Power Of Reappointment of VC Vests With Chancellor & Not State Govt- SC While Upholding Removal Of Calcutta University VC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli has observed that the power of appointment including reappointment vests with the Chancellor and the State Government and thus upheld the impugned judgment of the Calcutta High Court.
The Apex Court upheld the reasoning of the High Court and it held that the expression "subject to the satisfaction of the State government" cannot - by a process of inferential reasoning - be construed to vest the power of reappointment in the State government.
The Court observed, "The fulfilment of the conditions makes a person eligible for reappointment. The power of appointment including of reappointment is entrusted to the Chancellor and not to the State government. The amended provisions of Section 8(2)(a) cannot therefore be construed to mean that the power of reappointment has been taken away from the Chancellor and entrusted to the State government. Reading the provisions in such a manner, would make the provisions entrusting the power of appointment of the VC with the Chancellor redundant."
The Bench heard an appeal against a judgment passed by the Calcutta High Court. The High Court had allowed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking a writ of quo warranto against the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Calcutta University and held that the State government had no authority to appoint or re-appoint the VC under Section 8 of the Calcutta University Act 1979.
In this case, the High Court held that the VC had no authority to hold that office on the basis of the order of appointment and the order re-appointing the incumbent VC of Calcutta University was set aside. Both the State of West Bengal and the VC whose appointment was set aside approached the Supreme Court in appeal.
Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared on behalf of the State, Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta appeared for the VC whose appointment was set aside and Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar appeared for the person who had challenged the re-appointment.
The Court referred to the decisions taken in judgments including Bharati Reddy vs State of Karnataka to confirm that the writ of quo warranto can be issued where an appointment has not been made in accordance with the law.
Referring to the provisions of the Calcutta University Act, the Supreme Court noted that "Section 8(2)(a) provides for (i) the term of office of a VC; (ii) eligibility for reappointment; (iii) the term of office upon reappointment; (iv) the conditions subject to which a person shall be eligible for reappointment; and (v) the outer age limit of 70 years. The expression "subject to the satisfaction of the State government" cannot by a process of inferential reasoning be construed to vest the power of reappointment in the State government."
Further, the Court held that the amended provisions of Section 8(2)(a) cannot be construed to mean that the power of reappointment has been taken away from the Chancellor and entrusted to the State government.
Therefore, the Apex Court held that the State had usurped the powers of the Chancellor while appointing the VC of the University. The Court also referred to the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2018 and the judgment in the case of Gambhirdan K Gadhvi v State of Gujarat, to hold that "even if the provisions of the Act allowed the appointment of the Vice Chancellor by the State government, it would be in violation of the UGC Regulations. The Regulations become part of the statute framed by Parliament and will prevail."
Resultantly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals and held that the judgment of the High Court was correct in law and that the State could not have issued the order of re-appointing the VC. No orders were passed as to costs.
Cause Title: State of West Bengal v. Anindya Sundar Das & Ors.