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Government can fix quota: High Court

By A. Subramani

CHENNAI, SEPT. 10. The MBA and MCA courses are `technical education' and colleges offering them are `technical institutions.' Hence the February 21 government order directing such institutions to apportion a certain percentage of seats to be filled by the Government itself is valid, the Madras High Court has ruled.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Prafulla Kumar Misra and Justice A.K. Rajan, held, ``it would be open to the State Government to fix a proportion of seats to be filled up through the state and leave a proportion to be filled up as management quota. Entry 25 in List III of Schedule VII of the Constitution, read with Article 162, enables the state to issue such directions.''

The Bench was passing orders on a batch of appeals against a single-judge order upholding the GO, which was issued after the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) had come out with a set of guidelines on October 28, 2003.

The impugned GO stipulated that a common entrance test be conducted by the State Government for MBA/MCA admissions in government and aided arts and science as well as engineering colleges, besides in self-financing arts and science and engineering colleges.

As for the apportionment of seats, the order said 50 per cent of the seats in unaided, non-minority institutions and 30 per cent in unaided minority colleges would be filled through the state common entrance test applying the rule of reservation. The power of admissions based on the State-level CET was vested with the Director of Technical Education.

The appellants contended that MBA and MCA were not professional courses and the institutions offering them were not professional institutions, and hence the Supreme Court rulings in the T.M.A. Pai and Islamic Academy cases were not applicable to them. Also, the Government did not have the jurisdiction to carve out 50 per cent of the seats in such unaided institutions, they maintained.

Vijay Narayan, counsel for the AICTE, said that since the validity of its guidelines had not been specifically challenged, and the Government's directions were in conformity with them, the validity of the GO could not be questioned. The AICTE guidelines, as followed by the State Government, were binding on these institutions.

Agreeing with his submissions, the judges cited Section 2(g) and 2(h) of the AICTE Act, and said there could not be any doubt that MBA and MCA and colleges offering them would come within the definition of technical education/institution.

`Generic sense'

The judges also reasoned: ``The expression `professional course' should be understood in a generic sense and would mean any course which prepares or trains a person with special skill and knowledge to enable such a person to pursue such profession with skill."

As for the apportionment of seats, they said, "in view of the Supreme Court rulings and in view of the guidelines issued by the AICTE, which recognise the right of the state to hold CET for admissions within the quota earmarked for the state, by no stretch of imagination can it be said that the action taken by the State is in any way contrary to the guidelines of the AICTE.''

The judges added, ``as a matter of fact, the validity of the AICTE guidelines have never been challenged in the writ petitions.''

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