Cases filed by 14 deemed universities dismissed

The Madras High Court on Tuesday dismissed a batch of writ petitions filed by 14 deemed to be universities and the Tamil Nadu Deemed Universities Association challenging the University Grants Commission (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2010 aimed at enhancing the quality of the institutions by reducing the involvement of family members of the founder-presidents of educational trusts or societies in the management of the institutions.

Justice K. Chandru dismissed the batch of petitions after holding that trusts or societies, which applied for grant of deemed to be university status and had willingly executed a memorandum of association agreeing to abide by the guidelines issued by the UGC from time to time, could not wriggle out of their solemn commitment to carry out such directives. The judge further held that the UGC, being a watchdog body, was entitled to continuously impose conditions to make the petitioners as institutions of higher learning.

“Having established an institution through a trust or society, there is no concept of founder of the trust or the founder having power to bring his own family members. On the contrary, once a trust is established, the role of founder is not that of a proprietor but to maintain the objectives and ideals for which the trust was formed. If the founder happened to be a trustee, then he is only a trustee for the foundation and not proprietor of the said trust,” the judge said.

He rejected the argument that founder-presidents had invested a huge amount of money in creating trusts or societies and hence their family members could not be prevented from holding the post of Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors.

Proprietary right

“The argument based on proprietary right clearly undermines the nature of institution that has been created. The intention of the trust or society to start or run a deemed university is for the purpose of running educational institutions of higher learning and not to have either direct or remote control over the said institutions,” the judge added.

He pointed out that such control by the family members would negate the very purpose of learning and jeopardise the autonomy of the institution besides leading to an undesirable result as found out by a review committee appointed by the Centre. The review committee had pointed out that the number of deemed universities had risen from just seven in 1970 to 130 at present of which 87 institutions had obtained the university status between 1991 and 2000.

The committee found that the Board of Management of a large number of deemed universities were totally controlled by the family members of sponsoring trust/society. Such dominance of family members and relatives brought undesirable practice for the management architecture of the universities, the committee said. It had also pointed out that out of 130 deemed to be universities, only 38 justified their continuation as deemed universities. Not even one of the present petitioners was among the 38 universities.

“Therefore, the regulations have been made with a view to set a standard in higher education. They cannot be found fault with. It is not as if with the implementation of the UGC regulations, the future of the deemed universities will be doomed. The argument made is in desperation. Far from any such catastrophe, it will only increase the prestige of such institutions.

“If one takes a look into the creation of universities such as Yale or Harvard one can never see the founders' families having say in such matters. They are run with professional expertise and headed by eminent educationists. Autonomous educational institutions run by the educationists and patronised by philanthropists (individual or corporate) will alone go a long way in bringing academic excellence and they will churn out real human resource for the betterment of this nation,” Mr. Justice Chandru observed.

SRM University, Hindustan University, B.S. Abdur Rahman University, Sathyabama University, St. Peter's University, Sri Ramachandra University, Kalasalingam University, Meenakshi Academy of Higher Education and Research, SASTRA University, Vinayaka Mission's University, Bharat University, Saveetha University, VIT university and Vels University had filed the present batch of writ petitions.

They were aggrieved against the regulations which stated that the Chancellor of a deemed to be university should be an eminent educationist or distinguished public figure other than the president of the trust or society or his close relatives.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 12:15:28 AM |

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