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Bengal: SC to set up VC search panel, state government welcomes verdict

September 16, 2023
Mita Mukherjee

 The Supreme Court on Friday said that it will constitute a search committee itself to appoint full-term vice-chancellors (VC)of state universities in West Bengal which are now run by temporary VCs selected by the governor.

The top court asked the state government, University Grants Commission (UGC) and the governor to suggest three to five names each from which the court will constitute the search committee which will shortlist and select full-term VCs. The names will have to be submitted within September 25. The court will hear the case again on September 27 when the search committee is likely to be constituted.

A bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta gave the verdict while hearing an appeal made by the West Bengal government  against an order of Calcutta High Court of June 24 which said it was not illegal on the part of the governor C V Ananda Bose appointing officiating vice-chancellors in state-aided universities in his capacity as chancellor of the institutions. The state had also informed the apex court that it had repeatedly requested the UGC and Raj Bhavan to appoint their nominees in their panels but neither of them responded to the pleas.

The state government and the governor are in a tussle for a long time over the issue of appointments of VCs in state-run universities. The state had been opposing governor Bose for allegedly handpicking vice-chancellors of his choice without consulting the higher education department of the state.

Hours after the top court gave the verdict on setting up a search committee itself which would shortlist academics and select full-term VCs for the universities, West Bengal education minister, Bratya Basu welcomed it. He also welcomed the top court’s observation that the universities cannot continue to be run by interim vice-chancellors, and the governor should appoint all university heads in consultation with the state government.

The minister also said that  he has no problem in discussing the matter with the state governor C V Ananda Bose on behalf of the state, as directed by the court.

“We welcome the Supreme Court order. We have been continuously telling that the state must have a say in the matter of appointment of vice-chancellors. We had been saying that the state government must be consulted by the chancellor for appointing vice-chancellors…. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the chancellor should hold a discussion with the state for appointing vice-chancellors. The court also said that the governor cannot make the appointments bypassing the state government.  The court observed that the universities cannot continue to be run with interim vice-chancellors…. Therefore, we welcome the verdict,” education minister Basu later said at a press conference.

Basu said that the state will send the list of its nominees for the search panel to the Supreme Court soon.

Later, in a statement on X, he said, ““After receiving no response from Chancellor & UGC to the requests of the State, SC, displeased with the Chancellor, expressed concern from the education system in Bengal, stating interim measures can’t continue. Court took it upon itself to form the search committee. State, Chancellor and UGC to give 3-5 nominees in a week.”

Also read: Bengal: Interim vice chancellors of universities meet Union Education Minister

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