All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has agreed to remove the word ‘mandatory’ from a controversial memo it served on 11,500 colleges it oversees for installing Microsoft Office 365.

The memo set June 30 as the last date for installing the productivity suite, after the American software giant was awarded a contract last year to provide the colleges with its cloud e-mail and storage offering. Had the mandate not been rescinded, more than 80 lakh students of technical education in the country would have been locked into using the suite and its proprietary software.

“A group of parliamentarians met AICTE Chairman S.S. Mantha and spoke with him… They have agreed to remove it and change the original notification. They have also agreed to incorporate any free software that could be of use,” P. Rajeev, Rajya Sabha member of the CPI(M), told The Hindu.

Representatives of Free Software Movement of India (FSMI) and some MPs, including CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and Mr. Rajeev, had opposed the AICTE decision, demanding that the mandate be called off. FSMI general secretary Y. Kiran Chandra had said it was wrong for a public body to enter into a restrictive partnership with a private company.

Attempts to contact Mr. Mantha through e-mail, phone and SMS were unsuccessful.