Recently Professor NR Madhava Menon, the founding Vice-Chancellor (VC) of my alma mater, the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata and one of the founders of the national law college (NLU) undertaking, surpassed away.
Few take into account that Professor Menon turned into additionally the writer of cutting-edge policies governing open and distance mastering (ODL) in India. Tragically, this legacy is being tarnished at NUJS, which has been a chronic violator of ODL regulations of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and University Grants Commission (UGC) in view that 2008.
The regulatory framework
ODL in India received impetus with the established order of IGNOU in 1985.
For nearly three many years after that, IGNOU had the dual role of functioning as an Open University and additionally discharging the function of the national regulator of ODL guides through its Distance Education Council (DEC).
Under the ‘Guidelines of DEC on Minimum Requirements for Recognition of ODL Institutions’ (DEC Guidelines), first posted in 2006, universities were required to comfortable mandatory approvals to offer ODL and for each of the ODL publications that have been to be run. These DEC Guidelines were compulsorily applicable on all Universities, in terms of the Supreme Court’s 2009 judgment in Annamalai.
Following the Supreme Court’s judgments in Yashpal and Annamalai, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) in August 2010 constituted the Professor NR Madhava Menon Committee to endorse measures for strong regulation of ODL.
In December 2012, UGC turned into appointed the countrywide regulator of ODL (nontechnical courses). To effectuate this, IGNOU’s DEC became dissolved and its regulatory capabilities have been transferred to UGC’s Distance Education Bureau (DEB). The DEB followed the DEC Guidelines to keep away from disruptions for the duration of the transition segment.
In 2016, the DEB advised that all online ODL guides have been being run without its permission and those guides can not be run till new guidelines are formulated. Later, the UGC notified the UGC (Open and Distance Learning) Regulations, 2017, and the UGC (Online Courses or Programmes) Regulations, 2018 (Online Regulations).
Recently, DEB’s Right to Information (RTI) response dated 16.04.2019 showed that no universities had been granted permission to run any online guides until the Online Regulations got here into impact in July 2018.
ODL publications run by way of NUJS
NUJS never had any approvals from the erstwhile IGNOU DEC or the UGC DEB for any of the ODL publications. However, it persisted in running each offline (missing approval) and on line (blanketly prohibited) ones given that 2008.
When NUJS’ apolitical pupil body, the Student Juridical Association (SJA) produced damning proof before the thirty-second NUJS Academic Council (AC), the members resolved to immediately suspend all such guides. This was sooner or later ratified by way of the 61st NUJS Executive Council (EC), which had Justice Arun Mishra because of the then Chancellor’s nominee.
At the 61st EC, the distance schooling mess has become the not unusual subject matter for three separate inquiries; and the 62nd EC reiterated the ban following the SJA’s intervention and constituted a fourth, dedicated inquiry into the space training mess, which NUJS is but even to convene.
There is likewise evidence to indicate that one of these allegedly concerned, Ms. Vaneeta Patnaik is a founding Director in Effulgent Educators LLP, which sought to run a certificates course in association with NUJS. Interestingly, Ms. Patnaik made no disclosures regarding her association with Effulgent Educators LLP to the University at any factor in time in spite of being a member (both present and voting) of the twenty-ninth AC and the fifty-fifth EC meetings – while the issue of her Effulgent Educators LLP turned into discussed.
This is to be mainly investigated by one of the inquiries above, as according to the 61st EC.
Based on the proof presented by using the SJA, the sixtieth and 61st ECs effected an administrative rinse that introduced in a new Vice-Chancellor (Acting), Registrar (Acting) and Assistant Registrar (Administration).
To the students, it regarded that the Augean stables of NUJS could sooner or later get cleaned under the watch of a venerable, retired judge of Calcutta High Court, Justice (Retd) Amit Talukdar. However, it is now an open mystery that the aforesaid EC-instituted inquiries have long gone nowhere.
While NUJS tiptoes round the space education imbroglio, it faces various civil and arbitration fits within the Calcutta and Delhi High Courts. Despite orders from the EC, Professor Anirban Mazumdar, Director, School of Distance and Mass Education (SDME), fobbed off the obligation to correspond with distance schooling students on spurious “personal” grounds.
Earlier this year, I had filed 4 RTI programs to NUJS, along with
one on distance schooling. Mr. Pritwish Saha, the NUJS Public Information Officer (PIO) gave evasive and incomplete solutions.
During followups, the PIO verbally added that the response became being drafted in consultation with Registrar (Acting), Ms. Sikha Sen and SDME Director, Professor Mazumdar. Aggrieved, I, in the end, filed an attraction before Registrar Sen. Predictably, Registrar Sen provided a rather evasive response, in opposition to whom I become later restricted to file a criticism.
DEB’s reaction dated 08.03.2019 to an identical RTI, however, virtually establishes that NUJS changed into walking these publications for nearly a decade in gross violation of the UGC Act, 1956. Pressed by my RTI applications and the SJA, NUJS launched a big cache of governing our bodies’ data.
These records, previously unavailable, not handiest showed DEB’s reaction however additionally supplied further evidence to suggest that numerous insiders, together with former Vice-Chancellor Professor Ishwara Bhat; former Registrars (Acting) Dr. R Parameshwaran and Dr. Sarfaraz A Khan; Professor Mazumdar; Ms. Patnaik; and Professor Sandeepa Bhat, had been the likely facilitators.
The details above (with specific references to various governing our bodies’ mins) have been made available to the NUJS Chancellor, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and the sixty-fifth EC in my recent letter.
Reportedly, the 66th EC ultimately took be aware of the proof made available and set up a one-man inquiry under Professor Saikat Maitra, the VC of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology, Kolkata.
Contrastingly in 2012 when NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad (NALSAR) suffered a comparable distance schooling mess, the consequent cleanup resulted in NALSAR securing Category I autonomy from the UGC, which has also had a superb effect on its ODL programs.
NUJS remains suffering to even get a NAAC accreditation, thereby making NUJS ineligible to run ODL guides any time soon.
Today, NUJS is faced with certain unpleasant realities. There has been planned inactivity and energetic sheltering of the alleged offenders for over a 12 months regardless of damning evidence of institutional complicity.
An EC packed with prison luminaries, including representation from the Supreme Court, the Calcutta High Court and the State Government has together failed to put in force any significant motion. And there may be a completely actual threat of NUJS losing its UGC association for normal publications.
Previously, certain universities in West Bengal and engineering colleges some other place in India have gotten into trouble for non-compliance with ODL norms, along with investigations with the aid of the Central Bureau of Investigation that have been initiated by way of the MHRD. Some universities even had to be shuttered.
For now, it remains to be visible whether or not NUJS will frustrate or allow Professor Maitra’s inquiry to initiate significant alternate.
The creator changed into elected President of NUJS Student Juridical Association for 2016- 18, and presently works as an Associate at Trilegal, Delhi. The perspectives are personal.