Varsity appointment row: Guv mulls action against Kannur VC for challenging stay order

Governor Arif Mohammad Khan, (right) Kannur University

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan has expressed his dismay at the Kannur University Syndidate's plan to challenge his order staying the appointment of Priya Varghese at the varsity on the grounds of nepotism.

The Governor is mulling strict action against the university Vice-Chancellor Gopinath Ravindran for calling an emergency meeting challenging the Governor's order and for speaking to the media against him. This, Khan said, was gross misconduct and a serious violation. The Governor is also the Chancellor of state universities.

It is learnt that strict action will be taken against Ravindran after Khan returns from Delhi on August 25.

The university syndicate on Thursday decided to move the High Court against the Governor's decision to stay the appointment of Priya Varghese as an associate professor of the Malayalam Department at the varsity. It cited that the Governor's order without issuing a show-cause notice to the university vice-chancellor was non-binding. However, it backed away from the decision at the last minute.

Earlier, the Syndicate had clarified that there were no regularities in the selection process. But this failed to satisfy Khan.

On Wednesday, using his powers as Chancellor, Khan stayed the appointment of Ms Varghese on the grounds of nepotism.

It is alleged that Varghese had the worst research score among six applicants for the post in the Malayalam department. However, she climbed up the rank list after the interview conducted by a committee led by the VC. This came to light following an RTI enquiry.

Priya Varghese is the wife of KK Ragesh, the private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Khan 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". He invoked specific provisions in the Kannur University Act, 1996 to issue the order. It was also reported on Wednesday that Khan served show-cause notices "on all stakeholders", a claim the varsity now contests.

Governor outranks them all

It is a rare occurrence when a varsity syndicate move against a sitting Governor, who no doubt outranks them all as Chancellor of universities.

Had the Syndicate moved the court on Friday, Khan would have been left with no choice but to ramp up the attack.

According to the University Act, a Governor can conduct inquiries against the vice-chancellor.

However, a high court or supreme court judge must be appointed for such an investigation.

A vice-chancellor can be removed from the position if it is found that there has been wrongdoing or misappropriation of funds.

It was precisely what happened when Sheila Dixit was the Governor of Kerala in 2014. The vice chancellor of MG University in Kottayam was removed for alleged wrongdoings.

It remains to be seen if Khan will take a similar drastic measure.

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