WB: Calcutta High court sets aside reappointment of 24 vice-chancellors

March 16, 2023

Mita Mukherjee

Calcutta High Court has set aside West Bengal government’s decision to reappoint vice-chancellors of 24 state-aided universities because Jagdeep Dhankar, former governor of the state had not given his approval to the order of the state higher education department in this regard.

The governor is the ex-officio chancellor of all state-aided universities.

Many of the vice-chancellors whose tenure ended had recently submitted their resignation. The current governor, C. V. Ananda Buse has given a three-month extension to them.

The ruling given by a division bench on Tuesday will, however, not have any impact on the three-month extension granted by the present governor, said an official of the state higher education department.

The order was given by the court following a PIL filed by a forum of college teachers and researchers. The petitioners had challenged the decision of the state government to extend the tenure of the VCs on the ground that this was against the VC appointment rules prescribed by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and also citing the reason that the decision did not have the approval of the chancellor which is also a violation  of the UGC norms.

“… In view of the above, writ petition is allowed and it is directed that (i) The provisions of IUGC Regulations, 2018 will prevail over the conflicting provisions of the concerned State Universities Act, relating to appointment of Vice-Chancellor, under which the respondent Vice-Chancellors have been appointed. (ii) The appointment of those respondent Vice-Chancellors who are appointed, reappointed, whose tenure extended or who are given additional charge by the order of the State Government or who do not possess minimum eligibility condition or appointed without following the due procedure are held to be unsustainable and without the authority of law. Therefore, they have no right to continue as Vice-Chancellors by virtue of such sustainable orders…” the ruling reads.

The higher education department had appointed Vice-Chancellors on its own without the approval of the chancellor when Dhankar was the governor.

Differences between Dhankar and the state government had cropped up on this issue and on several occasions the government and the governor were also seen targeting each other in public domain.

Dhankar had said that according to the rule the chancellor was the appointing authority but 24 Vice-chancellors  had been appointed in disregard of law without the approval of the chancellor.

At least two vice-chancellors including Calcutta University and Diamond Harbour Women’s University were reappointed and appointed without the consent of the chancellor.

After Tuesday’s order, education minister Bratya said that the state government did not disagree with the court order that the government cannot appoint a vice-chancellor without the approval of the chancellor. But he said that Tuesday’s order will not affect the three months extension of 24 vice-chancellors.

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