Priya Varghese unqualified to be associate professor: HC

Priya Varghese's case has been one of the highlights of the ongoing tussle between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the Kerala government. Photo: Manorama Online.

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Thursday said Priya Varghese does not possess sufficient teaching experience as mandated by the University Grants Commission (UGC) norms and ordered a re-examination of her appointment as an associate professor of Malayalam at Kannur University.

The court further stated that no university is above the rules and regulations laid out by the UGC.

Priya is the wife of K K Ragesh, the private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan had cancelled her appointment citing nepotism. 

"Teachers play a significant role in nation-building. They must be like the candlelight that leads through darkness. According to UGC, teaching experience is mandatory for a candidate to be considered for the post of associate professor. However, not all of Priya Varghese's qualifications can be considered as academic experience," stated the court.

The bench, headed by Justice Devan Ramachandran, said work experience was a must to ensure the standards of educational institutions.

"Priya's tenure as an assistant professor is not enough for her to be considered for the post of associate. A candidate must have taught a minimum of eight years before applying for the post of associate professor, which has not been the case here," observed the court.

The court also pointed out that even Priya herself agreed to the fact that she did not teach any class during the entirety of her PhD research period. 

While stating that a candidate's research period cannot be considered as work experience, the court expressed confusion over how the scrutiny committee found this to be enough.

Reiterating its previous observation, the court stated that serving as a student director or working with the National Service Scheme (NSS) cannot be considered as teaching experience. 

"Working with the NSS or serving as student services coordinator are all non-teaching positions. Her tenure as the assistant director at the language institute cannot be considered as teaching experience either. The scrutiny committee made an error while evaluating all these qualifications," said the court.

The petition was filed by Dr Joseph Scariah, assistant professor of Malayalam at St Berchmans College, Changanassery, who came second in the selection list. 

HC raps Priya for FB post

Before delivering the verdict, Priya's Facebook post ridiculing the High Court's observation came under criticism.

After being questioned by the court whether digging pits as part of the NSS can be considered as teaching experience, Priya published a post on Facebook, in which she said, be it digging holes or even latrines, she was proud of her time associating with the NSS.

However, she deleted the post two hours later.

The bench said observations made in the court should have stayed in the court.

“I too was a part of NSS. The court's observation was in no way intended to denigrate the programme,” said Justice Ramachandran.

The court further stated it does not remember using the term 'digging holes' while criticising Priya's work experience.

Post was against media's coverage: Priya

Following the High Court's criticism over her now-deleted FB post, Priya published a clarification on the social media platform.

In the post, written in Malayalam, Priya said she only has respect for the court and that her previous post was a reaction to the media's coverage of the issue.

The college lecturer's case has been one of the highlights of the ongoing tussle between Governor Khan and the Kerala government.

The court had stayed her appointment on the petition of Scariah, who questioned her eligibility after being allegedly overlooked despite having better academic experience.

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