The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre and the University Grants Commission on a writ petition seeking to declare illegal the UGC Act provision to grant deemed university status to an educational institution.

In his petition, consumer activist Jitendra Narayan Singh said Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 conferred wide and unguided power on the executive to recognise an institution as a “deemed university,” and such action resulted in commercialisation of the system of granting degrees.

In recent years, the power had been exercised by the executive authority arbitrarily to confer the status on institutions which “have no standards to be recognised as universities. These institutions in turn indulge in conferring degrees by making a profit, Mr. Singh told a Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices V.S. Sirpurkar and Deepak Verma.

“The innocent student, after having invested time, money and effort, receives a piece of paper as a degree which has no value or substance. The students ultimately find themselves being robbed of the value for their money paid for services offered by such deemed universities.”

As establishment of universities was held to be a legislative act, institutes could not be conferred the deemed university status by the executive. Section 3 of the Act, which confers power on the Centre to notify deemed universities, amounted to delegation of the essential legislative function to the executive. This rendered Section 3 ultra the Constitution, the petition said.