By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, March 16:
In a historic judgment, the Calcutta high court has set aside the appointment of 23 Vice-chancellors (VCs) by the West Bengal Government on charges of violation of University Grant Commission (UGC) Regulations 2018.
In response a writ petition (WPA(P) 170/2022) CAN1/2022) filed by Anupam Bera of “Jatiyatabadi Adyapak o Gabeshak Sangha”, challenging the “illegal” appointment of VCs, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Prakah Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj ruled that the appointments of VCs who do not possess minimum eligibility condition are held to be unsustainable and without the authority of law.
Bera is the President of the Akhil Bhartiya Rashtriya Shaikshik Mahasangh (ABRSM), West Bengal chapter.
The appointment of those respondent VCs who are appointed, reappointed, whose tenure extended or who are given additional charge by the order of the State Government are without the authority of law, the bench ruled in its judgement dated March 15.
Those whose appointments have been held invalid include: Saikat Mishra, VC, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad University of Technology and Om Prakash Mishra, VC, North Bengal University.
As per the copy of the judgement, the petitioner challenged the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Act, 2012 and West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 stating that they are ultra vires of the provisions of the Constitution of India, University Grants Commission Act and the UGC Regulations.
The above acts ran counter to the UGC Regulations, 2018. The minimum qualifications prescribed in these acts for the post of VC stand diluted. Besides, prescribed minimum qualification is lower than the one prescribed in the UGC Regulations. The Search Committee for appointment of VCs must have a nominee of the UGC Chairman. However the UGC nominee was missing in the Search Committee set up by the State Government. The Committees were not properly constituted and some of the appointments were made without constituting the Committee, the petitioner argued.
Some of the appointments did not fulfil the minimum eligibility criteria of 10 years experience as Professor in the University or 10 years experience in a reputed research and/or academic administrative organization as prescribed in the UGC Regulation. Some of the appointments were made in defiance of specific order or without specific approval of the Chancellor, who is the sole appointing authority for Vice-Chancellor post, the petitioner pointed out.
WB Advocate General appearing on behalf of the WB government, opposed the petition and submitted that a review petition (Anindya Sundar Das and Others) is pending in Supreme Court. The UGC Regulations, 2018 are not applicable in the State of West Bengal and they are not binding on the Universities established under the State Act, he argued. He further submitted that UGC Regulations, 2018 have been published subsequent to the Scheme of the Central Government dated November 2, 2017.
However the bench ruled at : the provisions of UGC Regulations, 2018 will prevail over the conflicting provisions of the concerned State Universities Act, relating to appointment of Vice-Chancellor, under which the respondent Vice-Chancellors have been appointed.
The appointment of those Vice-Chancellors who are appointed, reappointed, whose tenure extended or who are given additional charge by the order of the State Government or who do not possess minimum eligibility condition or appointed without following the due procedure are held to be unsustainable and without the authority of law. Therefore, they have no right to continue as Vice-Chancellors by virtue of such unsustainable orders.