The Madhya Pradesh High Court held that it cannot act as an appellate authority over the judgments of the experts concerning University appointments.

The Court dismissed a Petition challenging the selection process for the position of Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU)

The Court noted that there was no evidence of a violation of UGC guidelines and no material demonstrating that the experts were acting with malice or partiality

The Bench of Justice Vivek Agarwal observed, “therefore, on both the touchstone of there being no violation of the UGC guidelines and further there being no material to show that the experts were acting in a mala fide or partial manner, this Court cannot definitely sit as an appellate authority over the judgments of the expert”.

Advocate Brindavan Tiwari appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate Arpan J. Pawar appeared for the Respondent.

The Petitioner filed a writ petition challenging the selection process for the position of Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU). The Petitioner, who holds M.Sc., M.Phil, and Ph.D. qualifications in Mathematics, contended that they were more meritorious than the appointed candidate, private respondent No.4, who was given fewer marks in the API scorecard contrary to UGC guidelines. The petitioner alleged that the computation of API for private respondent No.4 was based on parameters for the Assistant Professor position, in violation of UGC guidelines. Despite seeking information under the RTI Act, incomplete information was provided by the respondents, indicating manipulation in favour of private respondent No.4.

The Court, after considering the arguments presented by both parties and examining the records, noted that the petitioner raised an additional point. They argued that private respondent No.4 submitted an application as an advance copy, stating that documents through the proper channel would follow from their employer. However, the application included a total of 149 enclosures, suggesting manipulation of the records as additional enclosures were allowed to be added later. The Petitioner contended that contrary to UGC guidelines, a less qualified candidate was selected, particularly as private respondent No.4 did not provide evidence of having supervised doctoral research.

The Bench noted the essence of the legal principle established by the Supreme Court in the case of Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi v State of Jugarat and others, [(2022) 5 SCC 179]. The Court reiterated that the State of Gujarat overlooked communication from the UGC and allowed the Search Committee to independently determine eligibility criteria for appointing the Vice-Chancellor of the University. The Bench observed that UGC Regulations, formulated under the powers vested in the UGC by Sections 26(1)(e) and 26(1)(g) of the UGC Act, 1956, constitute subordinate legislation and thus are integral to the Act itself.

The Court noted that the argument presented by the petitioner regarding the violation of UGC Regulations lacks specificity, as neither the UGC has been included as a party nor has the specific regulation allegedly violated been identified by the petitioner. Therefore, the legal principle established in the case of Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi (Supra) was deemed inapplicable to the case. Regarding the precedent set by the Division Bench of this Court in the case of Shailesh Kumar Son Wane v State of M.P. and others [ILR 2021 MP 2092 (DB)], the Bench emphasized the importance of the rule of law and noted that arbitrary actions by the government, particularly in denying legitimate expectations of candidates for appointment, are inconsistent with the rule of law.

The Court noted that two vacancies were advertised, with one filled by private respondent No.4 while the other remained vacant. The reason for not filling the second vacancy was the significant disparity in scores among other candidates, leading to a potential mismatch in faculty calibre.

The Court referred to the case of Basavaiah (supra) and emphasized that expert committees thoroughly evaluated the qualifications, experience, and published work of candidates before making recommendations. The Court noted that courts should defer to the recommendations of such committees, especially in academic matters, unless malfeasance is alleged. Since there is no allegation of malfeasance in the case, the findings of the expert committee cannot be lightly dismissed, as per the decision in Basavaiah (Dr.) v Dr. H.L. Ramesh and others, [(2010) 8 SCC 372].

The Court observed that the finding was supported by the significant difference in scores between the private respondent No.4 and the petitioner, making minor errors insignificant in tipping the balance in the petitioner's favour. Consequently, there is no evidence of a violation of UGC guidelines or the experts acting with malice or partiality. As a result, the Court cannot act as an appellate authority over the judgments of the experts.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Petition.

Cause Title: Dr. Yadvendra Prasad Dubey v Principal Secretary Higher Education

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