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Appointment Of Vice Chancellor Of A University Even Under A State Legislation Cannot Be Contrary To UGC Regulations : Supreme Court

Sohini Chowdhury
4 March 2022 4:19 AM GMT
Appointment Of Vice Chancellor Of A University Even Under A State Legislation Cannot Be Contrary To UGC Regulations : Supreme Court
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On Thursday, the Supreme Court held that appointment of a Vice Chancellor of a University, even under a State legislation, cannot be contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations. The Apex Court noted that in cases where the State legislature is repugnant to the Central legislation, Central legislation is to prevail as per Article 254 as 'education' is an item in the Concurrent List...

On Thursday, the Supreme Court held that appointment of a Vice Chancellor of a University, even under a State legislation, cannot be contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations. The Apex Court noted that in cases where the State legislature is repugnant to the Central legislation, Central legislation is to prevail as per Article 254 as 'education' is an item in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule. In view of the same it was of the view that such an appointment would be considered to be in violation of the statutory provisions and hence a fit case for issuing writ of quo warranto.

A Bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna issued writ of quo warranto in a petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India and set aside the appointment of the present Vice Chancellor ("VC") of the Sardar Patel University ("SP University") in Gujarat as it held that his appointment was made contrary to the statutory provisions.

Factual Background

Apart from seeking issuance of writ of quo warranto, the petitioner had implored the Apex Court to pass directions to concerned authorities to recover all consequential benefits from the VC.

As per Regulation 7.3.0 of the UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education, 2010 ("2010 Regulations") and also 2018 Regulations, a person ought to have ten years of teaching experience as a professor for being eligible to be appointed to the post of VC. It is also required that a Search Committee consisting of a nominee of the Visitor/Chancellor, a nominee of the Chairman of UGC, a nominee of the Chairman of UGC, a nominee of Syndicate/Executive Council of the University is constituted to recommend names of suitable candidates for appointment to the said post.

The petitioner asserted that the selection of the VC of SP University was made on the recommendation of the Search Committee, which did not have the nominee of the Chairman of UGC in blatant derogation of the UGC Regulations. The Committee constituted under Section 10(2)(b) of the Sardar Patel University Act, 1955 ("1955 Act") had exceeded its jurisdiction and prescribed eligibility criteria for the post of VC diluting the 2010 Regulations. On the basis of the diluted eligibility criteria, the present VC was appointed to the post with effect from 08.03.2008.

A Special Civil Application was filed before the High Court challenging the appointment, which was dismissed on the ground that Gujarat not having adopted the UGC Regulations, the eligibility criteria therein was not applicable to SP University. But, it asked the Government of Gujarat to adopt the UGC Regulations and amend the State law accordingly. However, thereafter no steps were taken by the State to adopt the regulations. A Special Leave Petition was filed before the Apex Court. As the VC was at the fag end of his term when the matter came up for final hearing the Court refused to intervene. Again, in a similar manner, as claimed by the petitioner, by flouting the UGC Regulations, the VC was re-appointed.

Contentions raised by the petitioner

Senior Advocate, Mr. I.H. Syed, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, apprised the Court that the appointment was illegal and contrary to the UGC guidelines. It was contended that the Search Committee was also not constituted as per the mandate of UCG regulations. He submitted that when the first appointment was made, the present VC did not have ten years of teaching experience as a professor. It was argued that in absence of eligibility criteria in the 1955 Act, the Select Committee in the present case had decided the same. It was pointed out that by a communication dated 11.08.2014 addressed to the Governor of Gujarat, UGC sought compliance with its Regulations. Moreover, the direction of the High Court to adopt UGC Rules was also not acted upon. Mr. Syed argued that since the University was receiving central financial assistance and was included in the list of State universities receiving financial assistance under Section 12(b) of the UGC Act, 1956, it ought to follow the UGC Regulations.

Contentions raised by the respondents

Avocate, Mr. Manoj Ranjan Sinha appearing on behalf of UGC supported the petitioner's case. Senior Advocate, Mr. Vinay Navare appearing for Sardar Patel University submitted that the Division Bench of the High Court had decided the issue against the petitioner which was not interfered with by the Apex Court and therefore had attained finality. The same issue cannot be revisited for appointment for the second term of the VC. It was argued that since the UGC Guidelines were not adopted by the State, the University was not bound by them. Mr. Navare contended that the appointment was based on the basis of the 1955 Act. The locus standi of the petitioner who is an ex-employee of the University was also assailed. Advocate, Gaurav Agarwal appearing for the present VC adopted the submission of Mr. Navare and Advocate, Ms. Ruchi Kohli, appearing for the State of Gujarat, also opposed the petition.

Analysis by the Supreme Court

The Court referred to Rajesh Awasthi v. Nand Lal Jaiswal And Ors. (2013) 1 SCC 501 to address the issue that quo warranto will lie when the appointment is made contrary to the statutory provisions. It was noted that in Retd. Armed Forces Medical Association And Ors. v. Union of India And Ors. (2006) 11 SCC 731 the Apex Court had held that the strict rules of locus standi are relaxed in quo warranto cases.

The Court noted that the 1995 Act was contrary to the UGC Regulations. Moreover, even when directed by the High Court to amend the State legislation in line with the UGC Guidelines, the State Government did not take steps to adopt them. When UGC had communicated to the Governor of Gujarat that the State Government ought to follow UGC guidelines for appointment of VCs, the same was forwarded by the Governor to the Principal Secretary of the State. It was noted that under the 1955 Act, the Governor is the Chancellor of the University and therefore his advice is binding upon the University. The Court found that the appointment was in contravention of the UGC Regulations and thus set aside the appointment.

The Court encouraged the Government to amend the State legislation at par with the UGC Regulations to avoid discrimination in appointment of VC as the said post is a crucial one.

"Being a leader and head of the institution, the Vice Chancellor of the University has to play very important role. While academic qualifications, administrative experience, research credentials and track record could be considered as basic eligibility requirements, the greater qualities of a Vice Chancellor would be one who is a true leader and a passionate visionary."

It observed that Radhakrishnan Commission, Kothari Commission, Gnanam Committee and Ramala Parikh Committed had highlighted the importance of the post of VC for the overall development of the university. It noted -

"As per the norm, he/she should be an eminent academician, excellent administrator and also someone who has a high moral stature."

Case Name: Gambhirdhan K Gadhvi v. State of Gujarat And Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 242

Case No. and Date: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1525 of 2019 | 03 Mar 2022

Corum: Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna

Authored By: Justice M.R. Shah

Headnotes

UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education, 2010 and 2018 - enacted in exercise of power under clauses (e) and (g) of Sub-section (1) of Section 26 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 - Any regulation enacted in exercise of powers under Section 26 can be said to be subordinate legislation - In case of any conflict between State legislation and Central legislation, Central legislation shall prevail under Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject 'education' is in the Concurrent List (List III) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Clause 7.3.0 of UGC Regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education, 2010 - A person shall have ten years of teaching experience as a professor in a university - Also provides for constitution of search committee to recommend successful candidates.

Section 12(b) of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 - Sardar Patel University included in the State universities receiving Central financial assistance - State of Gujarat and the universities thereunder including the SP University are bound to follow UGC Regulations, 2010 and UGC Regulations, 2018.

Section 10 of the Sardar Patel University Act, 1955 - does not provide for qualification for appointment to post of VC - Provisions of the Act is contrary to the UGC Regulations which are binding on the State Government and the Universities thereunder.

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment



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