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Universities Not Under Government Control, They Can Act Independently: Kerala HC [Read Judgment]

Kerala High Court has recently held that Universities are not subservient to the Government but are expected to act autonomously and independently under the provisions of the Act that empowers and enlivens them

Justice Devan Ramachandran, while disposing of a batch of writ petitions seeking affiliation for starting new courses/colleges, has held that universities cannot insist for obtaining prior no objection certificate (NOC) from the government for considering such applications.

Justice Ramachandran also observed that it is ironical that the Universities are sufficiently empowered by the Statutes but the Universities take it upon themselves to feel that they are merely adjuvant to the dictates of the Government.

The petitioners, who are private self-financing colleges and institutions, had approached the high court after the universities had necessitated a pre-condition for obtaining an NOC from the government towards grant of affiliation for starting new courses/colleges.

The court, after a granular analysis of the law and facts of the case, arrived at a conclusion that the approach now taken by the universities was improper and irregular.

Citing absence of any specific statutory provision or rule of law necessitating for prior obtaining an NOC from the government, the court noted that universities were committing grave error by insisting for the same.

“For fear of being mistaken, I clarify that I am not saying that the views of the Government cannot be obtained by the Universities. But I am only saying that the Universities should not think that they are obligated  by the requirement of obtaining prior permission from the Government before they can perform their imperative functions under the Statutes. I am clear in my mind that the Universities are under no such obligation and no such constraint or manacle and that it would not require the University to ask the applicant to obtain an NOC from the Government”.

It added that as regards the process towards grant /refusal of affiliation, it should be carried out by the concerned university based on the facts and circumstances of each case independently.

The Bench has held that:

The concept of an NOC, therefore, defies logic because NOC means a ‘no objection certificate’ and it is in the nature of a prior permission or imprimatur. Nowhere do the provisions of the Statutes, as I have extracted above, show that the University is bound by a prior approbation of the Government. They are not subservient to the Government but are expected to act autonomously and independently under the provisions of the Act that empowers and enlivens them. It is ironical that the Universities are sufficiently empowered by the Statutes but the Universities take it upon themselves to feel that they are merely adjuvant to the dictates of the Government. They seem to harbour a belief that they are under a duty to go to the Government first and obtain an NOC before which they can act. To exacerbate the situation, it is not merely that they feel that they should go to the Government but they obligate the applicants to approach the Government and obtain an NOC as a pre-condition for consideration of their applications for affiliation. I do not understand on what basis or logic that the Universities have acted so. I have a feeling that the Universities believe that they are under the executive control of the Government and that it is under this misconception that the Universities have acted in issuing the impugned notification mandating the applicants to obtain prior NOC from the Government. I believe that it is now time that the Universities are told that they are not under the Government and that they can act independently.”

Read the Judgment here.

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