Zee SubhashThe PIL filed in the Supreme Court by Prashant Bhushan regarding fake degree case has given sleepless nights to Himgiri Zee University administration.

The Supreme Court has already issued a notice to the university and its patron Subhash Chandra, asking to clear their stand.

On Tuesday, online portals Cobrapost and Janta Ka Reporter raised some questioned to the university over the issue, here is how university replied:

Questions by Cobrapost:

1. The Uttarakhand Government has stopped accepting lease rent on the land (50 acres) that was allotted to the university in 2004 which means the lease deed has been cancelled by the state government? What plans the university has to relocate the university if it is asked to vacate the land?

2. Why has the university failed to open 13 study centres in Uttarakhand as was envisaged in the state Act of 2003 which paved the way for setting up of the university?

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3. Why has the university still been running 29 off-campus study centres outside its territorial jurisdiction and offering degrees to students, although it is not authorized either by the UGC or by the Uttarakhand government?

4. It has come to our knowledge that the university has managed to secure a loan of Rs. 70 crore in 2008 from the PNB by showing the above-mentioned leased land as a freehold property? How could you claim the same to be a freehold property when the land (50 acres) has been given on lease on a nominal rent by the government of Uttarakhand to the trust which has promoted this university?

5. While the official records suggest that the Himgiri Zee University has so far granted only 191 degrees, the available information finds more than 500 certificates/mark sheets for graduation have been given to the students. Since the university is not authorized to grant degrees or certificates, should that mean your awarding fake degrees or certificates? Your comment.

ALSO READ: Himgiri Zee University: A Case Of Pan India Fake Degrees, Land Scam And Misplaced Patriotism

6. Zee Learn Ltd. has raised about Rs. 110 crore by selling GDRs on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange in 2013 by claiming in its Red Herring prospectus: “For some of the current courses being offered under the ZICA and ZIMA brands, we have been affiliated with Himgiri Zee University.” This claim has been made despite the fact that university is not allowed to enter into such agreements or affiliations. How can the name of the university be used as an associate of ZLL when the university is not allowed to do so? Had the university given them a written permission to use their name and association in the red herring prospectus? Your comments.

Here is university’s reply and Portal’s counter:

HZU: This news is based on false and baseless allegations raised under an SLP purportedly filed by students, but is sponsored by people with vested interests including Mr. Abhishek Asthana and other people known to have long history of enmity towards the Patron of the University Dr. Subhash Chandra. In fact, the whole purpose of this litigation as we understand is mainly target Dr. Subhash Chandra who has no role in the University other than as the benefactor who funded setting up of the University.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: The role of Mr. Subhash Chandra is not merely limited to that of being the founder of Himgiri Zee University. Apart from being Chairman of Taleem Research Foundation, which established the HZU on subsidized land granted by Uttarakhand Government, Mr Chandra was the founding Chancellor of HZU during which many alleged illegalities took place including award of fake degrees, illegal running of off-campus centres, etc. Mr Chandra was also heading the meetings of the Board of Governors during this period when the alleged illegalities were committed. Mr Chandra, directly and indirectly, has financial interest in the companies which allegedly ran illegal off-campus centres and benefited from award of fake degrees after duping the aggrieved innocent students.

HZU: The matter is subjudice before the Supreme Court and there has not been any finding of irregularity or offence committed by the University till date. In fact the honorable court has not had any opportunity to hear the Parties till now, but the present article published by COBRAPOST is wrongly worded in such a manner as to give the impression that the honorable court after considering the matter on merits have taken some action against the University.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: The matter was brought to the notice of Hon’ble Supreme court and sensing some merit in the case, the Hon’ble Court issued notices to various parties involved including Mr. Subhash Chandra – who was the Chancellor at HZU during which the alleged illegalities were committed. Further, nowhere in the story we have said the Supreme Court has taken action against the university. It is, therefore, erroneous and mischievous on the part of the HZU management to draw such conclusions.

HZU: We state that a false and motivated litigation has been incited by Mr. Abhishek Asthana, the ex-Vice Chancellor whose service was terminated by the University in July 2015 who has joined hands with other persons with vested interests. The malafide intent behind the allegations urged in the Writ Petition as set out in the Press Release is apparent from the fact that more than the issues against the University, the focus is on Dr. Subhash Chandra, who only holds an honorary position in the University.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: Mr. Abhishek Asthana, the ex-Vice Chancellor, has approached the Human Resource Development Ministry, Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation, the Governor of Uttarakhand, explicitly alleging the role of Mr. Subhash Chandra and how the university was being operated for taking care of financial interests of Mr. Subhash Chandra and companies to which he is affiliated. By manner of definition Mr Asthana is the whistleblower that the HZU is unsuccessfully trying to stop from revealing their acts which he claims to be unlawful and illegal.

HZU: Further as per the Press Release, the allegations like irregularities in land allotment to the University which are part of the Writ Petition are not something which any students (who are purportedly the petitioners) would ever complain about. Further the students have no reason to fight against the University, especially when Himgiri Zee University has been fighting for the rights of the same students before the High Court of Uttarakhand.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: District Magistrate of Dehradun had “recommended” for cancellation of the lease deed. As per our information, the lease deed of the land issued to HZU prohibits any mortgage or creation of any other third-party interest. It is alleged that loan got sanctioned/granted to HZU by violating the lease deed conditions and by creating false impression with the bank that HZU has the authority to mortgage the allotted land.

