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Calcutta High Court dismisses PIL challenging policy adopted by State of West Bengal

The Calcutta High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed challenging the policy adopted by the State of West Bengal by adopting the recommendations given by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and introducing a Four Year UG Level Programme in all institutions from Academic Year 2023-2024.

Senior counsel for the petitioner had elaborately referred to the various notifications and submitted that in the light of the above decision taken by the Government of West Bengal and issuing notification dated 02.06.2023 deciding to introduce a Four-year UG Level Programme from the Academic Year 2023-2024 parallely allowing the three year course to continue, is in clear derogation of the policy framed by the UGC and would go against the spirit of the recommendation of the National Education Policy, 2020.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya noted that the communication sent by the UGC dated 07.12.2022, the UGC has examined the recommendations of the National Education Policy and in accordance with the said recommendation, the UGC has formulated a new Student-centric Curriculum and Credit Framework or Under Graduate Programme (CCFUP) incorporating a flexible choice based credit system, multi disciplinary approach and multi entry and exit options.

“We need not to go into the various other niceties of the policy which has been framed by the UGC and suffice to note that the recommendations of the National Education Policy is to have under-graduate degree which will be either three or four year duration with multiple exit options within the said period with appropriate certifications. What we are required is to consider as to whether by introduction of the FourYear Programme pursuant to the notification issued by the University of Calcutta and University of Burdwan for the Academic Year 2023-2024 is there a statutory bar or is there a prohibition from notifying a three-year programme”, the Bench observed.

On perusal of the policy document, the High Court found that the undergraduate programme both for three as well as four year duration remains in place and the recommendation by the National Education Policy is to give multiple exit options within either a three or four year period. That apart, the UGC notification also states that the recommendation of the National Education Policy speaks of the three-year programme.

However, it has been mentioned that the four year multi-disciplinary bachelors’ programme is a preferred option. In the policy of the UGC in paragraph 2.2, it is stated that under-graduate degree programmes with either a three or four year option with multiple entry and exit options and re-entry options have been given with appropriate clarification. Similarly, the communication of the UGC dated 31.01.2023 also clearly speaks of the multiple disciplines through a three or four year UGC Programme.

As pointed out by the Advocate General that the three-year programme also has a three-year programme with six consecutive semesters has exit option after the second and fourth year of six months each. Thus, the Bench found that there is no prohibition under any of the recommendations or in the guidelines framed by the UGC prohibiting any State Government to discontinue any three year Programme while adopting the Four-year UG Level Programme. That apart, all these issues are best left to the decision of the academic experts and the choice has to be given to the students who know better as to what is good for them and what their future should be and it is not for this Court to interdict such process by way of Public Interest Litigation. Hence, the relief sought for in the writ petition cannot be granted , the Court held.

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