SC Quashes Appointment Of Vice Chancellor Of Soban Singh Jeena University For Violation Of UGC Regulations & University Act
The Supreme Court on Thursday has quashed and set aside the appointment of Narender Singh Bhandari as Vice Chancellor of Soban Singh University, Uttarakhand for being in violation of the provisions of the University Act, 2019 and University Grants Commission Regulations of 2018.
A Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice MM Sundresh while upholding the decision of Uttarakhand High Court quashed and set aside the appointment of the Vice Chancellor and thus observed –
"It is ultimately for him to resign as a Vice-Chancellor. However, the appointment of the appellant as Vice-Chancellor of the University is held to be illegal and de hors the statutory requirements under Section 10 of the University Act, 2019 read with Regulation 7.3.0 of the UGC Regulations, 2018."
The Court held that the appointment of the appellant (Bhandari) as Vice-Chancellor of the university is just contrary to Section 10 of the University Act, 2019 read with Regulation 7.3.0 of the UGC Regulations, 2018, which has been specifically adopted by the state government.
The Bench further held, "Now so far as the prayer on behalf of the appellant that the appellant is ready and willing to resign as Vice-Chancellor of the University is concerned, the appellant may resign as Vice-Chancellor, if so advised."
The Court held that the High Court had rightly quashed and set aside the appointment of Bhandari as Vice-Chancellor of the University.
Senior Advocate P.S. Patwalia appeared for the Appellant – Vice Chancellor of the University while Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh appeared for the Respondent No. 1 – Original Writ Petitioner, Advocate Atul Sharma appeared for State, Advocate Jatinder Kumar Bhatia appeared for Uttarakhand Public Service Commission and Advocate Harmeet Singh Ruprah appeared for the University before the Apex Court.
The Court observed that as far as Bhandari's submission that he was the most meritorious person and looking to his academic career and having been satisfied that he is the suitable and meritorious person to be appointed as Vice-Chancellor thereafter he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor by the state government is concerned, it may be true that the appellant might have a very good/bright academic career.
In this context, the Court further held, "However, at the same time, it cannot be said that he was the most meritorious person as his case was not compared with other meritorious persons. Therefore, the State Government had no opportunity to compare his case with other eligible meritorious candidates."
The Bench noted that as per the requirement of Regulation 7.3.0 of the UGC Regulations, 2018 and even as per Section 10 of the University Act, 2019, the selection for the post of Vice-Chancellor should be through proper identification by a panel of 3-5 persons by Search-cum-Selection Committee and the members of such Search-cum-Selection Committee shall be the persons of eminence in the sphere of higher education and shall not be connected in any manner with the University concerned or its colleges.
"While preparing the panel, the Search Committee shall give proper weightage to the academic excellence etc. and thereafter the Visitor/Chancellor shall appoint the Vice-Chancellor out of the panel of the names recommended by the Search-cum-Selection Committee. The reason behind this seems to be that the person who is ultimately selected and appointed as Vice-Chancellor, his case is compared with other eligible meritorious candidates who were part of the panel recommended by the Search Committee", the Court observed.
The Bench held that in the present case, such a procedure has not been followed at all and the merit of the appellant has not at all been compared with other eligible meritorious persons who may be more meritorious than the appellant.
The Court also noted that from the note sheet dated August 5, 2020, it appears that only one name was placed before the state government/the chief minister for approval.
"Under the circumstances, the appointment of the appellant as Vice chancellor of the University was just contrary to Section 10 of the University Act, 2019 read with Regulation 7.3.0 of the UGC Regulations, 2018", the Court added.
Referring to earlier verdicts of the Apex Court, the bench noted that where there is a conflict between the State University Act and the UGC Regulations, 2018 to the extent State legislation is repugnant, the UGC Regulations, 2018 shall prevail.
The Court held that in this case, the UGC Regulations, 2018 were adopted by the State Government and it was otherwise bound to follow and/or act as per the UGC Regulations, 2018.
The bench rejected the submission of Bhandari that while serving as a member of the Public Service Commission, he was supervising the Ph.D scholars and therefore the period during which he worked as a member of the Public Service Commission may be counted for the purpose of experience and said that it has no substance.
The bench noted that before appointing the appellant as a Vice-Chancellor of the University, neither any advertisement was issued, nor the names were called for from the eligible meritorious candidates, nor his name was recommended by the Search-cum-Selection Committee, nor there was any search committee and therefore there was no occasion for the Search-cum-Selection Committee to recommend the panel of persons to the chancellor as per the UGC norms.
Cause Title – Prof. Narendra Singh Bhandari v. Ravindra Jugran and others
With PTI Inputs