Can two degrees obtained simultaneously be considered for employment purposes?

A bench comprising Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy entertained an appeal assailing the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Sushil Kumar Patel Etc. v. State of Madhya Pradesh And Ors. Etc.), which dismissed the petitioners’ plea on the ground that pursuing Master’s and Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) simultaneously is not permissible as it would affect the validity of the degree and impact their appointment as teachers. The basic issue of the case was whether two degrees obtained simultaneously, during the same academic year, can be considered for employment purposes.

 Facts of the case

An advertisement was issued by the Professional Examination Board, Madhya Pradesh in September, 2018 for recruitment of teachers in High Schools. The original petitioner, in the main matter, had filled the application form for Biology. She completed her M.Sc (Zoology) through an Open Distance Learning Programme during September-October 2008 to September-October, 2010. She was enrolled as a regular student in B.Ed. Course in 2009 and appeared for examination in 2010.

Qualification Required – As per the M.P. School Education Service (Teaching Cadre) Service Conditions and Recruitment Rules, 2018 (“2018 Rules”), the educational qualification required to be recruited as a teacher was Master’s Degree in relevant subjects and B.Ed. or its equivalent.

According to the M.P. School Education Service (Teaching Cadre) Service Conditions and Recruitment Rules, 2018 (“2018 Rules”), the educational requirements for being hired as a teacher were a Master’s Degree in relevant fields and a B.Ed. or its equivalent. On June 23, 2020, an order was issued stating that a candidate who holds two degrees in the same academic year will be disqualified.

The petitioners challenged this ruling on the following grounds: it was not notified in accordance with Rule 9(4) of the 2018 Rules, which requires disqualification to be notified by the Government from time to time and made applicable to the candidates.

High Court order

An order was issued on 23.06.2020, that a candidate who possesses two degrees in one academic year, will be disqualified. The High Court held

  • that for a degree to be valid it has to fulfil the terms, conditions and guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission (“UGC”), which is the regulatory Authority. The UGC videnotice dated 15.01.2016, had stated that they do not endorse the idea of allowing students to pursue two Degrees simultaneously. Therefore, the Court held that the two degrees so obtained by the petitioners cannot be said to be valid.

 Order challenged

This order was challenged by the petitioners on the following grounds –

  1. The 2018 Rules does not provide any such disqualification. It was not notified in terms of Rule 9(4) of the 2018 Rules, disqualification was to be notified by the Government from time to time which is not done
  2. The petitioner contended that the reasoning provided by the High Court that UGC does not recognise such degrees is not correct as the UGC had taken a decision to accept the recommendation of an Expert Committee which suggests otherwise. Moreover, he asserted that similarly situated candidates with similar degrees have already been given appointments.
  3. The petitioners had undertaken one course as a regular degree and the other through an Open Distance Learning Programme.
  4. It violates Article 16 and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.
  5. 2018 Rules cannot be bypassed by executive instructions.

Law under consideration are-

  • Rules 2018
  • UGC Notice 15.1.2016

 UGC Efforts –

  • One meeting on 28th Dec 2012 ,proposed to make two degrees permissible simultaneously ,one regular another on line /correspondence
  • No reply or comment on it from universities who were sent minutes for comments
  • Order by UGC dated15thJan 2016- to follow Regulations  2003
  • Regulation 2003 talks of under admission and award head

 Various clarifications by Open Indira Gandhi University

By Dr Prem Lata

Legal Head, VOICE

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