Introduction: Deemed university covered under Prevention of Corruption Act: Supreme Court
By widening the scope of interpretation of Section 2(c)(xi) of Prevention of Corruption Act,1988 (hereinafter referred as PC Act), the apex court held that ‘deemed to be university’ will come under the definition of ‘university’ under the PC Act. The court while upending Gujarat high court decision on State of Gujarat v. Mansukhbai kanjibhai shah, discussed various provisions and intentions of legislature regarding the PC Act. The judgment was given by a three-judge bench, consisting of Justices N.V. Ramana, M. Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi. While giving the judgement, the court emphasised on the intention of the legislature behind this enactment. It is imperative to go back and look for the actual reason of that act to form in the first place. While pronouncing the judgment, judges focused upon the importance of a society where the institutions are free from wart of avarice. The court while interpreting the provisions, gave a precedent of Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh,where it was held that it was duty of the court to interpret the law in a fashion as to strengthen the fight against corruption. The court reiterated in the intention behind the PC Act, and held that the act was not only for public servants but also for individuals who might conventionally not be considered as public servant. While deciding on whether a trustee is a ‘public servant’ covered under Section 2(c) of the PC Act, the court held that the act does not give an exhaustive list of the post covered in it but the court can interpret the provision as would give effect to the intention of the provision and with giving a precedent of CBI v. Ramesh Gelli,it held that a trustee will come under the heading of public servant and no distinction could be carved out between an university and a deemed to be university so far it related to the term ‘public servant’ as defined under the PC Act.
Significance of this development:
After this judgment, the act will prove to be transformational and a game changer when it comes to ‘deemed to be university’, coming under such stringent legislature will not only punish the offender but also deter the probable future cases of corruption. India’s institutions and corruption are inseparable and prodigiously indispensable until and unless more stringent policies are made towards realisation of corruption-free India. As educational institutions render services for public welfare, and by acknowledging ‘deemed to be university’ under the definition of ‘university’, under the PC Act, the court one more time reiterated that “the purpose of punishing and curbing the growing menace of corruption in the society imparting public duty.” This development is, indeed, an important step in the context of a democracy where one of the important aspects is accountability. With this development, there will be transparency and honesty in these institutions, as indicated by its objects and reasons.
What is a deemed-to-be-university?
In India, educational institutions are governed by University Grants Commission (hereinafter referred as UGC). The status of ‘Deemed to be university’ is granted by the Department of Higher Education on the advice of UGC, under the section 3 of University Grants Commission Act 1956 (hereinafter referred as UGC Act). According to the section 3 of UGC Act, the central government can declare any institution other than university as ‘deemed to be university’ and the provisions of act will apply on that institution if it were university under Section 2(f).Way back in 1958, India got there first set of institutions: The Indian Agricultural Research Institute(IARI) and Indian Institute of Science(IISc).UGC may confer the status on an institution which for historical reasons is engaged in work of a high standard in a specialised academic field.For the purpose of recognition as ‘deemed to be university’, an institution should be engaged in a specializations which are innovative and very high academic standard,this was also confirmed in the case of Kartar Singh v. Union of India.
Legal provisions regarding it:
Tandon committee report, 2009 found that there were 44 institutions that did not deserve to be called as deemed to be university, heads of these institution approached the apex court and as a result UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) regulations,2016 came into effect. After getting approved by UGC, the deemed university is regulated by the result UGC (Institutions deemed to be universities) regulations,2016. In Bharati Vidyapeeth (deemed university) and others v. State of Maharashtra and another,it was held in this case that State laws and Orders etc. will apply only on the deemed university if it is not related to maintaining of standards of higher education, but not in respect of maintaining standards for institutions which come under the domain of Medical Council, Dental Council etc. For getting admission in these institution, the students should appear for a test on All India basis and the State CET confined as it is only to students within the State cannot form the basis for admission .If the institution wants to establish a new department, the proposal should be sent to the Commission and the commission shall arrive at a decision after the spot visit.The Deemed University may be allowed to start such department only if that field is covered under the objectives of the institution on the time of establishment.If the deemed university once got the status of university then that institution can start any course or ward degrees as specified under the Section 22 of the UGC Act without any pre-approval.
Classification of University:
As of present, UGC acknowledges six type of university on its site. The exhaustive list of types of university is mentioned hereby:
Central Universities: These universities are established by an Act of Parliament and are under purview of the Department of Higher Education.
State Universities: These universities are established by an act of local legislative assembly.
Deemed Universities: This autonomy is provided to an institution by the Department of the Higher Education on the advice of UGC.
State Private Universities: These kinds of universities are governed by the UGC (Establishment of and Maintenance of Standards in Private Universities) Regulation, 2003.
Institutions of National Importance: Also known as Institute of eminence. This status is given to a public higher education institution in India by an Act of Parliament, these institutions are provided by special recognition and funding from Government of India. At present, there are 95 such institutions.
Fake Universities: These kinds of universities are not recognised by UGC to offer any ‘Bachelor/Master’ programmes either through regular mode or distance mode.
The PC Act was made for the welfare of individuals and therefore a broad interpretation should be made.If in any case, two or more interpretations of any provisions can be made then the court should follow the one which goes against the corruption, in general. The Apex court following this contention broadened the interpretation of ‘any’ in Section 2 (c) (xi) making the said section wide enough for ‘any’ educational institution to fall under ‘any’ university and ‘any’ person working under that institution. While court acknowledges stare decisis while deciding any case, it’s intra vires of apex court to interpret laws. Widening or narrowing is in the hands of sitting judges, it’s on judge’s discretion. That discretion can be affected by various extraneous factors as there is no hard rule for interpreting the provisions. The court held that a ‘deem to be university’ will come under the definition of ‘university’ under the PC Act. While the court did that, it is imperative to acknowledge that the PC Act should have a section for universities not coming in the definition of ‘university’ under the UGC Act, so that it will provide a thumb-rule for upcoming future cases and no extraneous factors can affect the discretion to any specific amount. While reading the sections of UGC Act, mainly sections 2(f), 3 and 23, it can be suggested either to make ‘deem to be university’ for not using the ‘university’ word with it or UGC can make these kinds of universities come under the definition of ‘university’ under UGC Act. While the provisions should be interpreted in strict sensu, albeit it’s impossible to interpret one statute with another. The court widely interpreted the provisions in order to achieve the objective of the legislature while making private ‘trustee’ come under the definition of ‘Public servant’ under the PC Act but at the same time it made a scope of uncertainty as it may be contended that private individuals would also come under the PC Act, this wideness should be dealt properly. The Apex court followed the intention of legislature and just by looking at the subject matter decided to put them under the definition of ‘university’ and ‘public servant’. By making the definitions of ‘university’ same in both the acts, then it will be in pari materia to deal with a case using both the statute and making ‘deem to be university’ come under the definition of ‘university’ in UGC Act.
Educational Institutions are growing day-by-day. It’s an important sector for any country, and India has seen various scandals in this area. It’s a landmark judgment in the area of education. This judgment shows that no matter what you are, the court will do anything to benefit the public. As rightly pointed out by Justice Ramana, “that Corruption is the malignant manifestation of a malady menacing the morality of men.” The moral of men is drastically decreasing with the increase of his income. The concept of donation is increasing in institution, disguised as management quota, get admission in private universities having a status of ‘deemed university’, there was a need to monitor these kind of acts and by the judgement of Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah, the court made possible to monitor and govern these kinds of acts performed by done by institutions solemnly for its interest. This judgement surely brings some relief to students and, most importantly, to parents.
By Prabhat Singh, Law Student