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A group of engineers, including those from DRDO's chemical warfare unit, who are facing the threat of suspension of their degrees, today moved the Supreme Court for relief, saying most of them have been working for over 10-15 years and their career will be jeopardized. The engineering degrees of these candidates, many of whom are employed in aeronautical and IT streams also, were obtained after pursuing distance learning course from four institutions in academic session 2001-2005. However, according to a November 3 order of the apex court, the degrees of students, who studied in these four deemed universities--JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Institute of Advanced Studies in Education (IASE), Rajasthan, Allahabad Agricultural Institute (AAI) and Vinayaka Mission's Research Foundation, Tamil Nadu, will remain suspended from January 15 this year. A bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and U U Lalit today said that it will pass orders on multiple petitions separately on January 12. Senior advocate V Giri appearing for some of the engineers said that there were candidates who appeared in competitive examinations based on degrees obtained from these universities and qualified it to get a job. They are now at senior positions in their respective organisations. "These candidates risk losing their jobs after being 10 -15 years in service. The court should have a humane approach towards them as it will have a cascading effect on them and their families will be in trouble," he said. Giri said that there were also some candidates who were in service and used their degrees to get the promotion. The top court said that the degrees were wrongly given by the universities and it had the interest of students in its mind while granting them two opportunities to clear the examination to be conducted by AICTE. "Post facto approvals were granted to these universities by the authorities concerned despite there being a provision for prior sanction for enrolling the students.
There was ambiguity between them but we didn't want the students to suffer and hence granted them opportunities," the bench said. After their degrees were held to be "illegal and void", it was not the students' right that they be given such an opportunity, it said. "There has to be some test of their abilities as many of the study centres affiliated to these universities did not even have necessary infrastructure. Those who will not pass the examination will have to face the consequences," the bench observed. Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for one of the students who studied from ITM university (now Northcap University) at Gurgaon, said that his client didn't even know that his degree was in the distance learning category. Arora said that there is another category of students who didn't know it was a distance learning course as they attended regular classes. "World class companies tested their skills, they qualified for the post, did their post graduation all on the basis of that degree," she said. "It is not the case where their skills were not tested. They had all necessary infrastructure at their colleges and students attended all the classes just the degree was from another university," she contended. Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh supported the cause of the students and said that some other methodology could also be there for testing the abilities of students. He said that if on the basis of this foundation degree, a candidate acquires another superior degree than his case can be considered by the court. Similarly, other candidates who are now mining engineers, many with the Central Armed Police Forces like ITBP and Seema Suraksha Bal have also approached the court seeking relief. The bench said it will consider the petitions and pass the orders on January 12. On November 3, the top court had set aside the ex-facto approvals granted by the UGC to the four deemed universities, terming them as "incorrect" and "illegal", saying that such institutions were not justified in introducing any new course in technical education without the approval of AICTE. The top court had directed the AICTE to hold tests for the students whose degrees would stand suspended by January 15, 2018 and said these students should not be given more than two chances to clear the examination. If the students do not successfully clear the examination within the stipulated time, their degrees will stand cancelled and every single advantage on the basis of that degree shall also stand withdrawn, it said. The court had said that any promotion or advancement in career on the basis of such degree shall also stand withdrawn. It had also cancelled the engineering degrees awarded to students who were admitted after the academic session 2001-05 in these four deemed universities in distance education mode.
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