Appointment, Re-Appointment of VCs in 22 Bengal Varsities Found Unsustainable in Law: Calcutta HC

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday held that appointment or re-appointment of vice-chancellors in 22 state-run universities in West Bengal are unsustainable in law and they have no right to continue in such positions.

The court also said that the UGC Regulations, 2018, will prevail over the conflicting provisions of the State Universities Act, under which the appointments were made.

A division bench presided over by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava stated that the vice-chancellors who were appointed, re-appointed, whose tenure were extended or who were given additional charge by the state government or who do not possess minimum eligibility or were appointed without following the due procedure, are unsustainable.

“Therefore, they have no right to continue as vice-chancellors,” the bench said in its judgement in a PIL challenging the appointments, reappointments, extension of tenure of vice-chancellors in 22 state-run universities in West Bengal.

The re-appointment of the vice-chancellor of Calcutta University, which was also challenged in the PIL, has already been set aside by the high court and upheld by the Supreme Court.

The division bench, also comprising Justice R Bharadwaj, observed that it is essential that the appointment of the vice-chancellor should be strictly done in accordance with the provisions of 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.

The petitioner claimed in the PIL that the provisions of the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Act, 2012 and West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 are ultra vires of the provisions of the Constitution of India, University Grants Commission Act and the UGC Regulations of 2010 and 2018.

The PIL also claimed that some of the vice-chancellors have been appointed either by a search committee, which was not properly constituted, or without constituting any such committee.

Some of the appointments were challenged on the ground that they do not fulfil the minimum eligibility criteria of 10 years’ experience as professor in the university or 10 years’ experience in a reputed research and/or academic administrative organisation, as prescribed in the UGC regulation.

There were also some other appointments which were questioned claiming that these were made in defiance of specific order or without specific approval of the chancellor, who is the sole appointing authority for vice-chancellor post.

As ex-officio chancellor of state-run universities, former West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had often engaged in verbal spats with the Trinamool Congress government over the choice of vice-chancellors in educational institutions.

Among the universities where appointment of vice-chancellors were questioned are Burdwan University, Alia University and Vidyasagar University.

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