31 July 2023 8:15 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on the petition filed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) against the order of the Kerala High Court that allowed the appointment of Priya Varghese as Associate Professor at Kannur University, treating the period spent by her to pursue her PhD to be counted as teaching experience. Priya Varghese is the wife of K.K. Ragesh, private secretary to...
The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on the petition filed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) against the order of the Kerala High Court that allowed the appointment of Priya Varghese as Associate Professor at Kannur University, treating the period spent by her to pursue her PhD to be counted as teaching experience. Priya Varghese is the wife of K.K. Ragesh, private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The special leave petition filed by the UGC was before a division bench of Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice K V Viswanathan.
Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj appearing for the UGC, sought for the order of the Kerala High Court to be kept in abeyance. However, Advocates Biju P Raman and Subhash Chandran KR, counsel for Varghese appearing on caveat, submitted that as of now she has already been appointed and prayed that status quo be maintained. The Apex Court accordingly issued notice and stated that the appointment made in furtherance of the impugned order, will be subject to the final outcome of the appeal. Sr. Adv. PN Ravindran and Adv. Atul Shankar Vinod appeared for Dr. Joseph Skariah who was ranked after Varghese in the Rank List and had filed the writ petition in the High Court challenging her inclusion in the list. The bench also issued notice on the separate SLP filed by Skariah.
During the hearing, Justice J K Maheshwari orally remarked that ‘We are making it very clear, to some extent High Court is wrong.’ .
In June 2023, in an appeal by Priya Varghese, a division bench of Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Justice Mohammed Nias C P had set aside the order of the single bench and held that the period spent by Priya Varghese on pursuing her Ph.D. degree under the Faculty Development Programme could not be excluded while considering the period of teaching experience.
In November 2022, a Single Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran had held that Priya Varghese did not possess the requisite teaching experience, to be appointed as Associate Professor at the Department of Malayalam at Kannur University and directed the competent authority of the University to reconsider her credentials and decide whether she should continue on the Rank List. Dr.Joseph Skariah, who was ranked after Varghese in the Rank List, had filed the writ petition challenging the inclusion of Varghese in the List stating that she was not qualified for the post of Associate Professor as she did not have the prescribed 8 years of teaching experience prescribed.
The division bench referring to Regulation 3.11 of the UGC Regulations, 2018 had observed that the Ph.D period of candidates who are not faculty members will be excluded from teaching experience. However, if the research degree is pursued by regular faculty members simultaneous with the teaching assignment, then the period will be counted as teaching experience.
The High Court had concluded that the period spent on pursuing a Ph.D. degree under the Faculty Development Programme cannot be excluded while reckoning her teaching/research experience. The High Court was of the view that some aspects of Humboldtian model can be found in the standards laid down by the UGC in India. “The UGC Regulations, 2018, that have been adopted by the State Government and therefore apply to the Kannur University contain many provisions that indicate the extent to which research work is encouraged among the teaching community.” the High Court had observed.
The Division bench had also held that the period spent by Varghese on deputation as Director of Student Services/ National Service Scheme (NSS), was to be counted as teaching experience by the University.
“..a finding that the experience of a teacher in the post of Director of Student Services/Programme Coordinator of NSS is not teaching experience, would have disastrous consequences for the academic community in the State as no teacher would be willing to go on deputation to such posts for fear of losing out on career progression.” the Court had stated in this regard.
The High Court had directed that the candidature of Priya Varghese for the post of Associate Professor be considered in light of its observations.
Case Title: UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION V. PRIYA VARGHESE, SLP(C) No. 15816/2023
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