The Supreme Court, while invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, observed that they endeavour to infuse transparency, independence, fairness, and impartiality to ensure that the persons possessing the highest level of competence are shortlisted for the Universities in West Bengal.

The Court appointed Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Former Chief Justice of India as Chairperson of the Search ­cum­ Selection Committees for all the Universities in the State of West Bengal.

The Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan observed, “We deem it appropriate to invoke our powers under Article 142 of the Constitution to do complete justice in this matter and pass this common order for constitution of Search­ cum­ Selection Committee for all the subject Universities. Hence, we resolve to constitute Search­ cum ­Selection Committee(s) of the same composition so as to avoid any confusion, irrespective of the fact that the relevant provision of the Statute of the concerned University may contain slight variations. Our endeavour is to infuse transparency, independence, fairness, and impartiality so as to ensure that the persons possessing the highest level of competence and integrity and are capable of leading the University by example are shortlisted. In this regard, we have made an effort to shortlist experts who are eminent scientists, educationists, jurists, subject experts, and administrators in their own right. We have further attempted to set out that nominees of the Chancellor, Chief Minister, UGC, State Government, the Higher Education Department of West Bengal the intervenors etc. are adequately represented.”

Senior Advocates Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Sr. Adv. Jaideep Gupta appeared for the Petitioner while Advocates Dr. Chaples Bandyopadhyay Subhasish Bhowmick and Shalini Kaul appeared for the Respondent.

There was a rift between the State Government and the Governor of West Bengal, who is the Chancellor of the Universities which was the root cause of the stalemate in the appointment of regular Vice­Chancellors. In the present case, there was no consensus between the two sets of authorities in the matter of constitution and composition of Search Committees for shortlisting the candidates for appointment as Vice Chancellors.

The chaos has further deepened as neither there are regular Vice ­Chancellors nor interim or ad­hoc Vice­Chancellors are permitted to be appointed.

The Court also enumerated the list of eminent educationists, scientists, jurists, subject experts, administrators etc. who have been short­listed for empanelment on Search­cum­Selection Committee.

Moreover, the Court, inter alia, gave certain powers to the Chairperson such as:

1. to constitute separate or joint Search­cum­Selection Committees for one or more Universities, keeping in view the nature of subjects/disciplines in which education is being imparted in such pooled Universities, to nominate 4 persons out of the empanelled experts, whom he finds capable of short­listing suitable names for appointment as Vice­Chancellors,

2. to preside over every Search ­cum ­Selection Committee and thus, the composition of each such Committee shall be five,

3. to constitute the Search­ cum­ Selection Committees for the group or the individual Universities as early as possible and preferably within two weeks.

The Court also nominated the Department of Higher Education, Government of West Bengal as the nodal department of the State Government to issue advertisements giving vide publicity to invite applications for the posts of Vice­Chancellors.

The Court said, “In the case(s) where the Chief Minister of the State has objected to the inclusion of any name in the panel and such objection is not acceptable to the Chancellor or where the Chancellor has an objection against empanelment of any particular name for which he has assigned his own reasons, all such files shall be put up before this Court. We make it clear that a final decision in this regard shall be taken by this Court after giving reasonable opportunity of being heard to the objectors.”

The Chairperson will be paid an honorarium of Rs. 3 lakhs for every effective day of proceedings of the Search Committee until the entire process is completed. The State Government, in addition to the honorarium, will provide the Chairperson with a suitable office and full secretarial assistance, along with transit accommodation at Kolkata and other facilities.

Accordingly, the Court concluded, “The State of West Bengal shall file the Status Report in respect to compliance of the directions issued here­in­above before the next date of hearing. We make it clear that since the constitution and composition of Search­cum­Selection Committee is at the instance and with the consent of the parties, we will not entertain any objection from any side for non­compliance.”

Cause Title: The State of West Bengal v. Dr. Sanat Kumar Ghosh and Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 469)


Petitioner: Senior Advocates Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sr. Adv. Jaideep Gupta, AOR Astha Sharma, Advocates, Sanjay Basu, Adv. Amit Bhandari, Nipun Saxena, Piyush Agarwal, Shrivalli Kajaria, Srisatya Mohanty, Anju Thomas, Sanjeev Kaushik, Mantika Haryani, Shreyas Awasthi, Adv. Himanshu Chakravarty, Ripul Swati Kumari, Bhanu Mishra, Muskan Surana, Archit Adlakha, Soumya Saxena, Aditya Raj Pandey, Lihzu Shiney Konyak, Simranjeet Singh Rekhi, Pratibha Yadav and Abhijit Pattanaik.

Respondents: AORs Subhasish Bhowmick, Shalini Kaul, Shyam D. Nandan, Anilendra Pandey, Mrigank Prabhakar, Subhasish Bhowmick, Anand Varma, Kunal Chatterji, Advocates Dr. Chaples Bandyopadhyay, Gargy Basu, Ananda Mayee, Manisha Pandey, Rahul Kushwaha, Neerja Sharma, Reegan S. Bel, Joydeep Mazumdar, P. Sil, B.K. Pandit, Chandrashekhar A. Chakalabbi, Pijush Biswas, S.K. Pandey, Rohit Bohra, Manoj Ranjan Sinha, Deepak Sain, Nisha, Sakshi Banga, Gargy Basu, Ananda Mayee and ors.

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