SC seeks names of eminent persons for setting up search panel on West Bengal varsities

The Supreme Court has sought names of eminent personalities including scientists, technocrats, administrators, educationists and jurists for setting up a search committee for shortlisting and appointing vice-chancellors in 13 state-run universities of West Bengal.

Taking note of the running feud between the state government and the office of the West Bengal governor on the issue, the top court decided on September 15 that it will set up a search committee to pick vice-chancellors.

The court had asked the governor, the state government and the University Grants Commission (UGC) to suggest three to five names independently for for its consideration. The court will then nominate some of those recommended by them to the search committee.

A bench of justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta took up the matter on September 27 and noted “the parties have agreed to submit a tabulated chart giving details of the Universities, the description of the subjects/disciplines which are being taught, the existing provisions for appointment of members in the Search Committee and/or the new provisions which are proposed in the Bill awaiting assent of the Governor.”

“The counsel representing the intervenors etc. shall be at liberty to suggest the names of renowned scientists, technocrats, administrators, educationists, jurists or any other eminent personality for the purpose of nomination to the Search Committee,” it said.

The bench asked the parties to complete the exercise of submitting details and the names by Wednesday, and listed the state government’s plea for hearing on October 6.

The top court was hearing the 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 governor appointing interim vice-chancellors in 11 state-run universities in his capacity as ex-officio chancellor of these institutions.

The Mamata Banerjee government and Governor C V Ananda Bose are locked in a bitter tussle over how the state’s universities should run.

The bench had taken note of the fact that the state government’s Bill on appointment of VCs was pending approval of the governor. It had said the court itself will form a search committee to choose vice-chancellors.

“The court has directed the office of the governor, the state government and the University Grants Commission to give three to five names for consideration of the bench for the search committee by September 25,” advocate Subhasish Bhowmick, who appeared for the office of the governor, had said.

Earlier, the high court had held the chancellor has the power to appoint vice-chancellors 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 vice-chancellors to state-run universities were illegal as the higher education department was not consulted by governor Bose before making such appointments.

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The petitioner had alleged that contrary to the proposal put forth by the higher education minister, the chancellor made a series of appointments of vice-chancellors without consulting him.

The high court had said when the final decision rested with the governor, the appointing authority of the vice-chancellors, the manner, mode or method of consultation had to be left to him and that the consultee cannot dictate terms to the chancellor about what mode or methodology was to be adopted.

The universities where interim vice-chancellors were appointed on June 1 include the University of Calcutta, University of Kalyani and Jadavpur University.

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