21 March 2023 3:45 PM GMT
The Kerala High Court recently upheld the constitutional validity of Section 45A of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies Act, 2010 (KUFOS Act) on the ground that the qualifications for teaching posts prescribed in addition to the UGC Regulations is for uplifting the quality of education.A single bench of Justice Sathish Ninan was considering a plea challenging the...
The Kerala High Court recently upheld the constitutional validity of Section 45A of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies Act, 2010 (KUFOS Act) on the ground that the qualifications for teaching posts prescribed in addition to the UGC Regulations is for uplifting the quality of education.
A single bench of Justice Sathish Ninan was considering a plea challenging the constitutional validity of Section 45A of the KUFOS Act on the ground that it was repugnant to the qualifications prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations. The petitioners also challenged the employment notification issued by the Kerala University Of Fisheries And Ocean Studies for filling up posts prescribing the above qualifications.
The qualification prescribed under Section 45(3) of the KUFOS Act is that the fisheries faculty must have a graduate degree in Fisheries Science approved by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and a postgraduate degree in the specific Fisheries subject concerned and other qualifications as mandated by the ICAR. The petitioners pointed out that Regulation 4.1 of the UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education, 2018 (UGC Regulations) prescribes only a master's degree with 55% marks in the relevant subject from an Indian University as qualification for the post of Assistant Professor.
The petitioners argued that the UGC regulations would prevail over the State enactment in case of any repugnancy and since the qualification prescribed in Section 45A is in conflict with the UGC Regulations it is unconstitutional and liable to be struck down.
Under entry 25 in List III and entry 14 and 21 in List II to the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the State has the power to enact the KUFOS Act. However, the UGC Act is a parliamentary legislation deriving its power from entry 66 in List I. UGC Regulations referred above were made in light of Section 26 of the UGC Act that enables the Commission to make regulations prescribing qualifications for appointment of teaching staff. The petitioners contended that the Regulations made by the UGC under Section 26 of the UGC Act are to be treated as parliamentary legislations and hence in case of any conflict with any State laws, the UGC Regulations should prevail.
The respondents did not disagree with the contention of the petitioners that in case of a dispute, the UGC regulation will prevail. However, it was their contention that the UGC regulation referred above only prescribes a minimum qualification for appointment. Prescribing qualifications in addition to the qualifications set by UGC does not violate the regulations, the respondents argued.
The court agreed with the contention of petitioners that the State Law cannot be repugnant to parliamentary legislation. However, the court was of the view that in this case there was no repugnancy, in the qualifications prescribed. Requiring BFSc degree over BSC degree and MFSc degree over MSc degree was justified for selecting faculty for Fisheries Science, the court observed.
“Since knowledge is to be imparted to the students of BFSc course, State deemed it appropriate that the teachers who impart knowledge should possess the degree in Fisheries Science and Post Graduate degree in the fisheries subject concerned. It can only be understood to be the prescription of a higher qualification to uplift the quality of education. It does not do away with the minimum qualification of “Masters Degree” as prescribed under Ext.P1 UGC regulations. Therefore, the challenge against the provision on the ground of repugnancy, fails.”
The petitioners also challenged Section 45A of the KUFSO Act on the ground that it requires the degree in Fishery Science to be approved by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The petitioners submitted that the ICAR issued a public notice stating that it does not provide approval for any course and hence such a requirement is impossible to comply with.
The court did not agree with this contention of the petitioners either, as it observed that the public notice referred by the petitioners only states that the ICAR does not give any “recognition” or “affiliation” to any University or any course offered by the University. The court also referred to the handbook of Vice Chancellors published by the UGC where the ICAR has been categorized as a regulatory council.
In light of the above the court refused to strike down Section 45A of the KUFOS Act or set aside the employment notification issued by the Kerala University Of Fisheries And Ocean Studies.
Case Title: Dr. Usha V. Parameswaran and Others V State of Kerala and Others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 150
Click here to read/download judgment