Ruling that the part-time B.Tech Program lacking the approval of AICTE cannot be treated on par with the regular degree, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Haryana government to exclude the in-service Junior Engineers, with such degrees, from the zone of consideration of promotion to the position of Sub Divisional Officer under the quota meant for degree holders.
Justice Arun Monga in a ruling said the employees, who had taken admission in the 4-year B.Tech (Civil Engineering) Weekend Course at Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology for academic Session 2011-2012 in the ‘Weekend Programme for Working Professionals’ cannot be said to possess the eligibility for promotion as Assistant Engineer against the quota for Graduate Engineers.
"No benefit can be granted on the basis of such a qualification for promotion against the 11% promotion quota meant for degree holder Junior Engineers," said the court.
The court passed the ruling on a batch of petitions seeking setting aside of the decision to include the name of those candidates, who had obtained the degree of B.Tech. (Civil Engineering) through the weekend course, in the list of eligible JEs for promotion.
The contention of the petitioners was that the JEs - the private respondents in the case, are not eligible as they are mere diploma holders and weekend/part time course of university leading to their B.Tech degrees was not approved by AICTE.
The varsity contended that it being a State Govt. University established under an Act of Haryana State Assembly and duly recognized by UGC under Section 2(F) & 12(B) of UGC Act, is fully empowered to award degrees under Section 22 of the UGC Act, 1956 in the manner it deems fit.
The university also relied upon the minutes of meeting of Haryana State Board of Technical Education dated 10.05.2011 where it was stated that B.Tech program (weekend classes) of the varsity is valid and the approval of joint committee of UGC-DEC-AICTE is not necessary.
AICTE told that court that it had not approved the four-year B-Tech Course through weekend mode for the academic year 2011-2012.
Justice Monga said the university was not competent to accord approval for week-end or part-time B.Tech Course. The bench took note of a communication sent by AICTE to the university where the latter's request for granting post-facto approval to Part Time courses, which were run previously as week-end courses, was rejected.
"Firstly, this letter Annexure P/6 and affidavit dated 31.08.2021 filed behalf of respondent No. 3 (AICTE) read together show that approval of the AICTE ... was required for the Part Time B.Tech courses which were run previously as week-end courses. Secondly, the very fact that respondent No. 4 had applied to respondent No. 3 for granting post-facto approval to Part Time courses which were run previously as week-end courses, shows that the former itself had then found that the approval of the AICTE ... was required for the Part Time B.Tech courses which were run previously as week-end courses," the bench said.
The court said the course in question was not even a part-time course as it was introduced for the first time with a novel nomenclature as a Weekend course. I am unable to accept the contention that approval of the AICTE was not necessary for the B.Tech. Part-Time course, which was initially named as the Weekend course, said Justice Monga.
While the respondents had relied on Supreme Court's decision in Bharathidasan University v. All India Council for Technical Education 2001 (8) SCC 676 to argue that he university being an independent entity does not require approval of AICTE for imparting technical education, the court said the judgement has has been clarified and distinguished to mean that approval of AICTE is mandatory, in Vinit Garg and others vs. University Grants Commission and others.
The court said "veryspecific and spot on task" assigned to AICTE is to lay down the norms for technical education in universities and they can not, therefore, turn around to canvass that being independent creature of another statute, flouting AITCE norms by them in technical education would enjoy any special immunity.
"Role of AICTE has been put to rest by Supreme Court of India as per renditions Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Limited, and Vinit Garg and others versus UGC. It is held therein that AICTE is the sole repository of power to lay down parameters or qualitative norms for “technical education”," it added.
Ruling that weekend B.Tech degree qualifications warranted an AICTE approval qua its norms, which was not obtained by University, and that such degrees are non-compliant of AICTE norms in the absence of specific approval qua the same, the court said there cannot be a presumption of complying with norms and thus inferring a deemed AITCE approval.
"Being so, weekend course degree cannot be treated at par with the qualification of a degree prescribed in Appendix B of the Punjab Service of Engineers class II, PWD (Buildings & Roads Branch) Rules 1965," said the bench.
The court said the university itself admitted, in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application, that the Weekend program was not compliant with the AICTE norms and consequently terminated it on March 29, 2013.
"Approbating and reprobating still further, it is borne out that both State and State University, in totally self-incongruous manner, simultaneously supported and opposed AICTE norms. While, every year, it sought/seeks the extension of the regular Course Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) Degree since the academic year 2012-13 onwards (as per Annexure P-16), but for weekend course B.Tech it claims immunity from such norms. This is evidently absurd and is a highly conflicting and legally unsustainable position, since the university itself has requested for approval of the regular courses to be in line with the norms set by AICTE and yet it claims that the weekend courses do not have to be in line with the said norms or have AICTE approval."
The court said the B.Tech degree obtained by the private respondents through weekend/part time course not approved by the AICTE cannot be treated at par with the qualification of a degree prescribed in Appendix B of the Punjab Service of Engineers class II, PWD (Buildings & Roads Branch) Rules 1965 for appointment by promotion as Assistant Engineer/Sub Divisional Engineer from the service/cadre of the Haryana Public Works Department, Buildings & Roads Junior Engineers (Engineering) Service against the 11% promotion quota for degree holder Junior Engineers.
Allowing the petitions, the court quashed the decision to include Junior Engineer (JE), who had obtained the degree of B.Tech. (Civil Engineering) through the weekend course, in the list of eligible JEs under Degree Holder category.
"Department is at liberty to proceed by excluding their names from zone of consideration against the quota meant for degree holders," said the bench.