This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Monica Koshy. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Delhi HC Scraps UGC Regulation That Gave 100% Weight To Viva In MPhil/PhD Admissions

More from Monica Koshy

In a recent judgement, the Delhi High Court struck down the University Grants Commission 2016 regulation of giving 100% weightage to viva voice for admissions to MPhil and PhD courses. The court also disagreed on no concession in the minimum qualifying marks for students from reserved categories and to students with disability.

Regulation Upheld

The regulation which fixed the cap on the number of students that the faculty at the level of Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor could supervise, was upheld, though the court was of the opinion that this matter was not one of judicial review. (Each professor can guide three MPhil and eight PhD scholars).

Background To The Case: SFI’s Plea

The plea was filed by the Students Federation of India (SFI) and three other students who challenged the constitutional validity of the UGC regulation which came into effect from July 5, 2016.

Earlier this year, in April, the High Court had asked JNU to submit an affidavit showing the bifurcation of the total number of students in each of its 13 schools and the individual breakup of M.Phil, PhD and non- research students respectively.

SFI Statement

“This is the first but major step to fight the draconian anti-constitutional UGC Gazette. The struggles for the fight for social justice must continue to ensure that the reservation policy is implemented in toto,” the SFI statement said.

The court was hearing the arguments by the petitioners as the regulation (Minimum Standards and Procedure for awarding of MPhil/PhD degrees) being “unreasonable and arbitrary”. Due to the regulation, the number of seats for MPhil/PhD all over the country had reduced considerably, posing a question on the futures of lakhs of students, both in the reserved and unreserved category.

From JNU, one of the respondents stated that the University had provided only 102 seats in the MPhil/PhD courses for the current year as compared to 970 seats in the previous academic year, i.e 2016-2017.

Earlier, the admission process to an MPhil or PhD course was a two-stage process, wherein, first the candidates had to qualify a written test, securing at least 50% marks, and thereafter they were required to clear a viva voce. As per the new regulation (now struck down), the candidate would be declared successful based entirely on the performance in viva voice, irrespective of the marks secured in the written test.

According to the court this regulation was arbitrary, and it was explained: “In the opinion of this court, the entire weightage to performance of a candidate in the interview, or viva voice, based on the evaluation of the “powerpoint” presentation affords the widest latitude to the arbitrary and capricious behaviour of the members of the board, who know that the fate of admission hangs in their hands. Discretion, wherever allowed, is to be minimised; more so when it concerns admission to academic institutions. Academics are no doubt brilliant in their fields; however, they are not immune to baser tendencies, such as unconscious bias (subject matter mannerisms, perceived lack of respect, etc). This can tend to cloud their wisdom and conferring the exclusive power to admit a student at MPhil/PhD levels would, therefore, be arbitrary. Therefore, para 5.4 of the impugned regulations are held to be arbitrary.”

On the matter of concession in minimum qualifying marks for reserved category students, the court has directed JNU and UGC to work out a criterion of giving some concession to SC/ST category candidates and, to this extent under the rules, to the OBC category students as well. To the candidates from the persons with disabilities category (PWD), a 5% reservation has been statutorily mandated.

JNU Teachers Association reaction

In JNU, about 657 MPhil and PhD seats had been left unfilled, on implementing this regulation. The court was of the opinion that, “This is not healthy; it amounts to a national waste and requires to be redressed appropriately.”

The Teachers’ Association of Jawaharlal Nehru University, welcomed the Delhi High Court’s order. The court in its judgement criticised the JNU administration for wasting its valuable resources, the teachers. JNUTA, in it’s statement, said, “JNUTA has consistently argued that the seat cuts in JNU in 2017 and 2018 were in violation of the CEI Act [Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act] and that the 100% viva voce and uniform eligibility marks without concessions to marginalized communities were unfair, discriminatory, and antithetical to social justice.”

The university introduced online examinations based on multiple choice questions and the Teachers’ Association was against this. They went on to say, “JNUTA urges the JNU administration from desisting from such steam-rolling action that directly contradicts the fundamental precepts of social justice.”

The court summarised its conclusions as follows:

That Regulation 5.4 of the UGC Regulations in so far as it permits filling of MPhil/PhD entirely on the basis of cent per cent evaluation of performance in the viva voce process is arbitrary. The said regulation is, therefore, declared void and contrary to Article 14;

An appropriate concession is to be given by the UGC and the JNU, taking into account the seats filled, having regard to the implementation of the regulations in the last two academic years;

The JNU is directed to take suitable review action to ensure that in any given academic year, no MPhil/PhD seat is left unfilled. It is also held that the UGC guidelines of 2016 in so far as they prescribe the supervisor- researcher/student ratio is valid.

Students’ Take On The Verdict

Youth Ki Awaaz spoke to a few PhD students asking their opinion on the judgement,

Lozzan, a PhD student at JNU, said, “The High Court’s decision is very much welcome. I support it. In fact, we celebrated it with a sigh of relief! We students have been protesting against the decision to make viva voice the sole criteria for selection of students for research. What about those who do come from rural backgrounds and are not articulate? Or those who are not proficient in a preferred language, say English? The written exam is needed to ensure a more level playing ground for all students. In fact, the students had been struggling to reduce the viva voce marks from 30 out of 100 to 10 out of 100. Because there were obvious cases of discrimination in the past. And yet it was increased to 100 out of 100! Making interview the only criteria gives much room for discrimination. Those with a ‘wrong’ face, or a ‘wrong’ skin colour, or a ‘wrong’ surname may never get into research that way. The High Court’s judgment is a huge sigh of relief.”

Another PhD student Tunia expressed her happiness at the verdict but voiced her apprehensions about its implementation by the administration. “I believe the verdict came for the general good of all students but I doubt with this administration it will be of any benefit. Because this administration is a dictatorial administration. I doubt it will adhere to the court’s verdict,” she said when asked whether the judgement was beneficial or not.

She went on to say, “I believe it the verdict played a significant role in determining the future course but I have again doubts on the mechanism this administration follows because they will interfere in the viva voce procedure.”

According to her, the ideal response of the High Court should have been to scrap the regulation. “Instead of decreasing the number of students I believe they should instead work on filling the vacancies of faculties. How can creating a barrier for a common man from receiving higher education ever be supported? In a nation like ours, where we need to develop youth’s skill, this regulation is only acting as a barrier for educational institutions, Faculties, students, research scholars.”


Image credit: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty
You must be to comment.

More from Monica Koshy

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below