September 03, 2019

JBIMS to be treated as an Autonomous Institute pending approval before the University of Mumbai: SC

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


The issue that arose in this case is whether Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS) is to be treated as an autonomous or non-autonomous Department of the University of Mumbai for the academic year 2019-20.

A batch of students from University of Mumbai challenged the Judgement and Order dated 25th July 2019 passed by a division bench of the Bombay High Court on the issue with respect to admission to the Post Graduate courses of MBA/MMS in JBIMS.

JBIMS was established in 1965 as a Department of the University of Mumbai, and is one of the most prestigious and oldest institutions for management courses in the country. The University of Mumbai vide letter dated 11th July 2014, granted autonomous status to JBIMS for a period of five years from the academic year 2014-2015 to 2018-2019. 85% seats were filled up from all Universities in the State of Maharashtra on the basis of merit, while 15% were filled up from the all India quota merit list.

However, during the academic year 2018-2019, the Directorate of Technical Education (Directorate) issued a Notification whereby 100% seats in JBIMS were allocated to the students from the State of Maharashtra, and thereby wiped out the 15% all India quota in entirety. The JBIMS informed the Directorate that JBIMS would process its own admission program for the MMS course for the ensuing academic year 2019-2020. Further, the Directorate was requested not to include JBIMS in the Combined Entrance Test process.

The JBIMS addressed a letter dated 25th May 2019 to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mumbai, seeking extension of its autonomous status. For the academic year 2019-2020, a confusion occurred about the status of JBIMS. The Directorate of Technical Education published information on its website showing the status of JBIMS as non-autonomous.

After the declaration of results of the Common Entrance Test (CET), out of a total of 120 seats in JBIMS, 79 were to be allocated to the Home University i.e. University of Mumbai in all categories; 17 seats were to be allocated to Outside Home Universities (OHU); and 5 seats were to be allocated to Persons with Disabilities (PWD). The balance 18 seats constituted 15% of the total number of seats left as the All India Quota.

A Writ Petition with the High Court of Bombay was filed by the students from other universities in the State of Maharashtra who inter alia contended that they had secured higher ranks on merit in the CET. However, the admissions were conducted on the basis of JBIMS being a Non-Autonomous Institute, and the Writ Petitioners were not able to secure admission, since 70% of the seats in JBIMS were allocated to students from the Home University. Had JBIMS been treated as an Autonomous Institute for the academic year 2019-2020, then 85% seats would have been filled up by candidates from all universities across the State on the basis of merit in the CET.

The High Court allowed the Writ Petition, and directed that the admissions process be re-conducted by treating JBIMS as an Autonomous Institute. The High Court further held that JBIMS continued to be an Autonomous Institute, since its application for extension of autonomy was pending approval before the University. The Vice Chancellor of the University had permitted JBIMS to apply for extension, and get the process commenced. As a consequence, the status of autonomy of JBIMS was neither surrendered, nor was it revoked.

Aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, 39 students from the University of Mumbai filed a Special Leave Petition with the Supreme Court of India against the aforesaid judgement and sought admission on the basis of JBIMS being a non-autonomous Institute.

A bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and Sanjiv Khanna presided over the case. Mr. Maninder Singh, Senior Advocate assisted the Court as amicus curiae.

The learned bench noted that “If JBIMS is treated as a non-autonomous institute, and 70% of the seats are reserved for the Home University, then it would vitiate the principle of supremacy of merit. On the other hand, if JBIMS is treated as an autonomous institute, 85% of the seats would be open for meritorious students from all universities in the State of Maharashtra.”

The Apex Court held that JBIMS informed the Directorate of Technical Education that since it was a Department of the University of Mumbai, it was awaiting to receive the extension of its autonomous status from the University of Mumbai. Further, the autonomous status conferred on JBIMS was granted with effect from 11th July 2014 to 11th July 2019.

The Court noted that it was during the subsistence of such autonomous status, that the Directorate of Technical Education and the CET Cell on 01st July 2019 had shown the status of JBIMS to be non-autonomous. Since the application for extension was under consideration, the Directorate of Technical Education and the CET Cell were not justified in treating JBIMS as a Non-Autonomous Institute for the academic year 2019-20.

Since JBIMS had continued to fulfill the eligibility criteria for extension/renewal of the autonomous status, only a ministerial act was required to be carried out by the University to issue the Notification for grant of extension/renewal of the autonomous status.

Further, the Court observed that Statute 604 of the University of Mumbai empowers the University to grant autonomous status initially for a period of 5 years, and then to extend it for a further period of 5 years, subject to the procedure prescribed in Statutes 598 and 600. The application for extension of autonomous status had been made by JBIMS as a Department of the University, which was pending consideration before the University. The court also observed that there was some delay on the part of JBIMS and the University, to process the application for extension which led to uncertainty regarding its continued Autonomous Status.

The Supreme Court was of the view that meritorious students securing higher marks in the CET Examination should not be denied admission, in view of the occurred uncertainty. JBIMS had enjoyed autonomous status for the 5 years, whereby Home University students and students from the State of Maharashtra being covered by the 85% State quota, had an equal opportunity to compete for admission. It would harm JBIMS as an institution of national repute, and cause disillusionment and resentment amongst the meritorious students, if the admissions were not made on the basis of merit in the CET. Accordingly, the Supreme Court directed that for the academic year 2019-2020, admissions would be made as per the Judgment of the High Court.

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