In an important verdict, the Supreme Court upheld the University Grants Commission's decision of deciding the final qualifying marks by UGC itself for the National Eligibility Test (NET) that was held in June 2012. The NET is the qualifying exam to determine the eligibility of Indian nationals for Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) and the eligibility for Lectureship only in Indian universities and colleges.
The SC bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and A K Sikri stated in a 24-page judgment pronounced on 19 September 2013 that until and unless there is a clear violation of statutory provisions, the regulations or the notification issued, the courts shall keep their hands off from academic matters that fall within the domain of the experts. The bench was setting up an appeal made by the UGC against the judgment upheld by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on 29 April 2013.
The apex court reversed the judgment of Nagpur bench that had smacked down the UGC's decision of requiring 65%, 60% and 55% aggregate marks as the final qualifying criteria in NET June 2012 for candidates in general, OBC, and PH/VH/SC/ST categories, respectively.
The UGC is an expert body that has been entrusted to take decisions it think may fit for the determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in universities, and henceforth, the commission is allowed to lay down any qualifying criteria has a rational nexus for attaining such standards, said the apex court.
For NET June 2012, the UGC had initially notified a certain minimum qualifying marks for each of the three papers – Paper I, II and III, and said that however, the final qualifying criteria will be decided by the UGC itself before the declaration of the results. But, the requirement of aggregate marks as the final criteria was announced two months after the conduct of the NET on 24 June 2012.
After the declaration of the result, the candidates who secured the minimum passing marks in each of the three papers but couldn’t made it to the aggregate marks, cried foul over the UGC's final qualifying criteria and filed writ petitions in the Nagpur bench and in the Kerala high court.
Giving nod to the view expressed by the Kerala High Court, the Nagpur bench at Bombay High Court had pronounced a 44-page judgment that not only thrashed down the UGC's final criteria, but also directed the UGC to declare the result of the petitioner students on the basis of their scores obtained in individual papers with reference to the minimum qualifying marks predefined for each paper.