West Bengal gov't asked to submit report on new VC appointment norms

The government was asked this by the Calcutta HC, after hearing a PIL challenging the new norms
Image used for representational purpose only | Pic credits: PTI
Image used for representational purpose only | Pic credits: PTI

Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam of the Calcutta High Court's division bench requested a report on the West Bengal government's recent legislation that revised the composition of the search committees for the appointment of vice-chancellors in the State Universities.

According to IANS, the report was sought after the division bench heard a public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the recent ordinance of the West Bengal government reforming the constitution of the search committees. 

The petition’s argument

Sushmita Saha Dutta, a Calcutta High Court counsel who filed the original PIL, has specifically challenged the decision to omit the provision of the state university that calls for a representative in the search committee, despite the fact that vice-chancellors are appointed for the same university.

On Monday, Dutta argued that the state government would be able to push their confident candidates as vice-chancellors based on merit, due to their increased strength in the rejigged search committees. She also argued that the governor, despite being the chancellor of the state universities, will virtually have no say in the matter.

"There is no scope for nepotism in the appointments of vice-chancellors in state universities. Such appointments should be done as per the guidelines of the University Grants Commission. The state government has illegally maintained numerical supremacy in representation in the search committee," Dutta has argued.

What the state says 

Arguing on behalf of the West Bengal state government, the State Advocate General SN Mukhopadhyay said that the vice-chancellors are appointed based on the norms laid down by the UGC, irrespective of who sits in the search committees.

Toward the end of the hearing today, Monday, June 19, the division bench asked the state government to submit a report on the matter to the court and directed the state government to inform the petitioner if any further step is taken as regards the search committee.

What had happened 

On May 15, the West Bengal state government issued an ordinance with the proposed changes in the composition of search committees. However, the new changes have created controversy over the fact that the state university, for which a vice-chancellor will be appointed, would not be represented in the search committee.

The ordinance states that in the new five-member search committee, there will be one representative nominated by the Chief Minister, one by the state Education Department, one by the state Higher Education Council, one by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and one by the governor, who is also the chancellor of all state universities.

In the earlier system, there was a three-member search committee with one representative nominated by the state Education Department, one by the state university concerned and one by the Governor.

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