HZU: The University is a University as defined u/s 2 (f) of the U.G.C. Act, 1956 and is authorized to award Degrees. Apart from the regular mode of campus learning, the University since 2010 offered certain limited courses in Animation, Visual Effects and Film Making by way of online education. Online courses are conducted by several other universities like Amity University, Jaipur National University, Annamalai University, Mahatma Gandhi University, Meghalaya etc. where courses like MBA are offered.
Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: Himgiri Nabh Vishwavidalya (University in the Sky) Act, 2003 was amended in 2010 and states “all the activities of the university shall be limited to the state of Uttarakhand and that the university shall adhere to the rules and regulations of the University Grant Commission (UGC)”. Hence, by the statute itself HZU was not allowed to run any courses outside the territorial jurisdiction of Uttarakhand even the online courses or any distance learning courses. In fact, ZICA and ZIMA centres were allegedly wrongly portrayed as affiliated to HZU for raising GDR at Luxembourg Stock Exchange and over Rs 110 crore was raised through this exercise by a Zee Group company.

HZU: As per the Himgiri Nabh Vishwavidyala (University in the Sky) Act, 2003 as amended in 2011 under which the University is established, the University is authorized to offer courses through online as well as regular mode. Apart from the University Act, there is no other regulatory framework governing the conduct of online courses/education in India. It is also pertinent to note that Online Education does not come under the definition of Distance Education as per the IGNOU Act.

On 4th June 2015, the UGC published a Public Notice F. No.11-5/2015 (DEB-III) in discharge of regulatory functions of erstwhile DEC. This Public Notice not only imputes that online programmes are covered under Open & Distance Learning (ODL) Guidelines, but also that the UGC has so far not recognized any university/institution offering “Online” programme. Since these imputations are without any authority of law, the University approached the Honourable High Court of Uttarakhand. This issue about On-line education conducted by the University is now a matter which is sub-judice before the Honourable High Court of Uttarakhand in Writ Petition filed by the University numbered as WPMS 2727/2015.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: The matter pertaining to conduct of online courses is sub-judice before Hon’ble Uttarakhand High Court, but your own prayer dated 29.10.2015 in the matter that an appropriate writ, order or direction be issued to declare that HZU was and is competent to run “online courses” and grant degrees for the same makes the matter absolutely clear that at present HZU is not competent to grant degrees for the online courses. According to UGC’s reply to various RTIs in 2012, HZU did not have any approval from the UGC or DEC to run any distance education and online courses.

HZU: The allegations regarding ZICA/ZIMA being study centres of the University are incorrect. The University does not run any study centres or off campus centres presently. The only arrangement between the University and Zee Learn Limited is for receiving technical and marketing assistance from Zee Learn which has been a pioneer in Animation, Visual Effects and Film Making much before the University started offering courses in these subjects. Since the Advanced Diploma Courses offered by ZICA provide experiential bases learning and industry training, the petitioners who had enrolled for Online Courses with the University which is more theoretical in nature had also enrolled for Advanced Diploma Courses offered by ZICA. The petitioner students themselves have attached the Advanced Diplomas they received from ZICA as part of the SLP filed before the Supreme Court. The payments were made by students separately for the courses offered by the University and the ones offered by ZICA. The University has directly received the fee of Rs.40,000/- from each of the students for the Online Courses. However presently the petitioners in the present petition is making an attempt to show as if all payments made by student was only for the Online course offered by the University. This is false frivolous and demonstrates the malafide of the whole petition.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: As per information available with us, HZU allegedly entered into an agreement with Zee Learn Ltd. (like that of the VIDEA, Goa, in which case the UGC had annulled the agreement) and offered degrees through the off-campus centres to students enrolled at these centres. As per the agreement itself, HZU would get only Rs 40,000 out of Rs. 3.6 lakh charged from the students at the centre.

HZU: The allegations relating to the cancellation of the land allotted to the University by the State Government of Uttarakhand are false and baseless. First of all, the issue regarding the land and the issue regarding offering of online courses have no relationship while you have tried to create some kind of connection between the same. On the land allocated by the Government, a world class campus has been constructed. A total of 19,706.45 Square Meters of construction has been completed which has been inspected and approved by an Authorised Structure Engineer. The campus consists of classroom blocks, separate hostels for boys and girls, sports avenues and even a swimming pool. The lease of the land was never cancelled as alleged. The Under Secretary, the Revenue Department, Uttarakhand had issued a show cause notice to the University regarding certain delays in construction, to which the University had replied to appropriately. The issue was resolved and the State of Uttarakhand accepted the rent for the leased land, from the University. The land leased from the Government has never been showcased by the University as private property to any bank and the allegations to the contrary are false. Over and above the loans availed by the University, companies which are part of the Zee Group have also extended significant financial assistance to the University from time to time. Further support is being provided to the University by certain companies which are part of the Zee Group on various fronts and also for providing placement to the students.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: The District Magistrate of Dehradun had recommended cancellation of the lease deed as there were many violations committed by the HZU. In fact, as per our information the local administration has stopped accepting the annual rent from the university.

As per the information available with us, the funds received by the HZU from PNB in the form of loan were allegedly transferred to E-City Bio Scope Entertainment Private Limited, which is a part of Zee Group.

HZU: We once again state that the allegations raised in your article are false and the present news article published by Cobra Post have been published with the intent of defaming the University and unnecessarily drags the name of Dr. Subhash Chandra into these matters. We urge you to wait and watch the outcome of the matter before the Supreme Court before reporting this in any manner as negative reports about an educational institution not only affects the repute of that institution but also the students studying in such institutions. We also advise you to remove the defamatory article which is full of falsities and twisted facts immediately from your website with immediate effect.

Cobrapost-Jantakareporter Counter: We have published our article based on the PIL filed in the Supreme Court, and duly admitted by the same, and documents accessed by us through various sources.

However, despite all detailed explanations, the HZU management has managed to give reply to only queries 1 and 3 out of six. The rest of the questions have been left unanswered.

This post was first published on Cobrapost