Why is Kerala Governor Asking University Vice Chancellors to Resign? What Do Rules Say?

The Supreme Court on October 21 cancelled the appointment of Dr Rajasree MS as the vice-chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University (APJAKTU) Kerala. The bench comprising Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar said that the recruitment was against the University Grant Commission’s (UGC) norms.

This decision by the Sc had a landslide effect on the universities across the state. The governor who is also chancellor of state-run universities demanded resignations from nine Kerala-based university’s vice-chancellors. He supported his actions by stating that this was in line with the SC judgement.

What did SC say?

As per the petition filed in the top court, the committee that was formed to search for the VC, was in violation of the stipulations of the UGC. The committee did not forward three names to the chancellor.

A petition was earlier filed in Kerala HC. However, the apex court has now overruled the judgement of the state court. Despite the state of Kerala arguing that per the 2013 order of the UGC, it was allowed to make appointments based on state laws, the top court declared the appointment null and void ab initio.

What Happened at APJ AKTU?

Kerala had advertised for the post of vice-chancellor at APJAKTU, twice. Of the 26 applicants for the post of VC, 22 qualified and out of them, five were shortlisted. Among the shortlisted candidates in the first list was Dr Sreejith, former dean of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). However, the dissolution of the committee constituting the VC led to a second notification being released.

Dr Sreejith PS thereafter filed a petition against the appointment as his name was dropped from this list of shortlisted candidates. He later learned that the chancellor had appointed Dr Rajasree to the post on February 19, 2019.

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Instead of forwarding the five shortlisted names, the search committee only sent Dr Rajasree’s name for the appointment. He claimed that due process was not followed for the appointment.

The decision was challenged in the Kerala High Court through a petition. Dr Sreejith PS contended that the chief secretary could not be a part of the ‘Search Committee’ as only prominent names in education or people connected to the university could be a part of the process.

Governor Asks 9 VCs to Resign

Following the judgement, Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan last week urged VCs of nine universities in the state to quit their offices.

The nine universities include the University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, University of Calicut, and Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University.

Also read| Thumbnails of 9 Kerala VCs Who Were Asked to Resign by Governor Khan

The governor’s office said that among these, five of the VCs were asked to go as they were selected without panel names during the selection. The remaining four were selected through a process wherein eminent subject experts were not present in the selection committee. Hence, they were asked to tender their resignations.

The governor had sent letters to the VCs directing them to tender their resignation by 11:30 am on October 24. The letters were also mailed to registrars of the universities. The governor, who is also the chancellor of the universities, claimed he made the decision based on the SC ruling. The governor issued show-cause notices to them, seeking their responses by November 3.

“They have every right to say whatever they want but what I’m doing, I have made it clear that honourable Supreme Court in its judgement has clearly laid down the law, if the selection committee does not reach the requirement of the UGC regulation and an appointment is made based on their recommendation, the words that the honourable Supreme Court has used are, it will be considered void ab initio,” he told CNN-News18 in an exclusive interview.

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“From day one they are illegal occupants of the office. The second ground that they have given is the UGC regulation requirement is to make a panel of 3-5 names. If a single name has been forwarded to the chancellor and an appointment is made of that person, that will also be considered void ab initio. So the only thing that I am doing is to apply the law as laid down by the honourable Supreme Court in the case of the technical university to all the universities,” he added.

Kerala HC Held Special Hearing

The VCs later approached the state high court. Further, the ruling LDF in Kerala has announced a series of campaigns including “mass protests” against the governor accusing him of making a move to implement “Sangh Parivar agenda” in the state’s universities.

Meanwhile, the governor sent formal show-cause notices to the vice-chancellors. This time two new universities including the Sree Narayan guru open university and the Kerala university of digital sciences, innovation and technology as well. The governor asked the VCs to prove why they should stay at their posts.

Kerala High Court on Monday held that Vice-Chancellors of nine universities can hold on to their posts until Chancellor issues a final order following show-cause notices to them. The high court also said that they can continue this in full compliance of law till a final order is issued.

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