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SC urges Bengal government, governor to resolve VC appointment deadlock; minister welcomes order

October 7, 2023
Mita Mukherjee

The Supreme Court on Friday took exception to the Bengal governor CV Ananda Bose’s decision on appointing officiating vice-chancellors (VC) of state-aided universities, stayed the emoluments of the interim VCs appointed by Bose and asked him to sit with chief minister Mamata Banerjee “ over a cup of coffee” and resolve the ongoing stalemate over appointment of vice-chancellors.

A bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Dutta said the stay on perks to the interim vice-chancellors appointed in August will continue till the pendency of the state government’s petition against the move of the governor to appoint the interim vice-chancellors. The vice-chancellors in question will, however, receive the salary and perks they are paid for their previous posts.

The top court also restrained the governor from making any more appointments of interim vice-chancellors.  

The Supreme Court said the governor, who is the ex-officio chancellor of all state-aided universities, should resolve the deadlock “ considering the interest of the institutions and future of lakhs of students.”

“ We are expecting understanding and maturity from both sides, since this is a question of educational institutions and the future careers of lakhs of students. West Bengal has been a hub of quality education right from the time of Santiniketan,” the court observed.

Justice Kant said “ We hope those standards, values and morals would be observed by both sides and would help to solve this issue amicably.”

The top court was hearing an appeal of the West Bengal government against an order of the Calcutta High Court stating that there was no illegality in the orders issued by the governor in appointing interim vice-chancellors in 13 state-run universities.

 A division bench of Calcutta High Court had dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking quashing of the governor’s unilateral decision to appoint interim vice-chancellors. The state government had supported the PIL.

Bengal education minister Bratya Basu welcomed the order given by the apex court on Friday restraining the chancellor from appointing more interim vice-chancellors.

Basu said by passing the order the Supreme Court has given its approval on the state government’s appeal for justice.

But the minister said he was feeling “sad” for the chancellor, as “ after all he is the governor of this state” and the apex court took exception to his decision.

“ We welcome the order of the Supreme Court. We had prayed for justice and the court has given its approval of our plea,” the education minister told reporters at a press conference in front of Raj Bhavan where the ruling Trinamul Congress is staging a dharna against the Centre.

“ But I am also feeling sad for the governor. After all, he is our governor. We are sad for his defeat. But we did not want this. We had repeatedly requested him not to hand pick vice-chancellors. We requested him to hold discussion with us so that deserving academicians were selected to the post with the advice of the chief minister.  We wanted the governor to restrain from hand picking vice-chancellors in the interest of students and to ensure offering quality education in our higher education institutions,” the minister said.

He said that the governor, after the judgment, has no “moral authority” to continue as chancellor. We will now want him to sign the bill which the state Assembly has passed making the chief minister the chancellor of state universities instead of the governor.”

Also read: Bengal: Governor appoints 6 more VCs, are appointments legal, asks minister

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