Priya Varghese appointment: High Court may have misinterpreted UGC regulations, remarks SC

Priya Varghese. Photo: Manorama

Kannur: The High Court of Kerala, which ruled in favour of Priya Varghese's selection as an Associate Professor at Kannur University, may have misinterpreted the UGC regulations, remarked the Supreme Court when the case came up for hearing on Monday. University Grants Commission (UGC) has challenged the appointment of Priya Varghese -- wife of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's Private Secretary and former Rajya Sabha member K K Ragesh -- on the grounds that she counted the 'study leave' she took to pursue PhD degree as 'teaching and research experience.

An advocate representing one of the seven respondents in the case said that it was just a one-sentence passing remark made while the case was getting adjourned. Nothing was argued or discussed, he said.

Priya Varghese's advocate Nitish Gupta told the court of Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice Sanjay Karol that he has an answer to the remark. The case was adjourned to March 22.

Of the 11 years she claimed as 'teaching and research' experience, she was on 'study leave' for two years, six months, and 11 days to pursue her doctoral degree at Kannur University.  The 'study leave' was taken under the 'Faculty Development Programme (FDP)' of the UGC. Priya Varghese calls the leave 'on deputation' because back then she was an Assistant Professor at Sree Vivekananda College in Thrissur's Kunnamkulam town. However, the UGC does not use the word 'deputation' for 'study leave' taken under the FDP.

The Kerala High Court's Division bench of Justices Mohammed Nias C P and A K Jayasankaran Nambiar had ruled that the period taken to pursue PhD could be counted as teaching and research experience by a candidate who is already a faculty member. The judgment allowed Priya Varghese to join duty in the Department of Malayalam at Kannur University

The Supreme Court on Monday made the "passing remark" that the High Court may have misinterpreted the UGC Regulations. Second-ranked candidate Joseph Skariah, who is also challenging Priya Varghese's appointment, has questioned the university counting her 16 months as guest lecturer as 'teaching experience'.

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