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In a major setback to thousands of students who pursued engineering studies through correspondence courses offered by deemed universities in the last 16 years, the Supreme Court declared on Friday that the degrees were invalid, putting them at risk of losing jobs obtained on the basis of the certificates.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit noted that the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) did not approve distance learning programmes in engineering studies and the approval granted by the Distance Education Council (DEC) for such courses was illegal.

The SC decision exposes the extent to which the regulatory system was compromised as the courses were being run for more than a decade and a half without attracting serious scrutiny.

The apex court directed the Centre to create an oversight mechanism to regulate deemed universities, saying that UGC completely failed to curb the commercialisation of education. It asked the go vernment to review the deemed university status of various institutions.

The court adjudicated a bunch of petitions on the validity of correspondence courses of four deemed universities -JRN Rajasthan Vidyapeeth, Institute of Advanced Studies in Education in Rajasthan, Allahabad Agricultural Institute and Vinayaka Mission’s Research Foundation in Tamil Nadu -which have been providing engineering education through correspondence since 2001 despite AICTE disapproval.

The apex court restrained all deemed universities from offering correspondence courses without the approval of the AICTE and directed a CBI probe against officials who permitted the universities to run the programmes from 2001. The court passed the or der after UGC’s coun sel and ASG Maninder Singh and AICTE advocate Anil Soni informed the court that distance learning courses in engineering were not permitted.

 Holding the degree issued by universities invalid, the court, however, opened a small window for students who took admission between 2001 and 2005 to revive their degree by undergoing a fresh examination by AICTE. It said they should be given another chance as they pursued the course under the impression that the course is valid in the light of DEC’s approval. But the court had no sympathy for the students of the post-2005 batches as they were aware that the courses lacked sanction.

“AICTE shall devise the modalities to conduct an appropriate test. Students (from 2001-05 batches) be given not more than two chances to clear the test and if they do not successfully clear the test within the stipulated time, their degrees shall stand can celled,” the bench said suspending their degrees.

“In respect of students admitted after the academic sessions of 2001-2005, the degrees in engineering awarded by the concerned deemed to be universities through distance education mode shall stand recalled and be treated as cancelled. Any benefit which a candidate has secured as a result of such degrees in engineering in the nature of promotion or advancement in career shall also stand recalled.However, if any monetary benefit was derived by such candidates, that will not be recovered by the concerned departments or employers,” it said and directed the universities to refund the money to students.

“We restrain all deemed to be universities to carry on any courses in distance education mode from the academic session 2018-19 unless it is permissible to conduct such courses in distance education mode and specific permissions are granted by the concerned statutory regulatory authorities,” the bench said.

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The nation is celebrating the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the name of Rashtriya Ekta Diwas. A true visionary, Sardar Patel is credited for unification of the country post independence. The leaders from across the parties are paying tribute India’s freedom fighter. On the occasion, PM Narendra Modi flagged off a run and said that due to the statesmanship and political acumen of the country’s first home minister, India is united today despite the colonial rulers’ wish that it was disintegrated into smaller states after Independence.

Here are 20 powerful quotes by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel:

– “Today we must remove distinctions of high and low, rich and poor, caste or creed.” (Date: 21 January 1942, Occasion: During Quit India Movement)

– “We have to shed mutual bickering, shed the difference of being high or low and develop the sense of equality and banish untouchability. We have to restore the conditions of Swaraj prevalent prior to British rule. We have to live like the children of the same fathe.” (Date: 21 January 1942, Occasion: During Quit India Movement)

– In a domestic Government unity and co-operation are essential requisites. (Date: 6 March 1949, Occasion: An appeal to the East Punjab Govt. on arrest of Tara Singh)

– No distinctions of caste and creed should hamper us. All are the sons and daughters of India. We should all love our country and build our destiny on mutual love and help. (Date: 19 September 1950, Occasion: Addressing the Session of the Maharashtra Youth Congress at Nasik)

– The negligence of a few could easily send a ship to the bottom, but it required the whole-hearted co-operation of all on board; she could be safely brought to port. (Date: 14 May 1928, Occasion: To villagers of Bardoli taluka during Bardoli Movement)

– Happiness and misery are paper balls. Don’t be afraid of death. Join the nationalist forces, be united. Give work to those who are hungry, food to invalids, forget your quarrels. (Date: 7 March 1942, Occasion: During Quit India Movement)

– …As satyagrahis we should always claim and we did – that we are always ready to make peace with our adversaries. As a matter of fact we are always eager for peace and when we found that the door to peace was opened we decided to enter it. (Date: 5 April 1931, Occasion: During his address on Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev at Karachi Congress Session)

– A war based on Satyagraha is always of two kinds. One is the war we wage against injustice and the other we fight against our own weaknesses. (Date: 28 April 1935, Occasion: Addressing the Kisan Conference at Allahabad, UP)

– Satyagraha is not a creed for the weak or the cowardly. (Date: 28 April 1935, Occasion: Addressing the Kisan Conference at Allahabad, UP)

– Non-violence has to be observed in thought, word and deed. The measure of our non-violence will be the measure of our success. (Date: 26 January 1939, Occasion: Announcing resumption of the struggle at Rajkot)

– One can take the path of revolution but the revolution should not give a shock to the society. There is no place for violence in revolution. (Date: 19 February 1939, Occasion: Addressing the Students at Gujarat Vidyapith)

– The war started by Mahatmaji is against two things – the Government and secondly against one self. The former kind of war is closed, but the latter shall never cease. It is meant for self-purification. (Date: 2 January 1935, Occasion: Advising the farmers at Ahmedabad after the close of Civil Disobedience Movement)

– I am blunt and uncultured. To me there is only one answer to this questions. That answer is not that you should shut yourselves in colleges and learn history and mathematics while the country is on fire and everybody is fighting freedom’s battle. Your place is by the side of your countrymen, who are fighting the freedom’s battle. (Date: 5 July 1930, Occasion: Addressing gathering of College Students at Bombay)

– Ours is a non-violent war, It is Dharma YUDDHA. (Date: 21 July 1930, Occasion: Addressing gathering of women at Mandvi, Bombay)

– So long as you do not know how to die it is useless for you to learn how to kill. India will not be benefited by brutal force. If India is to be benefited it will be through non-violence. (Date: 5 August 1928, Occasion: Addressing Students at Surat)

– Two ways of building character – cultivating strength to challenge oppression, and tolerate the resultant hardships that give rise to courage and awareness. (Date: 13 June 1935, Occasion: Vallabhbhai stresses on building character among students at the Rashtriya Shala Board meeting, Karadi in Jalalpore district.)

– Young men and women are to build-up a strong character. A nation’s greatness was reflected in the character of her people. If it was sullied by selfishness, such a people could not prosper or achieve great things. Selfishness had its place in life as everyone had to look to his own needs and that of his family, but it could not be made the be – all and end – all of life. (Date: 13 June 1935, Occasion: Advising young men and women to build up a strong character at Maharashtra Youth Congress)

– The main task before India today is to consolidate herself into a well-knit and united power… (Date: 11 August 1947, Occasion: Speaking to Delhi Citizens during Liberty Celebrations)