Chancellor can appoint KUFOS acting VC: SC

Dr Riji John's plea will be considered by Chief Justice D Y Chandachud and justice Hima Kohli. Photo: IANS.

New Delhi/Kochi: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Chancellor can appoint the acting vice-chancellor of KUFOS (Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies). A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli, however, refused to stay the Kerala High Court's judgment cancelling Dr K Riji John's appointment and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

Although Senior Advocates Jaideep Gupta and K K Venugopal, appearing for Riji John and the State of Kerala respectively, pressed for a stay or a status quo order, the bench declined and said it will dispose of the matter itself after two weeks, reported Live Law.

"If you succeed, you will be reinstated", CJI Chandrachud said. When Gupta said that the administration of the University will come to a standstill, the CJI said, "Chancellor is bound to make some arrangements for two weeks".

In his plea, KUFOS vice-chancellor Dr K Riji John has argued that the High Court nullified his appointment without considering the fact that the UGC rules on VC appointments do not apply to agriculture universities.

The Kerala High Court cancelled the appointment of Riji as VC on November 14.

The HC order was on a petition filed by Dr K K Vijayan citing that UGC norms were flouted during the appointment.

The division bench consisting of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly said the constitution of the selection committee and its recommendation were illegal.

Recently, the Supreme Court set aside the VC appointment to the Kerala Technological University, citing the same reason.

The high court has now directed the Fisheries university to constitute a new selection committee and this time, ensure that the appointment process follows UGC rules.

Riji is also one of the nine VCs who were recently asked by the Governor, the chancellor of state universities, to tender their resignations on the ground that their appointments were allegedly illegal.

The chancellor had referred to the recent decision of the Supreme Court, which set aside the appointment of Dr MS Rajashree as the VC of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University on the ground that the search committee forwarded only one name to the chancellor instead of a panel of three to five names.

The court's verdict came at a crucial juncture in the midst of a row between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the Kerala Government over a slew of issues.

Khan had for long questioned the government's needless intervention in varsity affairs.

He had pointed out that the CPM's backdoor appointments to top posts in universities had crippled the entire education sector in the state.

Meanwhile, the ruling CPM-led left government accused the Governor of working at the behest of the BJP and the RSS to undermine it.

The government also alleged the Governor was abusing his powers as chancellor to put the education sector in the state in limbo. An ordinance to abolish the powers of the Governor as chancellor has been sent to the Raj Bhavan.

(With Live Law inputs)

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