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Major relief for PTU students

In a major relief to hundreds of students, enrolled for various distance education courses being run by Punjab Technical University (PTU), Jalandhar, whose future was in the doldrums due to an order issued by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), the Supreme Court of India has refused to interfere in the proceedings that are on in the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court also asked the Himachal Pradesh High Court to dispose of the matter as expeditiously as possible.

It may be recalled that IGNOU had taken exception to the running of distance education programmes by the PTU on the plea that being a state-level university, PTU could not offer these programmes through study centres located in various states.

When PTU refused to budge from its stand that it had every right to offer these programmes, the IGNOU issued a notification, which said that degrees and certificates issued by the PTU to students who enroll in its distance education programmes would not be recognised for the purpose of securing government job. The IGNOU also ordered that students enrolled in out-of-Punjab study centres of PTU would not be eligible to take the examinations.

Aggrieved by the IGNOU notification, some students approached the Himachal Pradesh High Court, which stayed the notification and admitted the plea of the study centre as well as aggrieved students for further hearing.

However, in its plea before the Supreme Court, IGNOU, while praying for setting aside the interim order of the High Court, had stated that PTU, being a creation of an Act of the Punjab legislature, has no territorial jurisdiction beyond Punjab and, therefore, its action of conducting study centres outside Punjab was against the Constitution.

IGNOU also maintained that since it was established under a statute of the Union of India, it has regulatory powers over all others universities.

However, counsel for PTU stated that the university had been conducting distance education programmes since 2000-01 and had even established a separate wing to monitor the programme.

The PTU counsel also informed the Supreme Court that a large number of students had taken admission to various courses and any modification of the interim order of the Himachal Pradesh High Court would affect their future.

After hearing the counsel, the Bench of Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice D.K. Jain, while refusing to vacate the stay, requested the Himachal Pradesh High Court to dispose of the matter as expeditiously as possible as the future of the students was at stake.

(The Tribune)

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