Srinagar: Hundreds of government employees in Jammu and Kashmir are facing the prospect of dismissal or demotion as the state High Court has declared as "invalid" the degrees awarded through distance education mode.
Disposing off 15 clubbed petitions, Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir rejected the plea of the petitioners to treat degrees obtained through distance mode equivalent to those obtained after attending regular classes.
"It is shocking to observe the manner in which the post graduate degrees have been conferred on the students...All the writ petitions are held to be without any merit, and are, therefore, dismissed," Justice Mir said in the eight-page order.
"The petitioners, who are before this Court, seeking direction in the name of respondents to give due weightage to their higher qualifications...Indeed want this Court to put its seal on the said illegal act," he said in the order passed recently.
Degrees awarded by IGNOU, DOEACC and Maulana Azad National Urdu University`s (MANUU) have been held valid.
Official sources said that the order of the High Court is going to affect hundreds of government employees in Jammu and Kashmir as they have gained employment or promotions based on the qualifications obtained through distance mode.
In some cases, degrees have been obtained from institutions which are not even recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC), the sources said.
They said the Education Department and Youth Services and
Sports Department have the maximum number of beneficiaries of these degrees.
Over 100 Physical Education Teachers have been promoted to next higher grade while few Physical Education Masters have been promoted as Lecturers, the sources said.
Director of Youth Services and Sports J P Singh said that he has not yet received the High Court order on the matter. "We will examine the order and see what action is warranted," he added.
Advocated General Mohammad Ishaq Qadri said the High Court order has made illegal every benefit accrued by a person in government service due to these degrees.
"Since it is a policy matter, the Government will have to decide on whether these benefits will be withdrawn or a one-time exception will be announced," Qadri said.
In view of the gravity of the situation, Justice Mir in the order had observed "the affairs of the PRIST (Ponnaiyah Ramajayam Institute of Science and Technology) and other universities cannot be allowed to go unchecked. Therefore, it becomes imperative for this Court, being the custodian of public interest, to play its role."
The court directed the state Chief Secretary to conduct a thorough probe into the matter.
"While dealing with the matter, the Chief Secretary shall bear in mind the seriousness of the issue and may even go for registration of a criminal case if, in the fitness of things, it is so desired. And on doing so, he shall personally monitor the investigation," the court said.