JNU's stand of giving weightage to written and oral exams in the ratio of 80:20 for admissions in M.Phil and PhD courses was termed as "illegal" by its own lawyer in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday, who claimed the decision was taken "under pressure" from agitating students.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), told the court that it was an "illegal decision" and the Vice Chancellor (VC) had taken the step "under pressure" from and "hooliganism" of agitating students.
The students are opposing a UGC notification to cap at eight the number of students per professor to undertake the M.Phil and PhD courses in the university. The UGC norms prescribe that 100 per cent weightage should be given to viva-voce (oral exam) for taking admissions in these courses, while JNU currently follows the 80:20 or 70:30 weightage to written and viva-voce.
The varsity in its affidavit had said it has modified the weightage prescribed by UGC for admission to the two courses. But the stand was opposed by the ASG, who represented JNU. Justice V K Rao, who was hearing the arguments, observed that what was argued in court by JNU "was not in consonance with what was filed in the affidavit".
The court reserved its judgement after hearing arguments of JNU and of the students challenging the admission policy formulated pursuant to the notification.
The students have also challenged the procedure followed for adopting the notification, issued on May 5, 2016.
Senior advocate Arvind Nigam, appearing for the students, said the varsity cannot resile from its affidavit and asked whether the VC had filed the document in court under duress.
He said if the weightage criteria can be modified it shows that the UGC notification was open to "tweaking" to suit the needs of the varsity.
Nigam also said that if the cap of a total of eight students was implemented from this academic year, it would result in a "zero year", that is no admissions, in various courses for the current and coming years.
ASG Mehta, during arguments, contended that the procedure was an "unnecessary exercise" as the notification was binding on JNU as well as all other universities whether they adopted it or not. He said the notification was issued for maintaining minimum standards of education and ensure that varsities do not become "factories for mass production of degree holders" and the UGC regulations cannot be tweaked to suit the individual needs of a university.
He said if the notification was not challenged, then by quashing the procedure for adopting it, the binding nature of the regulation cannot be taken away.
The ASG said the cap would not affect students already pursuing the two courses even if the professors supervising them have exceeded the limit. But fresh intake would be affected, he added.
However, Nigam differed with the contention, saying the past practice of JNU also showed divergence from UGC norms. He sought that the issue of adoption of the notification be sent back to the academic council of the varsity for urgent reconsideration.
Nigam also asked what steps have been taken by JNU to fill up the 308 vacant faculty posts, to which the varsity said the process to fill them up was going on.
JNU students were protesting against the UGC notification since February 9 and allegedly blockading the administrative block of the varsity. The protest was called off on February 28.