A two judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices T.S.Thakur and R.F.Nariman has upheld the regulations framed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) prescribing minimum qualifications for national and state level entrance tests (NET/SLET) for appointment of teachers/assistant professors in colleges. The bench speaking through Justice Nariman dismissed a batch of petitions filed by Ph.D/M.Phil holders challenging the regulations as revised by the Union government but said they would only be prospective.
The constitutional validity of the UGC regulations (minimum qualifications required for the appointment and career advancement of teachers in universities and institutions affiliated to it) (the third Amendment) Regulation 2009 under which NET/SLET was to be the minimum eligibility condition for recruitment and appointment of lecturers in universities/colleges/institutions was assailed in the petitions. Though the UGC exempted Ph.D and M.Phil candidates from the eligibility test, the Union government had issued a circular including them in the regulations. While the High Courts of Madras, Delhi and Rajasthan rejected the challenge, the Allahabad High Court quashed the regulations. Justice Nariman set aside the Allahabad High Court judgment which said that the regulations were issued pursuant to directions of the Central Government which themselves were issued outside the powers conferred by the UGC Act and, hence, the conditions laid down would not apply to MPhil and PhD degrees awarded prior to December 31, 2009.The present petitions were clubbed together as they involved same question of law. Justice Nariman wrote “It is clear that the object of the directions of the Central government read with the UGC regulations of 2009/2010 are to maintain excellence in standards of higher education.”
The bench also observed
“22. We have already pointed out how the directions of the Central Government under Section 20 of the UGC Act pertain to questions of policy relating to national purpose. We have also pointed out that the regulation making power is subservient to directions issued under Section 20 of the Act. The fact that the UGC is an expert body does not take the matter any further. The UGC Act contemplates that such expert body will have to act in accordance with directions issued by the Central Government.”
The bench also expressed disappointment on a single judge bench not following a DB’s orders -