The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the appointment of Rajasree M.S. as the Vice-Chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, Thiruvananthapuram, holding that it was made in violation of the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations.
“The post of Vice-Chancellor [V-C] of the university is a very important post as far as the university is concerned. Being a leader and head of the institution, the Vice-Chancellor of the university has to play a very important role. While academic qualifications, administrative experience, research credentials, and track record could be considered as basic eligibility requirements, the greater qualities of a V-C would be one who is a true leader and a passionate visionary,” a Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar referred to a judicial precedent in their 24-page judgment.
The judgment came in an appeal filed by Prof. (Dr.) Sreejith P.S. after the Kerala High Court had refused to quash the appointment.
The questions flagged by the court included whether the appointment ought to be in compliance with the UGC regulations or the University Act, 2015, which is a State legislation, and if the search committee constituted to recommend the name of Prof. Rajasree as V-C was a “duly constituted” one.
‘Central law will prevail‘
On the first question, Justice Shah, who authored the judgment, said a Central law, in this case, the UGC regulations, would prevail over the State law to the extent of the conflict between the two statutes.
The court agreed with Prof. Sreejith’s contentions that the appointment of the V-C was not in accordance with the UGC regulations. This was despite the fact that the State government had adopted the regulations way back in 2010. The violations encompassed the constitution of the search committee and lapses in the recommendation and appointment of Prof. Rajasree. Only one name was recommended to the Chancellor, which was contrary to the regulations.
The court held that “any appointment as a V-C made on the recommendation of the search committee, which is constituted contrary to the provisions of the UGC regulations, shall be void ab initio”.
The court explained that the selection of the V-C should be through proper identification of a panel of three to five names by a duly constituted search committee of persons of eminence in the sphere of higher education and not connected in any manner with the university concerned or its colleges. The Chancellor had to appoint the V-C out of the names recommended by the search committee.
“While preparing the panel, the search committee must give proper weightage to the academic excellence; exposure to the higher education system in the country and abroad, and adequate experience in academic and administrative governance,” the court underscored.
“The appointment of respondent No. 1 [Prof. Rajasree] on the basis of the recommendations made by the search committee, which was not a duly constituted search committee as per the UGC regulations and when only one name was recommended in spite of panel of suitable candidates [three-five suitable persons as required under Section 13(4) of the University Act, 2015], the appointment of respondent No. 1 can be said to be illegal and void ab initio,” the Supreme Court declared.