The Rajasthan High Court declared that degrees awarded by two deemed Universities through distance learning without approval from University Grants Commissions (UGC) as invalid.

The bench further held that all diplomas and degrees, whether undergraduate, graduate, or Ph.D., introduced without specific approval in new courses or though distance education, apart from those existing at the time of obtaining deemed university status, were declared invalid and unrecognized.

Accordingly, a bench of Justice Arun Monga observed, “To conclude, what emerges thus is that there have been gross violations by the deemed university in not only setting up off campus study centers offering degrees/diploma in various programs/streams, but even the mandatory requirement of prior approval for introducing the new courses and starting distance education was also not adhered to. The same cannot under any circumstances be countenanced or put under fathoms deep to get away from the legal consequences. All such degrees awarded by the deemed university are thus liable to be declared invalid and unrecognized”.

Senior Advocate Manoj Bhandari appeared for the petitioners and Senior Advocate R.N. Mathur appeared for the respondents.

In the present batch of petitions, two private educational institutes i.e. Institute Of Advanced Study In Education (IASE) and Janardan Rai Nagar Rajasthan Vidyapeeth (JRN) and some of their students sought recognition of the degrees/diplomas awarded through distance education in various streams/courses.

During the pendency of the lis herein, Orissa High Court allowed a writ petition filed by an employee of Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Ltd. (OLCL for short), whereby it was held that his degree in engineering obtained, while in government service, from JRN through distance mode was valid. Subsequent to which the Orissa Lift Irrigation Corporation Ltd. challenged the said judgment in Supreme Court.

Where the Supreme Court upholding the Kartar Singh v Union of India judgment, came down heavily on both the private institutes with the present judgment referred to as “with a ton of bricks”. Not only it ordered an enquiry by UGC to ascertain their future continuation as deemed to be universities, but also directed a CBI enquiry for the flagrant violations in awarding engineering degrees through distance education mode. Controversy qua technical education degrees through distance mode is thus res-judice. Simultaneously, a public interest litigation was brought before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, challenging the legitimacy of engineering degrees conferred through distance education by both IASE and JRN. In a landmark judgment, the Punjab and Haryana High Court held these degrees invalid, citing concerns over the quality and accreditation of distance education programs, particularly in technical fields.

Therefore, in the present matter question that was now to be adjudicated upon was with the validity of degrees/diplomas in general education (other than technical education) through distance mode, as well as, degrees awarded in certain new courses. Diplomas in technical education through distance mode were also under scanner.

The petitioners in the present case argued that the degrees/diplomas obtained through distance education from IASE and JRN should be recognized. To substantiate the same they submitted compliance with regulatory standards and argued for the value and legitimacy of distance education. While arguing on concerns regarding the quality, rigor, and accreditation of distance education programs, especially in technical fields like engineering. The respondents contended that engineering degrees awarded through distance education by these institutes were invalid.

The respondent-Union of India’s had contended that as a Deemed to be University, IASE should have obtained prior permission from the UGC or Distance Education Council (DEC) or Distance Education Board (DEB) before enrolling students in its distance education programs and any new courses in the regular mode.

University Grants Commission argued that deemed to be university status has been completely misused and abused by both the institutes, inasmuch as, the said status is always conferred and was conferred on both the institutes of specific academic programme, which were being / to be imported by them at the time of inception on a representation and on the premise that they have the expertise in the said specific domains of knowledge.

Therefore, the detailed questions for consideration before the court were:

(i)Whether deemed to be Universities are governed by the provisions of the UGC Act and its guidelines for imparting general education?

(ii) Whether deemed to be Universities can introduce new academic courses, aside from those offered at inception, without prior UGC approval, whether for conventional classroom education or distance mode education?

(iii)Whether the educational institutes herein could commence distance education and award degrees without prior approval?

(iv) Whether deemed to be Universities can establish off-campus institutes/education centers/study centers through franchise agreements without seeking approval?

(v). Whether ex post facto approval can be granted for the introduction of new courses or for starting distance education?

While answering the questions in negation, after considering the relevant submissions and the circumstances, the bench passed the followed directions:

“Violations qua lack of approvals continue to subsist even as on today, and I am of the view that strict actions are warranted to avoid further damage. Let us now turn to the remedial measures that are urgently warranted to forthwith plug the further mischief by either of these institutes”.

-All the impugned order, letters, and communications issued by MHRD, UGC, IGNOU and the erstwhile DEC and later DEB are declared legal and valid. Respondents are directed to proceed with further actions in accordance with these orders/letters to their logical conclusion. The interim stays granted by this Court on various writ petitions, which halted the operation and effect of such communications and letters, are all vacated forthwith in all the petitions.

- All diplomas and degrees, whether undergraduate, graduate, or Ph.D., introduced without specific approval in new courses or though distance education, apart from those existing at the time of obtaining deemed university status, are declared invalid and unrecognized.

- all diplomas and degrees in general education, except those offered in pre-existing or existing courses/programs, are temporarily suspended as of now.

The bench further directed the UGC to promptly take steps to conduct fresh examinations for students whose degrees have been suspended following aforesaid directives within a reasonable time but not later than a year.

Both the institutes were directed to refund the entire amount charged to students enrolled in new unapproved courses, off-campus study centers without prior approval, or distance education without approval.


Petitioner: Advocates Tarun Joshi, Govind Suthar, Sushil Bishnoi, Chaman Khanna, A.R. Godara, Himanshu Bump, Deepak Kanwar

Respondent: Rishab Handa, Girish Joshi, Mukesh Rajpurohit, ASG, Akhilesh Rajpurohit,Rajeev Purohit for PTET Subhash Chowdhary for UOI D.S. Dhaka for respondent No.7 Shashank Joshi, Ravi Maloo, B.P. Bohra, D.D. Chitlangi, Gouri Goburdhan through VC Mr Apurv Kurup through VC

Cause Title: Institute of Advanced Studies in Education, (IASE) v. Union Of India & Ors. [Neutral Citation: 2023:RJ-JD:45041]

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