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Delhi High Court Issues Notice On Plea Challenging Appointment Of Dr. Najma Akhtar As Jamia Millia Islamia's Vice Chancellor

Nupur Thapliyal
4 Aug 2021 3:42 AM GMT
Delhi High Court Issues Notice On Plea Challenging Appointment Of Dr. Najma Akhtar As Jamia Millia Islamias Vice Chancellor
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The Delhi High Court last week issued notice on a plea challenging the appointment of Dr. Najma Akhtar as the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.A division bench comprising of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Talwant Singh was hearing an appeal against a single-judge bench order dated 5th March 2021 which had rejected a writ petition challenging her appointment after observing that...

The Delhi High Court last week issued notice on a plea challenging the appointment of Dr. Najma Akhtar as the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.

A division bench comprising of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Talwant Singh was hearing an appeal against a single-judge bench order dated 5th March 2021 which had rejected a writ petition challenging her appointment after observing that the Court cannot sit in appeal over the decision taken by the Search Committee. 

The Court sought response of the Centre, Najma Akhtar, Central Vigilance Commission, University Grants Commission, and Jamia Millia Islamia and posted the matter for further hearing on September 22.

The appeal, filed by M. Ehtesham-ul-haque who is an alumni of the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia University, states that the single judge failed to appreciate that the process followed by the Search Committee and that the same seems to have "delegated critical and fundamental aspect of gauging the 'suitability' and 'eligibility' of a candidate vis-a-vis Vigilance Clearance available with the said candidate."

During the course of hearing, Advocate Mobashshir Sarwar appearing on behalf of the appellant raised the issue of composition of the Search-cum-Selection Committee.

According to him, the Committee had to comprise of persons of eminence in the sphere of higher education and that Justice (Retd.) M.S.A. Siddiqui did not fit the requirement of the Regulations framed by University Grants Commission in 2018. 

"Because the learned Single Judge failed to appreciate vis-a-vis Justice (Retd.) MSA Siddiqui that an academic question which should be left to be decided by the academicians and educationists as they are better equipped to decide such matters in view of their expertise and experience which cannot be possessed by the Judges." The plea reads.

Furthermore, he also said that the Selection Committee was required to give reasons for selecting Akhtar as the Vice Chancellor. It was also argued that the Ministry of Human Resource Development had no role to play in recommending persons to be included in Selection Committee.

"...in the present case the purported Committee seems to have inexplicably delegated this function to MHRD. Not only is such a delegation legally unsustainable inasmuch as a body which has already been delegated certain powers, as in the case of Search Committee, could not further sub-delegate, any facet of such powers to another entity, as is exemplified by the delegation of the aspect of suitability/eligibility in terms of the Vigilance Clearance to the Ministry of Education, erstwhile MHRD." The plea reads.

It was also submitted on behalf of the appellant that the adverse vigilance report submitted by the CVC qua Dr. Najma Akhtar was not taken into consideration by the Search-cum-Selection Committee.

On the other hand, ASG Vikramjeet Banerjee appearing on behalf of Centre and JMI submitted that Justice (Retd.) Siddiqui was fit to be a part of the Selection Committee owing to his previous experience of being a Chairperson of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institution.

It was also submitted that the Committee is not required to give reasons for recommending a panel consisting of suitable names and that the recommendation itself would be sufficient. 

The single judge had observed that the petitioner was unable to show that any express provision of either the UGC Regulations or the JMI Act had been flouted while making the Dr. Nazma Akhtar as JMI's Vice-Chancellor.

"Rather the scope is limited to judicial review of the decision whereby the Court is only concerned with whether the incumbent possessed qualifications for the appointment and the manner in which the appointment came to be made or whether the procedure adopted was fair, just and reasonable." The single judge had observed.

Finding the appointment to be justified, the challenge was rejected.

The matter will now be heard on September 22.

Title: M EHTESHAM UL HAQUE v. UNION OF INDIA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION MINISTRY OF HUMAN RESOURCE DEPARTMENT THROUGH ITS SECRETARY & ORS.

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