The Kerala High Court on Monday quashed the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Dr. K. Riji John.
The division bench consisting of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly said that the constitution of the selection committee and its recommendation in John's case was illegal.
...we have no hesitation to hold that the selection of Dr. K. Riji John as the Vice Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, overlooking the UGC Regulations, 2018, cannot be sustained under law. We are also of the view that the Search cum Selection Committee constituted is also in violation of the UGC Regulations, 2018.
The verdict was passed in Writ Petitions moved challenging Dr K. Riji John's appointment as the Vice Chancellor at Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS).
One of the main contentions raised by the Counsel for the petitioners was that the constitution of search cum selection committee was not in tune with the UGC Regulations, 2018. Accordingly, it is contended that any recommendation made by the selection committee was an action without jurisdiction. Various other contentions were also raised with respect to the disqualification of the members of the Selection Committee, including that the mandatory requirement of a representative of UGC in the Selection Committee was not met.
The Counsel further contended that a clear-cut procedure is prescribed in respect of the appointment of the Vice Chancellor at Regulations 7.3, and in the present case, there was a clear violation of Regulation 7.3 of the UGC Regulations, 2018 in the matter of appointing the selection committee, as well as in the case of submitting the panel of names of the candidates before the Chancellor for appointment of the Vice Chancellor.
The State on the contrary contended that the constitution of Search cum Selection Committee was per the provisions of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies Act, 2010 and since agriculture research and education came under entry 14 of the List II of the Schedule VII of the Constitution of India, no interference is required to the appointment of the Search cum Selection Committee.
The Court after considering the various contentions raised by the Counsels, observed that the requirements of UGC Regulations, 2018 are not followed in the matter of selection of Vice Chancellor, which falls clearly in entry 66 of the Union List. Since, it falls under the Union List the Court opined that the UGC Regulations, 2018 would apply in the case of appointment of Search cum Selection Committee and also selection out of the panel of names; however, in the present case, the Chancellor has exercised the power in terms of Section 33 of the Act 2010 which is running contrary to regulation 7.3 of the U.G.C Regulations, 2018.
The Court clarifed that in the matter of appointment of Vice Chancellor and the constitution of the Search cum Selection Committee the UGC Regulations 2018 have supremacy and paramountcy over the provisions of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies Act, 2010. Furthermore, considering the facts and circumstances of the present case, the Court observed that the law laid down by the Apex Court in Jayant Verma and others v. Union of India and others and Uco Bank and another v. Dipak Debbarma and others with respect to the inconsistency between the Central and the State Act, shall not apply.
Regulation 7.3 extracted above would make it clear that there is a clear procedure thereunder in the matter of appointment of Search cum Selection Committee; the manner in which a panel of names to be provided to the Chancellor; and the appointment to be made by the Chancellor out of the panel of names recommended by the Search-cum-Selection Committee. But, the said procedures are substantially violated, the Court observed.
Pointing out that it is an admitted fact the appointment of the Search cum Selection Committee and the Vice Chancellor was made by the Chancellor in terms of the provisions of the Act, 2010, though not fully, the Court observed that the constitution of the Selection Committee and the appointment of the Vice Chancellor admittedly done on the basis of Section 33 of the Act, 2010 cannot be sustained under law.
Furthermore, the Court previous Apex Court decisions, observed that the appointment of the Vice Chancellor contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations as only one name was recommended in spite of panel of suitable candidates, the appointment therein can be said to be illegal.
Therefore, the Court held that the selection of Dr K. Riji John as the Vice Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, overlooking the UGC Regulations 2018 cannot be sustained under the law.
The Court thereby quashed the notification issued by the Chancellor appointing the Selection Committee without the nominee of the University Grants Commission, the resolution of the Selection Committee recommending only one name and order of the Chancellor appointing Dr K. Riji John as the Vice-Chancellor.
Consequently, there will be a direction to the Chancellor to constitute a Search cum Selection Committee for recommendation of a panel of names to the Chancellor in accordance with regulation 7.3 of the UGC Regulations, 2018, at the earliest possible time and accordingly, the Court further added.
John is also one of the nine VCs who were recently asked by the Governor, the Chancellor of the Universities, to tender their resignations on the ground that their appointments were allegedly illegal. The Chancellor had referred to the recent decision of the Supreme Court, which set aside the appointment of Dr MS Rajashree as the VC of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University on the ground that the Search Committee forwarded only one name to the Chancellor instead of a panel of three to five names.
Senior Counsel Advocate Gorge Poonthottam, assisted by Advocates Nisha George and Millu Dandapani, appeared for the petitioner.
Advocate General K. Gopalakrishna Kurup and Senior Advocate Jaju Baby, assisted by Advocate Brijesh Mohan, appeared for the Chancellor.
Senior Advocate P. K. Suresh Kumar appeared for Dr Riju John (Vice-Chancellor)
Case Title: Dr. K.K. Vijayan v. The Chancellor and Dr G. Sadasivan Nair v. State of Kerala