HRD to escalate IIT-UGC row to Law MinistrySeptember 5, 2014
Union Minister for Human Resource Development Smriti Irani addresses audience during CBSE Awards to Teachers 2013 ceremony in New Delhi on September 04, 2014.In a fresh twist to the UGC-IIT row over the applicability of UGC specifications to IIT degree programmes - the Smriti Irani led Human Resources Development (HRD) ministry is set to take the matter to the Law ministry.
Highly placed sources confirmed that the HRD ministry has decided that the UGC Act, 1956 should be referred to the Law ministry - a move that could further complicate the matter.
India Today was first to report that the University Grants Commission (UGC) had shot off a communication to the country's 16 IITs asking them to ensure that the degrees they are OFFERING are aligned to those recognised by them. Taking strong exception to the higher education regulator dictating degree specifics to them, the IITs had written to the Smriti Irani led HRD ministry complaining about what they viewed as interference in the IIT system.
The UGC Act and particularly Section 22 of the act DEALING with 'Right to confer degrees' will be referred for examination to the Law ministry to assess its applicability to the IITs. Smriti Irani's ministry plans to refer it to the Ministry of Law after it is discussed at the meeting of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council (SCIC) on September 12 and later by the IIT Council which will meet on September 22. The UGC chairman, who is a member of the IIT Council but has so far largely stayed off these meetings, will also attend the council meet so that the issue can be resolved in some manner.
Officials say that the only ways to resolve the standoff is to either have the IITs agree to the UGC diktat or to amend the IIT Act and specify that its provisions override all conflicting provisions in any other act. The easier way is to simply have the HRD ministry amend the rules to the IIT Act, 1961 so that it is made clear that the IIT academic programmes and degrees will be determined solely by the institutes or the IIT Council. There is also a view that the UGC be asked to amend its July 5 gazette notification specifying degree programmes and their duration to allow for the courses that IITs are OFFERING.
The 16 IITs are autonomous engineering institutes of national importance governed by The Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 that lays down their powers, duties, framework for governance etc. They have argued that the UGC Act does not apply to them at all - with some IITs even refusing to take cognisance of the IIT communication. Several IITs may have to restructure or rename their four year Bachelors of Science (BS) programmes or dual degree programmes if the UGC directive is imposed on them.
Even as it has drawn all round criticism for its directive to IITs, the University Grants Commission has strongly defended the move arguing that "UGC is the only statutory body in the country to specify degrees in all domains of knowledge, including engineering, medicine, agriculture etc".
Incidentally, the HRD ministry has also backed the UGC on the issue saying that IITs should try to do away with the mismatch with UGC on degree specifications.