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Kerala HC dismisses state govt plea against appointment of KTU VC

The court found that Ciza Thomas fully qualified to be appointed as the vice-chancellor in charge of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University.

Statesman News Service | Kochi |

In yet another setback for the Left Front Government in its tussle with Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on the functioning of universities, the Kerala High Court, on Tuesday, dismissed a petition filed by it against the order of the Chancellor appointing Ciza Thomas as the vice-chancellor of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU).

Dismissing the petition of the state government, a single bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran said that no fault could be found on the part of the Governor in his capacity as Chancellor in appointing Ciza Thomas as the vice chancellor  in-charge of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU).

The court found that Ciza Thomas fully qualified to be appointed as the vice chancellor in charge of the KTU.

“There was no doubt that  Thomas was fully qualified going by the UGC Regulations, since it permits experience in both teaching and research, and since she was working as the Senior Joint Director in Directorate of Technical Education, the choice was justified,” the court said.

If Ciza Thomas(3rd respondent) was indeed found to be qualified in accordance with UGC Regulations, no fault could be found on the part of the Chancellor in appointing her in the interregnum period, the it said.

“Even when fingers could be pointed against the Chancellor in having relied upon the inputs of ‘some educationists’, in its final analysis, his choice can never be found to be at fault, and in any event, there is not even a whisper or an assertion sotto vocce even by the Government that he has acted  with bias or mala fide in having appointed the 3rd respondent,” the court said.

The court further said that in its order that since the Chancellor has been able to obtain a duly qualified person as the vice-chancellor without any favoritism, there was no requirement of state to have challenged the same.

The court also directed the stakeholders to appoint a vice chancellor on regular basis without any delay by constituting a selection committee. “If this is done, the state could also be happy since the tenure of the 3rd respondent could be confined to the smallest period,” the court further said.

The Kerala government in its plea said that Ciza Thomas’s appointment by the Chancellor is not in conformity with the provisions of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University Act, 2015. The state had argued that only the Vice Chancellor of any other university or the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university, or the secretary to the government higher education department, as recommended by the government, could be appointed as the VC to hold office till a regular VC is selected.

During the hearing of the case, Advocate General K Gopalakrishna Kurup argued that as had been held by the Apex Court, in case of any conflict between UGC Regulations and  the provisions of the KTU Act, the former prevails. In case of ‘regular VC’, the said Regulations prevails; however, in case of any ‘temporary vacancy’, it is the Act which prevails since the former does not even envisage the same.

Arguing on behalf of the Chancellor, Senior Counsel Gopakumaran Nair, said that Section 13(7) of the Act operates in violation of UGC Regulations 2018, and is an affront to the declaration of Apex Court.

This is the third consecutive setback for the Left government in Kerala from courts. The Kerala High Court, on 14 November quashed the appointment of Dr K Riji John as Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), observing that the appointment was made in violation of UGC (University Grants Commission) norms.

The Kerala High Court on 17 November quashed the proposed appointment of Priya Varghese, wife of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s private secretary, as associated professor at the Malayalam department in Kannur University stating that  she did not have the relevant period of actual teaching experience as stipulated under the University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations of 2018.

Earlier on 21 October, the Supreme Court had quashed the appointment of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University Vice Chancellor Dr Rajasree M S, citing that her appointment was  not  according to the UGC norms.