Kerala: Appointment of VC stuck in limbo after spat between Governor and state government

Disregarding names proposed by the government for a temporary VC, the governor gave the charge of Malayalam university to MG University Vice-Chancellor Sabu Thomas
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan | (Pic: PTI)
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan | (Pic: PTI)

The ongoing spat between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the Government of Kerala has put in limbo the appointment of vice-chancellors through the UGC-stipulated selection process in various state universities.

Deadlocks and disagreements
According to a report by The New Indian Express, though interim appointments have been made to the VC post in a few universities, permanent appointments have been kept on the back burner with both the governor and the government refusing to budge. A recent example of this deadlock was seen in the case of the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University.

Though the incumbent vice-chancellor’s term ended on February 28, the constitution of a selection-cum-search committee to choose a new VC did not bear fruit. The state assembly had in September last year passed the University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which increased the number of members in the VC selection panel from three to five. This was aimed to give the government an upper hand in the VC selection. Since the Bill did not receive the governor’s assent and become law, it was obvious that a three-member panel would prevail, reported TNIE.

Selection committees yield no results
“The government began the process of constituting a five-member search committee to select the VC for the Malayalam university under the premise that the Assembly had already passed a Bill to this effect. The governor, however, played by the book and turned it down,” a top official of the Higher Education department told TNIE.

Disregarding the names proposed by the government for the post of a temporary VC, the governor gave the charge of the university to MG University Vice-Chancellor Sabu Thomas. Ironically, Sabu was among the VCs who were served notice for removal by Khan in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict insisting on adhering to UGC norms in VC selection.

What is the Kerala High Court doing?  
According to sources, Governor Khan has become extra cautious about VC appointments after the setback in the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU) case. Though the High Court did not specifically order the removal of Ciza Thomas, who was handpicked by Khan, it ruled that the appointment should be made in consultation with the government.

Meanwhile, the tenure of the vice-chancellors of CUSAT and MG University is slated to end on April 25 and May 27, respectively, and no preparations have been made for constituting search committees to choose their successors. This would lead to VCs of other universities being given charge of these two varsities as well till selection is made to the post as per the UGC-stipulated process, reported TNIE.

“The state government is adamant to appoint VCs of its choice in universities while the governor insists on following the UGC regulations. This has resulted in the appointment of vice-chancellors, through a proper selection process, being deadlocked indefinitely. The governor-government spat is poised to erode the standards of our universities in the long run,” said RS Sasikumar of the Save University Campaign Committee.

Universities with stop-gap VCs
Kerala University
APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University
Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies
Kerala Agricultural University
Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University

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