Vice-Chancellor King Pin Of University's System - SC Sets Aside Appointment Of VC Of Sardar Patel University
A two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna has held that "the appointment of respondent No.4 is contrary to the UGC Regulations, 2018. Also, respondent No.4 has been appointed by a search committee, not constituted as per the UGC Regulations, 2018. Moreover, respondent No.4 does not fulfil the eligibility criteria as per the UGC Regulations, 2018, namely, having ten years of teaching work experience as a professor in the university system."
Mr. IH Syed, Senior Advocate appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Mr. Manoh Ranjan Sinha, Advocate appeared on behalf of UGC.
Mr. Vinay Navare, Senior Advocate advanced submissions on behalf of the Sardar Patel University while Mr. Gaurav Agarwal, Advocate appeared on behalf of respondent no. 4.
This was a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. The petitioner prayed for a writ of quo warranto challenging the appointment of respondent no. 4 as the Vice-Chancellor of Sardar Patel University [SPU] and quash the notification by the State of Gujarat appointing R4 as the VC of SPU.
The petitioner argued that UGC Regulation 2010 prescribes that a person shall have ten years of teaching work experience as a professor in the University system and also provides for the constitution of a search committee. The UGC Regulation 2010 was substituted with 2018 regulations with slight modifications.
The petitioner challenged the appointment of R4 before the High Court. The Division Bench dismissed the said petition observing that UGC regulations had not been adopted by the State of Gujarat and thus not binding on the SPU.
An SLP was preferred. By the time SLP could be heard only one month remained in the first term of R4, therefore, the Court didn't interfere.
An advertisement was then issued in June 2019 inviting applications to the post of VC of SPU. The petitioner argued that the search Committee was not constituted as per the UGC Regulations. R4 was again appointed as the VC of the SPU for a further term of 3 years. The case of the petitioner was that the impugned notification was illegal and in violation of 2010 and 2018 regulations. Therefore, the present writ of quo warranto.
UGC supported the case of the petitioner and stated that regulations were binding to all States and Universities.
On the scope of the quo warranto proceedings, the Court made the following observations:
"It is further observed that in other words, the procedure of quo warranto gives the judiciary a weapon to control the executive from making appointments to public office against law and to protect citizens from being deprived of public office to which they have a right. These proceedings also tend to protect the public from usurpers of public office. It is further observed that it will, thus, be seen that before a person can effectively claim a writ of quo warranto, he has to satisfy the court that the office in question is a public office and is held by a usurper without legal authority, and that inevitably would lead to an enquiry, as to, whether, the appointment of the alleged usurper has been made in accordance with law or not."
On the question as to whether the appointment of R4 can be said to be contrary to any statutory provisions and whether it can be said that R4 fulfills the eligibility criteria for the post of the vice-chancellor, the Court noted that the State of Gujarat and universities thereunder including SPU were bound to follow UGC regulations.
In this regard, the Court made the following crucial observations:
"Thus, the provisions of the SPU Act, 1955/provisions under the State legislation are just contrary to the UGC Regulations, 2010/2018, which, as observed hereinabove, are binding on the State Government and the universities thereunder. Even the State Government has not bothered to amend the State legislation – to put at par with the UGC Regulations, 2010/2018 and has continued the appointment in the universities dehors the UGC Regulations."
The Court noted that despite the instructions from the Office of Governor of Gujarat who is also the Chancellor of all universities, to date, the State legislation has not been amended by the State Government and all appointments are being made contrary to the UGC guidelines and regulations.
The Court noted that UGC regulations are enacted by UGC in the exercise of powers under Section 26(1)(e) and (g) of the UGC Act, 1956.
The Court noted that "being a subordinate legislation, UGC Regulations becomes part of the Act. In case of any conflict between State legislation and Central legislation, Central legislation shall prevail by applying the rule/principle of repugnancy as enunciated in Article 254 of the Constitution as the subject 'education' is in the Concurrent List (List III) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution."
The Court allowed the writ petition and issued a writ of quo warranto quashing and setting aside the appointment of the VC of SPU.
The Court hoped that wiser counsel will prevail and State will amend its legislation accordingly in part with the UGC Regulations.
The Court noted that the post of the Vice-Chancellor is a very important post and being the leader and head, the VC has to play very important role. The Court noted that "A Vice Chancellor should be one who can inspire students and guarantee entry of highquality teachers into the University system. A Vice Chancellor functions as a bridge between the executive and academic wings of a university as he is the head of both a 'teacher' and an 'administrator'."
The Court noted that universities are autonomous and the VC is the leader of a higher education institution. The Court placed reliance on Radhakrishnan Commission, Kothari Commission, Gnanam Committee and Ramlal Parikh Committee to highlight the importance of the role of VC.
The Court noted that "we hope and trust that while making afresh appointment of Vice Chancellor in the State and the universities thereunder, the aforesaid aspects shall be kept in mind by the State and the concerned universities. With this hope and trust we leave the matter there."