HC asks Centre to clarify quota policy to be followed at Anna varsity

‘University Grants Commission rules permit universities to follow State’s policy’

The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology, to explain on what basis it had been insisting that universities in the State follow the Central reservation policy for courses funded by it. The court sought to know this as the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines permit varsities to follow the State government’s reservation policy.

Justice B. Pugalendhi granted time till Wednesday for the Centre to explain its stand. He raised the query during the hearing of writ petitions filed by aspirants wanting to join M. Tech (Biotechnology) and M. Tech (Computational Biology) courses offered by Anna University, which had earlier decided not to conduct the courses for the academic year 2020-21 due to a dispute in following the reservation policy.

Expressing strong displeasure over such a move, the judge told its counsel that at a time “when all universities have been starting new courses, Anna University alone appeared to be discontinuing courses that were in existence for nearly 25 years.” He wondered what the necessity for the varsity was to suddenly seek clarification from the State government this year on the quantum of reservation.

In reply, university counsel Vijayakumar told the court that it had received a communication from DBT asking it to follow the Centre’s 49.5% reservation policy this year as well for the admission to the two PG courses. Hence, the university was constrained to seek a clarification from the State government, which insisted on following 69% reservation in admissions.

A central government standing counsel told the court that the Centre was funding similar courses at the Madurai Kamaraj University, the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, the K.S. Rangasamy College of Technology in Tiruchengode and other institutions. All of them admitted students this year by following the Centre’s reservation policy.

“Does that mean you are indirectly imposing the Centre’s reservation policy in Tamil Nadu?” the judge asked before Special Government Pleader E. Manoharan and petitioners’ counsel A. Saravanan said universities established by the State government must follow only the local quota policy since the infrastructure for conducting the courses was being provided by those universities. They also highlighted that UGC guidelines categorically state that universities must follow only the State government’s reservation policy.

Mr. Manoharan also relied upon a few Supreme Court judgments and said the AICTE had no role to play in admissions to the two courses in question and hence the cut-off date mentioned by it had no relevance.

The judge remarked that the communication sent by DBT asking Anna University to follow the Centre’s reservation policy appeared to be a genesis of the confusion created this year and insisted that the officer, who had issued the communication, clarify his stand within a day.

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