Published: 21st May 2022
Supreme Court stays Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act, 2020. This is why
In January 2022, the High Court upheld the validity of the Act by observing that the changes made in the procedure for recruitment of VCs and teachers for universities are not unconstitutional
The Supreme Court, on Friday, May 20, issued a stay on the Odisha Universities (Amendment) Act, 2020 for three months.
The state government was also asked by the apex court to submit a report on the issue within three months and after two months, set the next date of hearing.
The stay was issued by Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Krishna Murari while hearing a petition filed by Ajit Kumar Mohanty, a retired professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The petition challenged the Odisha High Court judgement. A separate petition filed by the UGC against the High Court order was also heard on the day and the apex court gave the same order.
In January 2022, the High Court upheld the validity of the Act by observing that the changes made in the procedure for recruitment of vice-chancellors and teachers for universities are not unconstitutional.
It had also maintained that UGC (Minimum qualifications for appointment of teachers and other academic staff in universities and colleges and other measures for the maintenance of standards in higher education) Regulations, 2018 are not binding on the State universities in Odisha, and that such universities will be governed by the Odisha Universities Act 1989 (as amended in 2020).
The contention of the UGC was that the State law was in conflict with the regulations. The UGC regulations govern the minimum qualification of teachers, manner of appointment of vice-chancellors and other service conditions of teaching and non-teaching staff.
Clause-7 of the UGC Regulations-2018 lays down the selection procedure for vice-chancellors/pro vice-chancellors of the universities. It says that a selection will be by a search-cum-selection committee comprising three to five persons of eminence in the sphere of higher education. The persons will not be connected in any manner with the university concerned.
However, the composition of the selection committee as per the Act was in variance with the UGC regulations. As per the OU Act, the committee will comprise of a chancellor’s nominee, who should be a superannuated officer in the government in the rank of Chief Secretary or Secretary, nominee of the UGC and nominee of the State government, who should be an eminent academician of the State or national repute.
Besides, appointment of staff of the universities is also vested with Odisha Public Service Commission (OPSC). The OPSC was made competent authority to conduct examinations for appointment of teaching staff which was violative of the UGC Regulations-2018, the petitioner alleged.