Rejection of Proposal for Appointment Based on Vice-Chancellor’s Dissent Is Unsustainable: Kerala High Court

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Kerala HC directes Central Government

Case

Dr. Anupriya Samuel v. The University of Kerala & Others

Facts of the Case

The Petitioner was appointed as the Assistant Professor in Zoology at St. John’s College, Anchal on 22.9.2015. The Manager had sought the University’s approval after appointing the Petitioner. A doubt on the validity of the Petitioner’s appointment was raised. It was since the decision to grant a degree of Ph.D. to the Petitioner, taken after she applied for the post. The University had therefore sought legal opinion from its Standing Counsel. The opinion was in the Petitioner’s favor. The Standing Committee on Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff of the University had recommended acceptance of the legal opinion. 

Thereafter, the Syndicate resolved to agree with the recommendations, but the Vice-Chancellor expressed disagreement, pointing out that the appointment did not align with the UGC Regulations, 2010 and the Government order implementing the Regulations. In the subsequent meeting held on 13.6.2017, one of the Syndicate members had objected to the disagreement of the Vice-Chancellor on the premise that the Vice-Chancellor could only express his dissent.

Thereafter, Exhibit P13 was issued stating that the proposal for approval of the Petitioner’s appointment was being returned since the Petitioner was unqualified for appointment to the post when the vacancy was notified, and hence, her appointment was inconsistent with the UGC Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and other Measures for the Maintenance of Standards of Higher Education Regulations, 2010. 

Petitioner’s Arguments

The Petitioner had submitted that the Syndicate, which was conferred with the authority having recommended approval of appointment, Exhibit P13 communication, based on the Vice Chancellor’s dissent, was issued without authority. Further, it was contended that Section 10 of the Kerala University Act did not confer the Vice-Chancellor with the authority to approve appointments of teachers in private colleges. 

The Petitioner had challenged that:

  1. The Section 21(xxviii), made it clear that approval of the appointment of teachers in private colleges was the prerogative of the Syndicate. To support this argument, the case of Vinod B.S. v. Chikku A.M. was referred to.
  2. The Exhibit P13 on the ground that the stipulations in UGC Regulations, 2010 did not impact the Petitioner’s appointment under the clarificatory order of the Apex Court in the University of Kerala v. Dr. D. Radhakrishnan Pillai and Others. 
  3. The Section 10(13) of the Kerala University Act, Vice-Chancellor was conferred with the authority to take action on matters requiring the decision of the Syndicate or the Academic Council only when the Syndicate or the Academic Council was not in session and an emergent situation, requiring immediate action, arose. Even in such a case, the Vice-Chancellor was bound to report the action taken at the next session of the Syndicate or Academic Council, as the case may be, which made it evident that the power conferred on the Syndicate could not be usurped by the Vice-Chancellor.

Respondent’s Arguments

The Respondents had contended that the Syndicate resolution recommending approval of Petitioner’s appointment did not align with the UGC Regulations, 2010 and the decision in Dr. D. Radhakrishna Pillai v. Travancore Devaswom Board [2016(2) KLJ 41]. As per Clauses 3.3.0 and 3.3.1 of the UGC Regulations, 2010, a candidate who had applied for the post of Assistant Professor should have qualified the National Eligibility Test (NET) or an accredited test (State Level Eligibility Test – SLET/SET) or should have acquired Ph.D. Degree following the UGC (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of Ph.D. Degree) Regulations, 2009. According to the learned counsel, as the Petitioner had not satisfied the requirement and hence, the University was justified in rejecting her proposal for the appointment.

Court’s Observations

The Court had observed that to resolve the issue raised, it was necessary to consider the relevant provisions in the Kerala University Act, 1974 and the Kerala University First Statutes, 1977. Section 23 of the Act had vested the Syndicate with the executive powers of the University, including the power of general superintendence and control over the institutions of the University. Section 23 (xviii) conferred the Syndicate with the power to approve the appointment of teachers in private colleges. 

Statute 3(xvii) under Chapter 6 of the Kerala University First Statutes, 1977 empowered the Syndicate to approve the appointment of teachers as qualified to give instructions or to supervise or control research and to withdraw such approval, subject to the regulations framed by the Academic Council. The above provisions had left no room for doubt that the Syndicate, and not the Vice-Chancellor, was the appropriate authority. The case of Vinod B.S was referred for support.

The Court had opined that as rightly pointed out by the Petitioner, the Vice-Chancellor could exercise the power vested with the Syndicate only when the Syndicate was not in session and an emergent situation, requiring immediate action, arose. As per Exhibits P11 and P12 resolutions, the Syndicate had recommended acceptance of the proposal for appointment of the Petitioner. The Vice Chancellor’s dissent would not render the resolution of the Syndicate invalid. As such, rejection of the proposal for appointment based on the Vice-Chancellor’s dissent was unsustainable.

The Court, thus observed that the Petitioner had failed to satisfy the requirements of the UGC Regulations, 2010 also could not hold good given the clarificatory order of the Supreme Court in the University of Kerala v. Dr. D. Radhakrishnan Pillai and Others [Special Leave to Appeal (C).Nos. 18938-18942/2017]. 

Courts Decision

The Court thus quashed Exhibit P13. The University was directed to approve the Petitioner’s appointment as Assistant Professor in Zoology with effect from the date of appointment.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE JUDGMENT


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