The Kerala High Court on Monday quashed and set aside the appointment of Dr. K. Riji John, the Vice Chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies for being in violation of UGC regulations.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed that as per the UGC regulations, the visitor/Chancellor shall appoint the Vice Chancellor out of the panel of names recommended by the Search Committee however, only one name was recommended and the panel of names was not recommended. Also, the Chancellor had no option to consider the names of other candidates.

In this context, the Court thus added –

"…therefore, the appointment of the Vice Chancellor therein can only be said to be dehors and/or contrary to the provisions of the UGC Regulations; and when, only one name was recommended in spite of panel of suitable candidates, the appointment of respondent No. 1 therein can be said to be illegal and void ab initio."

The Court held that the selection of Dr. K. Riji John as the Vice Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, overlooked the UGC regulations, 2018, and thus cannot be sustained under law.

The Bench further also noted that the Search-cum-Selection Committee was constituted in violation of the UGC Regulations 2018.

While holding that UGC Regulations, 2018, shall have supremacy over the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies Act, 2010, the Bench observed-

"To put it otherwise, the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2018 in the matter of appointment of Vice Chancellor and the constitution of the Search cum Selection Committee have supremacy and paramountcy over the provisions of the Act, 2010."

The Court directed the Chancellor to constitute a Search cum Selection Committee for a recommendation of a panel of names to the Chancellor in accordance with Regulation 7.3 of the UGC Regulations, 2018 at the earliest possible.

The Bench was adjudicating upon the two Writ Petitions that were filed challenging the appointment of the Vice Chancellor and a direction was also sought for the re-constitution of the Selection Cum Search Committee and to complete the selection process within the time limit fixed by the High Court.

The Petitioner had contended before the Court that the appointment of the Vice Chancellor was in violation of the UGC Regulations, 2018 and that the members of the Selection Committee were not eminent persons in the sphere of higher education for the selection.

Senior Advocate George Poonthottam assisted by Adv. Nisha George and Advocate Millu Dandapani appeared for the Petitioners while Advocate General K. Gopalakrishna Kurup, Senior Advocate Jaju Babu appeared for the Chancellor and Senior Advocate P.K. Suresh Kumar appeared for Dr. K. Riji John before the High Court.

The Court thus held, "Therefore, Exhibit P4 notification dated 16.09.2020 issued by the Chancellor, respondent No.1, appointing the Selection Committee without the nominee of the University Grants Commission; Exhibit P9 resolution of the Selection Committee dated 22.01.2021 recommending only one name, and Exhibit P10 order dated 23.01.2021 of the Chancellor appointing Dr. K. Riji John for a period of 5 years from the date of assumption of the office or till he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier, as provided under Section 33(6) of the Act, 2010 are quashed."

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Writ Petitions.

Cause Title – Dr. K. K. Vijayan & Ors. v. The Chancellor

Click here to read/download the Judgment