their continued status as deemed university.
In the second category, the committee found them deficient in some respect but recommended giving them three years to graduate to the first category.
However, in respect of these 44 institutions faced with the prospect of being denotified as deemed universities, the committee had said these institutions, "neither on past performance nor on their promise for the future have the attributes, in our considered opinion, to retain their status as universities".