SC asks AG to intervene for amicable appointment of VCs in West Bengal universities

The Supreme Court Friday asked the Attorney General (AG) for India R Venkataramani to use his “good offices” for amicable appointment of vice-chancellors in several state-run universities of West Bengal following a bitter tussle between the Mamata Banerjee government and Governor C V Ananda Bose over how the state’s universities should be run.

A bench headed by Justice Surya Kant emphasised that only persons of eminence should be appointed as vice-chancellors and asked the AG to hold a meeting with all stakeholders to resolve the issue.

The senior-most government law officer assured the court he would take initiative to remedy the situation.

The top court was hearing an appeal of the West Bengal government against the June 28 order of the Calcutta High Court which said there was no illegality in the orders issued by the West Bengal governor appointing interim vice-chancellors (VCs) in 11 state-run universities in his capacity as the ex-officio chancellor of these institutions.

“We impress upon the Attorney General to use his good offices for amicable appointment of vice-chancellors of various universities (as per the law governing such appointments). This can be done by holding a joint meeting of the stakeholders. Attorney General has assured to take the initiative,” the bench, also comprising Justice Dipankar Datta, said.

In October, the court had stayed the emoluments of the newly appointed interim vice-chancellors and asked the governor to sit with the chief minister “over a cup of coffee” to resolve the deadlock over appointment of VCs.

It had said there was a need for reconciliation between the governor and the chief minister “in the interest of educational institutions and the future careers of lakhs of students”.

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The bench had also suggested that the names of individuals, on whom there is a consensus between the state government and the governor, should be cleared promptly.

On September 27, the apex court had sought names of eminent personalities including scientists, technocrats, administrators, educationists and jurists for setting up a search committee for shortlisting and appointing VCs in state-run universities.

Taking note of the running feud between the state and the office of the governor on the issue, the top court had said on September 15 it will set up a search committee to pick VCs.

Earlier, the high court had held the chancellor has the power to appoint VCs as laid down in relevant enactments.

Sanat Kumar Ghosh, a petitioner who moved the high court, and the West Bengal government claimed the orders appointing VCs to state-run universities were illegal as the governor had not consulted the higher education department before making the appointments.

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