HC directs Kannur University to reconsider Priya Varhgese’s credentials

Court finds that she does not have the actual teaching experience for applying to the post of Associate Professor

November 17, 2022 07:49 pm | Updated 07:51 pm IST - KOCHI

Finding that Priya Varghese, wife of K.K. Ragesh, Private Secretary to the Chief Minster, does not have actual teaching experience for being included on the rank list for the post of Associate Professor in Malayalam at Kannur University, the Kerala High Court directed the scrutiny committee of the university to reconsider the credential of Ms. Varghese and decide whether her name should be retained on the rank list.

Justice Devan Ramachandran while allowing a writ petition challenging the inclusion of Ms. Varghese on the rank list, also ordered the committee to take forward further action to make an appointment to the post, on the completion of an inquiry into her credentials and modifying the rank list.

UGC norms

The court observed that the UGC clearly stipulated that the person applying for the post ought to have real teaching experience so as to maintain the excellence and integrity of the higher education system.

In this context, the teaching experience could really be a fact not fiction or inferences. Unless the candidate was able to show real teaching experiences as required by the UGC, he/she could not have had his/her applications approved by the scrutiny committee, it said.

The experience of teaching as specified in the UGC Regulation had to be actual teaching experience and not something that could be inferred or construed either by operation of law or on the strength of circulars or executive orders. The post of an Associate Professor was an extremely vital and important one. Therefore, it was certainly justified for the UGC to provide that only a person with requisite actual teaching experience could apply for the post, the court added.

Teaching experience

It said that the scrutiny committee had proceeded on certain assumptions that they thought to be true, particularly with respect to the periods of service claimed by Ms. Varghese while engaged in full-time research and discharging duties as Director of Student Services and Coordinator of the National Services Scheme.

Certainly, such activities would go to the promotion of the growth of a person as a good teacher, but that by itself would not be sufficient in the absence of the requisite experience of teaching. What was required was a “felicitous mix of both, so that a teacher was able to guide his or her students”, it observed.

The court also did not find force in the argument of Ms. Varghese that the time taken by her for acquiring a Ph.D.  under the Faculty Development Programme, the period of deputation in the post of Director of Student Services, and the period taken to complete her Ph.D. could be counted as teaching/research experiences.

Untenable arguments

The court also found untenable her arguments that the service rendered on a temporary/ad hoc/contract basis as lecturer in Malayalam in the Kannur B.Ed. Centre as Director of Student Services at Kannur University and Assistant Director in the Kerala Bhasha Institute Student could be treated as teaching experiences for the post of Associate Professor

It agreed with the counsel for the UGC that as per the UGC regulations 2918, the period taken for obtaining a Ph.D. could be counted as teaching experience, only when the research was pursued simultaneously with teaching assignments.

Reacting to the High Court order, Ms. Varghese said she accepted the ruling. She added that the further course of action would be decided after consulting legal experts.

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