Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Sunday appeared to spurn the government’s rapprochement bid as he stood his ground and reiterated his charges on the government impinging upon the autonomy of universities in the State.
Contesting the claims made by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan earlier in the day, the Governor, who is the Chancellor of State Universities, told the media in New Delhi that he was browbeaten into doing the government’s bidding during the appointment of Vice Chancellors.
Referring to the appointment process of the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University, Mr. Khan said the government had brought the legal opinion of the Advocate-General (AG) in order to re-appoint the incumbent Vice Chancellor, despite him not seeking any.
‘Succumbed to pressure’
“This was after I had already set in motion the process to select a new Vice Chancellor. I was pressurised to withdraw the process even though universities do not generally allow a person to hold the office for a second consecutive term. They (government) scuttled the process... I admit I erred by succumbing to that pressure, but no more. I was under pressure and accepted it (the recommendation) to avoid a conflict,” he alleged.
Pointing out that the AG’s opinion had been addressed to the Higher Education Department Secretary and not him, the Governor said the bureaucrat had refused to divulge under whose orders he had sought the opinion.
Stopping short of saying that the Chief Minister had lied when he asserted that the Chancellor himself had sought a sole nominee for the post of Vice Chancellor of the Sanskrit University, Mr. Khan said: “He can say whatever he feels like. He is entitled to his opinions, while I am accountable to my conscience. I would have appointed the sole nominee and not have raised an issue with the process. That he (Mr. Vijayan) is aware of such details is clear indication that he always keeps tabs on universities’ affairs, even though it is not his duty legally. It is clear the members of the selection committee were consulting him.”
The selection committee had received seven applications, of which six were apparently considered “unfit to be even considered for the position”, despite having over 10 years of teaching experience as Professors. “The committee should have recommended to me to re-advertise the post since we did not receive sufficient applications from competent people. Instead, they sought to tie my hands and deny me a choice,” the Governor alleged.
He added he stood by his stance to transfer his powers as Chancellor to the Chief Minister through an Ordinance.