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UGC fully empowered to impose territorial restrictions on offering distance education courses, rules HC

Justices R. Subramanian and K. Kumaresh Babu dismiss a batch of writ petitions filed by University of Madras, Bharathidasan University, Periyar University, Bharathiar University and others in 2015 & 2016

January 25, 2023 09:59 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:48 am IST - CHENNAI

The necessity for such regulations had come up only because of the attempt made by some of the universities to commercialize education, the Bench said.

The necessity for such regulations had come up only because of the attempt made by some of the universities to commercialize education, the Bench said.

The Madras High Court has upheld the right and primacy of University Grants Commission (UGC) to impose regulations for conduct of distance education programmes by the universities established by the State government as well as the deemed to be universities.

Justices R. Subramanian and K. Kumaresh Babu dismissed writ petitions filed by the University of Madras, Bharathidasan University, Periyar University, Bharathiar University and others in 2015 and 2016 challenging territorial restrictions imposed by UGC on conduct of distance education courses.

“Once the regulations have been framed by the UGC in exercise of powers conferred on it under Section 26 of the UGC Act, the same will prevail and UGC will have the power to prevent the State Universities from operating outside the State,” the Division Bench wrote.

It went on to state: “All the State universities which are established under various State enactments with a particular area of operation or a territorial jurisdiction will have to limit their functions only to such jurisdiction. We are not suggesting that these universities cannot enroll students from outside the State, but their activities cannot span beyond the State.”

Since the UGC came up with new regulations in 2020, pending adjudication of the writ petitions, and the new regulations had not been put to challenge by anyone, the judges ordered that those who had already obtained degrees in the last few years on the basis of interim orders, shall not be affected by the present judgment.

Pointing out that the stand off between the UGC and the universities began in 2012 when the territorial restrictions were imposed for the first time, the judges said: “The very necessity for such regulations had come up only because of the attempt made by some of the universities to commercialize education.”

The Bench said that many universities had entered into franchisee agreements indiscriminately with persons who did not possess expertise or infrastructure to provide quality education to students in their desire to make education a profitable venture. “It is quite surprising that even state funded universities have ventured into such unethical practices,” it added.

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