NEW DELHI: In a major relief to 44 deemed universities facing derecognition in the light of HRD ministry's Tandon committee report, Supreme Court on Monday ordered that no immediate step be taken by the Centre to scrap the blacklisted varsities.
This order is expected to calm the anxieties of thousands of students studying in these deemed universities, many of whom had embarked on a violent agitation after being unsure of their future. "Maintain status quo in the matter," the SC said on Monday.
A Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A K Patnaik said, "Nothing will happen to your institution or to the students studying there. Before taking a final decision, the SC will scrutinise both the reports -- one by the University Grants Commission review committee that did not find anything amiss in these institutions and the other by Tandon committee, set up by the HRD ministry, that blacklisted them -- and give each of them a chance to put their side of view."
The court issued notices to all 44 deemed universities recommended to be stripped of their status, asked the Centre to furnish all details of the task force report as well as the UGC review committee report and posted the matter for further hearing on March 8. The promise to take both points of view into consideration will be a huge breather for the universities and students.
Attorney general G E Vahanvati also said the government was not planning any hasty action to strip these institutions of deemed university status and would file an affidavit before the court detailing a proposed plan of action on the basis of the committee report. "No action will be taken without the court's approval," he added.
Despite being cornered by a large number of senior advocates questioning the soundness of HRD ministry's decision to accept Tandon committee report, he said that in the fitness of things and to maintain purity of educational stream, those deemed universities found unfit to retain the status should not admit students for the next academic session (2010-11).
The SC refused to pass any order on this suggestion as it met with strong resistance from blacklisted deemed universities represented by virtual who's who among the lawyers in a court room that was jam-packed by lawyers, scared management representatives and anxious students.
When petitioner Viplav Sharma's counsel Sanjay Hegde repeated the suggestion for restraining these 44 deemed universities from admitting students for the coming academic session, senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Rajeev Dhawan questioned the Tandon committee’s authority as UGC as the statutory body had cleared these institutions.
Other senior advocates pointed out that the UGC review committee had as late as November last year given them clearance to continue after a detailed inspection, but the Tandon committee did a perfunctory proforma inspection through questionnaire and three-minute presentation to come to a questionable conclusion.
Tempers ran high and harsh words were exchanged in this high stakes hearing, both for the universities and the students, as counsel started speaking at the same time drowning the voice of the AG, who was responding to SC's query on the fate of the deemed universities faulted by Tandon committee.
The Bench said, "We ourselves want to be satisfied whether proper procedure was followed and principles of natural justice was adhered to." It asked for a copy of the task force report in light of allegations that the deemed universities were indicted without any physical inspection.
The AG said, "I am not telling them off you go. The Centre is not asking the SC to accept the task force report straightaway. We are not going to cancel their status. We will file an affidavit detailing the proposed procedure we are going to adopt. And no action would be taken till the SC approves of it."