Kerala Governor orders VCs of 9 varsities to resign. Kannur University VC refuses

While Kannur Uni VC called the move of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan 'unprecedented', Khan said that the Supreme Court made it 'clear' that VC appointments were the prerogative of the Governor
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan | (Pic: Express)
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan | (Pic: Express)

In defiance of the order by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Kannur University Vice-Chancellor Gopinath Ravindran on Monday, October 24 has said that he will not tender his resignation. On Sunday, October 23, the Kerala Governor, who is also the Chancellor of universities in the state, sought the resignation of the Vice-Chancellors of nine universities in the state. 

"I have received the decision of Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan but I will not submit my resignation. The resignation of the VC is based either on financial irregularities or bad behaviour and neither of these has happened here. This is a fake accusation," said Kannur University Vice-Chancellor, according to a report by ANI. He added that a case relating to his appointment as the Kannur VC is pending before the Supreme Court. "How could the Chancellor terminate the VC when there is a case in the court?" the Kannur VC asked.

Vice-Chancellors of the University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, the University of Calicut and Thunachath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University were asked to resign from the post, as per the Governor's order on Sunday. Kerala Raj Bhavan's Public Relations Officer, who spoke with ANI said that letters were sent to the VCs of these universities, directing them to tender their resignations by 11.30 am on Monday, October 24.

"Upholding the verdict of Hon'ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal Nos.7634-7635 of 2022(@ SLP(c)Nos.21108-21109 of 2021), Hon'ble Governor Shri Arif Mohammed Khan has directed Vice Chancellors of 9 varsities in Kerala to tender resignation," Raj Bhawan said in a tweet quoting PRO of Kerala Raj Bhavan.

A tussle of power seems to be ensuing in public universities in Kerala. On October 21, the Supreme Court set aside the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, MS Rajasree. On the same date, the ongoing battle between the administration at Kerala University and the Governor saw the Kerala High Court interdicting the varsity to refrain from electing new members to the university's senate, which had been dismissed by the Governor earlier for failing to send their nominations for the post of VC to a selection committee. 

Now, the VC of Kannur University has defied the Governor's order and has said that such an action by the Governor is "unprecedented in the country and has not been taken against the Vice Chancellors of any state in India," reported ANI. "Yesterday evening I received the letter. I have been asked to submit my resignation letter on Monday by 1:30 pm. My case is in the Supreme Court and it is subjudice. I don't have any plans to resign, if he decides to terminate my services let him do it," Ravindran said.

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, 2015, 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 also, 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. At a recent event, Governor Khan, while pointing out the issue of the VC appointment to various universities in Kerala, said the Supreme Court had earlier made it clear that the appointment of the Vice-Chancellors was the responsibility of the Governor. "The state government has no role in it," he added.

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