SC sets aside appointment of VC Uttarakhand varsity, says UGC guidelines violated

The appointment was not made from among recommendations of a Search-cum-Selection panel as recommended by the UGC and is therefore illegal, the Supreme Court noted
Supreme Court of India | Pic: Express
Supreme Court of India | Pic: Express

Even as the stand-off between Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammed Khan and the state government continues over the former's action against nine Vice-Chancellors of universities in the state, the Supreme Court has issued another judgement stating that the appointment of the VC should be made on the basis of the University Grants Commission Guidelines from 2018.

The Supreme Court on Thursday, November 10, found that the appointment of the VC of the Soban Singh Jeena University in Uttarakhand was illegal as it violated the UGC guidelines that state that the VC must be selected from among the recommendations of a Search-cum-Selection panel. The Supreme Court found that such a panel had not been formed and the VC was not selected from among a list of three to five recommendations from the panel. 

The appointment of Prof Narendra Singh Bhandar was first set aside by the Uttarakhand High Court and this judgement has now been upheld by the Supreme Court Bench of Justices MR Shah and MM Sundresh. The state contested that since Prof Narendra was the first VC of the varsity, the State Government had leeway to ignore the provisions in place for the appointment. However, the Court noted that even in the case of the appointment of the first VC, the procedures cannot be set aside. 

The Supreme Court also added that the state could not have come to the conclusion that Prof Narendra is the "most meritorious" person for the job since they did not compare him with any other recommendations from the selection panel. Therefore, in the absence of this panel, the Supreme Court noted that the VC's appointment was illegal. 

On October 21, the Supreme Court set aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of Kerala's APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, MS Rajasree, on similar grounds. The court, in its judgement cancelling the appointment of the VC of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, noted that even as per Section 13(4) of the University Act, 2018, the Committee shall recommend unanimously a panel of not less than three suitable persons from amongst the eminent persons in the field of engineering sciences, which shall be placed before the Visitor/Chancellor.

As per the UGC Regulations as well, the Visitor/Chancellor shall appoint the Vice-Chancellor out of the panel of names recommended by the Search Committee. Therefore, when only one name was recommended and the panel of names was not recommended, the Chancellor had no option to consider the names of the other candidates, the top court observed.

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