Breather for beleaguered VCs from Kerala HC
Kochi, October 24, 2022
The Kerala High Court on Monday held that the letter issued by Governor and Chancellor Arif Mohammed Khan, directing the Vice- Chancellors (VCs) of nine state universities in Kerala to resign was no longer valid since the Governor himself had later issued show-cause notices to them.
The court, therefore, ruled that the VCs could continue in their posts till the Governor passed a final order after following the procedure under law.
"Till such time as the Chancellor issues a final order against any of the petitioners, the petitioners remain as Vice Chancellors subject to the law," the order from Justice Devan Ramachandran, who was directed by the Chief Justice to hold a special sitting on Diwali, a holiday for the High Court.
The court said that the Governor, in issuing the letter, did not give adequate notice to the VCs.
"This court has great reservation about the letter issued by the Chancellor because it asks the VCs to resign with as little notice as possible and that they ceased to be VCs as on October 24, 2022," the order said.
Since show-cause notices have now been issued to the VCs, the communication asking them to resign is no longer relevant, it added.
"It obviously means that they are still in service and after an evaluation, they can be removed as per law if required," the court ruled.
However, the court made it clear that every issue, including the jurisdiction of the Chancellor, is left open.
"The arguments of the petitioner that Chancellor does not have jurisdiction to even issue the show cause notices is left open and the remedies to impugn the same are left open to the petitioners," it said.
On Sunday, the Governor had sent letters to the nine VCs, directing them to hand in their resignations by 11.30 a.m. on Monday.
The letter was supposedly sent in light of the decision of the Supreme Court setting aside the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technological University.
A bench of Justices M. R. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar had found that the search committee formed to pick the VC was not properly constituted and also that one only name was sent to the Governor as opposed to a list of names as is required as per the UGC regulations.
Subsequently, the Governor sent the now contentious letters to the Vice-Chancellors of the University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, University of Calicut, and Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University.
The court also made it clear that the law has clearly been settled by the Supreme Court judgment.
The day saw huge protests launched by the Left-leaning student and teachers' organisations against the Governor.
Leader of Opposition V. D. Satheesan said all this was done by the Governor and the Pinarayi Vijayan government in tandem and his Congress has taken a position based on issues.
"When the Governor did a wrong, we pointed it out and when he did a right thing, that also we pointed it out....," he said.
Meanwhile Vijayan, while speaking at a public meeting, lashed out at the Governor and said that he just does not have the powers at all to do anything and if he thinks he can fiddle with an elected government, then he is wrong.
Soon after the high court directive came, angry youth wing workers of the CPI-M got near to the official residence of Khan and shouted slogans against him, saying that he is barking up the wrong tree as Kerala is different and he just will not be able to go forward to implement the agenda of the Sangh parivar forces in universities.