Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday held that the State has no power to appoint, re-appoint or extend the tenures of the vice chancellors of universities in West Bengal.
The Bar and Bench reported, a division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Rajarshi Bharadwaj, therefore, ordered removal of VCs of nearly 29 universities in the State, who were appointed or re-appointed by the West Bengal government based on the amendments to the West Bengal Universities Act carried out in 2012 and 2014.
"This Court has taken note of the importance of the post of vice-chancellor in the university, therefore, it is essential that the appointment of the vice chancellor should be strictly in accordance with the law. It would not be in the interest of the students and administration of the universities to continue the concerned respondents as vice chancellor of the university once it is found that they have been appointed without following the due procedure and contrary to the provisions of the Act and that too by an authority not competent to appoint," the bench said in its 46-page judgment.
"Therefore, their appointment is contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2018. It is also undisputed that the search committee formed for the appointment of all the VCs did not have one member nominated by the chairman, UGC, therefore, their appointments are contrary to the UGC Regulations, 2018," the bench opined.
The order was passed on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition, challenging the validity of the amendments carried out in 2012 and 2014.
Notably, the procedure as prescribed under the University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations, 2018 is that a VC should be appointed by a 'search committee' which would comprise of a representative each of the UGC, the State University and also the one nominated by the Governor.
This arrangement or procedure was changed by the State government by amending the West Bengal Universities Law Act which replaced the mandatory representative of the UGC with that of the State government.
With these amendments, the State continued to appoint, reappoint and even extend the tenures of VCs of several universities in West Bengal.
Former Governor Jagdeep Dhankar too had raised concerns over the manner in which the VCs were being appointed in the State.
The bench referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of State of West Bengal vs Anindya Sundar Das wherein, the top court had held that when power is conferred upon the chancellor (Governor) to appoint or reappoint the vice chancellor, the State government cannot usurp that power taking recourse to the amendments made in the statute.
The bench further noted the fact that in the present case, some of the VCs did not fulfill the minimum qualification of 10 years’ experience as professor in the university or 10 years’ of expertise in a reputed research and/or administrative organization with proof of having demonstrated academic leadership.
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