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HC dismisses writ petition of 25 Govt. College Associate Profs

Nagaland News

DIMAPUR, JULY 1: The Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court today dismissed a writ petition filed by 25 Associate Professors of Government colleges in Nagaland seeking exemption in applying UGC norms so that they can be promoted/placed as Professor/Principal even without the essential qualification of Ph.D.
During the course of the hearing of the writ petition, the petitioners submitted that when they entered their respective services, the eligibility criteria was inter alia a Masters Degree with minimum 55% marks. The statutory rules at the time of their entry into service was the Nagaland Higher Education Service Rules, 1990 (Rules of 1990), which was subsequently repealed by the Nagaland Higher Education Service Rules, 2003 (Rules of 2003).
The petitioners submitted that under the Rules of 1990 and the Rules of 2003, the eligibility criteria for appointment/recruitment to the post of Lecturer/Assistant Professor remained the same. The Rules of 2003 was then repealed by the Nagaland Higher Education Service Rules, 2015 (Rules of 2015), which came into force from the date of its publication in the Nagaland Gazette i.e., 10.06.2015.
As per the Rules of 2015, the post of Associate Professor is the feeder post for promotion/placement to the grade of Professor/Principal and the essential qualification for such promotion/placement is Ph. D with a minimum service of 3 years at Stage-4.
According to the petitioners, they were all appointed under the Rules of 1990 & 2003 and they have the accrued and vested right to be considered for promotion/placement to the higher post but their rights have been adversely affected with the adoption of the Rules of 2015.
The petitioners also contend that at the time of their initial appointment, they were assured that their qualification would not be a bar for them to be considered for upward progression in their service careers. Such assurance was key to their acceptance of the employment advertised and offered, they submitted.
Counsel of the petitioners, A Zhimomi submitted that all the petitioners were appointed before the coming into force of Rules of 2015, which prescribes for having Ph. D in order to be considered for promotion/placement to the post of Professor/Principal. He submitted that the Rules of 2015 are retrospective in operation and the same has taken away the vested rights of the petitioners.
Zhimomi submitted that the Rules of 2015 do not provide any promotional avenues to those appointed prior to the enactment of the Rules such as the writ petitioners. He submitted that the Rules of 2015 cannot withstand the test of reasonableness under Article 14 of the Constitution of India vis-à-vis the petitioners.
State Counsel, V Suokhrie, on the other hand, submitted that the UGC Guidelines were adopted by the State Government in the Department of Higher & Technical Education since the year 2010, and the petitioners were aware about the qualification prescribed by the UGC i.e. Ph. D for further promotion or placement as Professor/Principal. In fact, she said some of the petitioners were given study leave for pursuing and obtaining Ph. D degree but they failed to secure the Doctorate degree.
The State Counsel also submitted that due to non-impleadment of the UGC as a party respondent, the writ petition is also not maintainable for non-joinder of the necessary parties. “Further, if those who had already obtained Ph. D Degree are not made a party to the case, all the hard work put in by those who have secured the Doctorate degree will only be in vain”, she said.
Suokhrie submitted that in the given facts of the instant case, the exemption in applying UGC norms as sought by the petitioners is not called for and cannot be accepted. It does not even attract the principles of legitimate expectation as claimed by them, she said.
The State counsel further submitted that the petitioners have also not challenged the notification by which the UGC norms have been adopted and therefore, the basic notification having not been challenged, the writ petition is not maintainable even on this ground.
Passing their judgment and order (Cav) after hearing both parties, Justice Songkhupchung Serto and Justice Nelson Sailo said the Rules of 2015 has been framed in exercise of the powers conferred by the proviso to Article 309 of the Constitution of India and in line with the UGC Regulations of 2010. Rule 2(iii) also provides that the Rules shall be subject to changes as per notifications, circulars and regulations issued by the UGC and adopted by the State Government from time to time. “The petitioners have not challenged the Notification dated 24.08.2010 by which the UGC Regulations were adopted and they have also not made the UGC a party respondent. There is no dispute to the fact that in order to maintain the standards in higher education, the UGC has framed the Regulations which equally apply to all the Institutions and Universities receiving funds from the UGC”, the judgment and order said.
Stating that the framers of the regulations in order to raise the standards in higher education had prescribed the minimum qualification for teachers who wish to advance or move up from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor and thereafter, in the grade of Professor, the judgment said, “Therefore, when the framers of the Regulation having the expertise have found it appropriate to prescribe for such qualification for Teachers to advance in their career, Court should not replace the same with its own view but leave the same to those who are experts in the field. The interference of this Court would be warranted only when the provisions of the Rules are found to be arbitrary or discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.”
The Court said the petitioners may have possessed the qualification for the post of Lecturer/Assistant Professor at the time of their entry into the service but that does not mean that their qualification should be accepted as sufficient for being promoted or placed in higher grades.
“Under the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the considered view that the writ petition has no merit and accordingly, the same is dismissed”, the judgment said.
(Page News Service)