In a blow to the state government, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan used his powers as Chancellor of universities to stay the appointment of an associate professor at Kannur University on grounds of nepotism.
The Governor's action comes a day after Kannur University Vice Chancellor Gopinath Ravindran clarified to him that there were no irregularities in the selection process of Priya Varghese to the Department of Malayalam.
As Ms Varghese is the wife of KK Ragesh, who is a CPM leader and the private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the Governor's stay order on the varsity Syndicate's resolution is a heavy blow for the ruling party.
The Chancellor has also stayed "all further proceedings pursuant to the selection procedure for appointment of associate professor in the Department of Malayalam, with immediate effect until further orders".
The Chancellor invoked specific provisions in the Kannur University Act, 1996 in issuing the order. He has also served show-cause notices "to all stakeholders".
A welcome order: Joseph Scariah
The candidate who was allegedly deprived of his rightful chance has welcomed the Governor's decision.
Joseph Scariah, the candidate who ended up second in the final ranklist despite having a research score of 651 compared to Priya Varghese's 156, said he believes university appointments will become transparent hereafter.
"The Governor's decision is only just," Joseph Scariah told Manorama News.
"I had filed a petition before the Governor on August 5. Besides, a few organisations such as Save University Campaign had also complained and perhaps it was based on these petitions that the Governor had sought VC's clarification.
"This order is a good message, and hopefully there will be transparency in the appointments in universities and such acts of nepotism will end."
VC cites varsity act, says no more
Soon after the Governor's order was issued, the vice-chancellor called a press conference and hinted that they would be challenging the stay in court.
Gopinath Ravindran did not take many questions in the press conference. He instead, read the Governor's orders and section 7(3) of the Kannur University Act.
"Here is what section 7 (3) of the act says," Ravindran said before quoting the text.
"The Chancellor may, by order in writing, annul any proceedings of the university which is not in conformity with this act and the statutes, the ordinances, the regulations, the rules of the by-laws.
".. provided that before making any such order, the Chancellor shall upon such authority to show cause why such an order should not be made and consider the cause if any shown by such authority within a reasonable time."
He refused to comment further and just clarified that "based on this direction we may move the court".
It is alleged that Ms Varghese had the worst research score among six applicants for the post in the Malayalam department.
However, she climbed the rank-list after the interview that was conducted by a committee led by the vice-chancellor. The information came to light following an RTI enquiry.