PhD Degree Issued by an Open University and a Conventional University must be treated at par

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Case: Abdul Motin v. Manishankar Maiti & Ors.

Decided By: SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao

Issue:

In the instant case, the respondent had challenged the acceptability of the PhD degree granted by the Netaji Subhas Open University as an essential academic qualification for the post of Principal. According to him the Petitioner who ranked second in the panel was an ineligible candidate as his PhD degree which he obtained from Netaji Subhas Open University, could not be accepted as a valid PhD degree by the Commission.

The High Court allowed the Petition filed by Dr. Maiti, and held inter alia that PhD degree obtained by Dr. Motin from Netaji Subhas Open University cannot be accepted as a valid PhD degree for the post of Principal and accordingly, a direction was given to recasting the panel for the post of Principal.

Being aggrieved, Dr. Motin approached the Supreme Court and the issue taken up for consideration by the Apex Court was whether a Ph.D degree conferred by an Open University under the Netaji Subhash Open University Act, 1997, and a Ph.D degree conferred by a regular University ought to be treated differently for the purpose of appointment for the post of Principal/Lecturer/Reader etc., in the non-government colleges where such PhD degree is an essential qualification?

Decision Of The Court:

The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court allowed the Appeal and made the following observations in the case:

The court directed the respondent-Commission to recommend the name of Dr. Abdul Motin for appointment as Principal for the non-Government Colleges within a period of one month from the date of order.

While pronouncing the judgment, the Supreme Court heavily relied on its verdict in the case of Annamalai University vs. the Secretary to the Government, Information and Tourism Department & Ors.wherein it was stated that:

The provisions of the UGC Act are binding on all universities whether conventional or open. Its powers are very broad. The Regulations framed by it in terms of clauses (e), (f), (g) and (h) of sub-section (1) of Section 26 are of wide amplitude. They apply equally to open universities as also to formal conventional universities.

Accordingly, the Degrees/Diplomas/ Certificates awarded for programmes conducted by the ODL institutions, recognized by DEC (erstwhile) and UGC, in conformity with UGC notification on the specification of Degrees should be treated as equivalent to the corresponding awards of the Degree/Diploma/ Certificate of the traditional Universities/Institutions in the country.

In view of the observations in the case of Annamalai University (supra) and the above directive, we are of the  view that as a consequence, PhD degree issued by an Open University and another PhD degree issued by a formal conventional university must, therefore, be treated at par having been so issued under the uniform standards  prescribed by University Grants Commission Act.

In this view of the matter, we allow these appeals, set aside the judgments and orders passed by the Division Bench as also the learned Single Judge of the High Court, and direct that the operative order shall be in force as stated above.

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