21 July Sunday

Kerala Governor misusing his power as Chancellor: Chief Minister

Web Desk‌Updated: Monday Oct 24, 2022

Palakkad :  Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday slammed the Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for seeking the resignation of vice-chancellors of nine universities in the state and said that it is part of an attempt to abuse the position of chancellor to use the power he does not have.

Chief Minsiter told a  press conference here that the governor's tweet yesterday asking the vice chancellors of the universities to resign is part of an attempt to abuse the position of chancellor to use the power he does not have .It is unconstitutional and negates the essence of democracy. It is an encroachment on the power of the democratically elected government and the universities, which are supposed to be academically independent.

Nine vice-chancellors have been asked to resign unilaterally under the cover of the court verdict regarding the appointment of KTU vice-chancellor. The Governor is acting as a puppet of the Sangh Parivar. A war is being waged with destructive intelligence against the universities of Kerala, which are advancing to the heights of academic excellence. What is this attack for? What is the agenda behind this other than political goals?

The governor is alleging that the VC appointments in all these nine universities were against the UGC rules.Governor is the appointing authority in all the nine universities. If the VC appointments were made illegally, then the primary responsibility lies with the appointing authority, governor himself.

The Supreme Court judgment did not say that the KTU Vice-Chancellor doesn't meet any academic qualifications. The court stated only one procedural issue.In itself, the Supreme Court didn't consider the matter in dispute in the High Court in this case.There is still an opportunity to file a review petition in that judgment. However, the chancellor is using this situation to destabilize the entire university administration in the state. This is a unilateral move on the part of the Chancellor without even hearing the arguments of the Vice Chancellors. 

The number of members of the search committees and the number of names on the panel they provide are as per the respective university statutes across the country. Many states have government representatives on the search/selection committee for the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor. In Maharashtra Secretary in Charge of Higher Technical Education is a member of the Search/Selection Committee. A four-member search committee for the appointment of Vice-Chancellors in State Universities of Karnataka is appointed by the Government. 

Apart from the representatives of the Visitor/Chancellor, UGC, State Government, Senate, Syndicate, Executive Council and Academic Council, the Chief Justice/Judge of the High Court or their representative, the representative of the State University Vice-Chancellors of the State etc. will be included in the search committee. As per the UP Universities Act, 1973, the Judge of the Allahabad High Court or the Chief Justice himself or a representative of the Chief Justice shall be a member of the Search Committee.The Chief Justice of the High Court or his nominee will be the member of the Search Committee as per the law in Madhya Pradesh.In Gujarat, a representative/nominee of the State University Vice Chancellors of the State will be a member of the Search Committee. In addition, the Syndicate and the Academic Council will jointly nominate a member of the Search Without considering any of this, the governor is asking nine university vice-chancellors to step down hanging on a mere technicality.

The Governor as Chancellor doesn't have any right to ask the Vice Chancellors of other universities to resign based on the Supreme Court judgment in the Technology University VC case. Because the order of the court applies only to that VC. The decision could have been said to apply to all if it was a public plea, however, this is different scenario.

No legal issue exists against the other nine VCs. There is no legal justification for demanding the resignation of the VCs, taking into account that the judgment passed against only the VC of the University of Technology cannot be applied to everyone.

Secondly, a VC can be removed only for two reasons, misappropriation of university funds and misconduct. But these allegations have to be investigated by a High Court judge or a Supreme Court judge and the VC can only be removed if found guilty. There is no provision in the University Act for the Chancellor to dismiss the VC. A VC is the chief executive and academic officer of a university. The Chancellor has no statutory power to dismiss a VC. Hence the Governor of Kerala has no legal authority to ask the VCs to resign or dismiss them.

The protest against the attitude of the Kerala Governor, who is keeping the bills and ordinances passed by the Assembly without signing them, is being publicly recorded. All 11 Ordinances have lapsed. His statement that he will not sign some bills is against all the values of Indian Constitution. This is an insult to the elected legislature.

The governor's PRO shared a tweet on social media saying that he will withdraw his 'favour' over ministers. It is under the recommendation of the chief minister the governor appoints ministers with cabinet rank. At the central level it is done by the Prime Minister. A party with a majority in the Legislative Assembly will be in power based on the people's election. Their ministers are appointed by the Chief Minister. They will also submit their resignation to the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister forwards their resignation recommendation to the Governor.At the central level these duties are performed by the Prime Minister. The Governor does not have discretionary powers to appoint or dismiss ministers on his own. When there was criticism over that tweet, a statement was passed saying that even if 'favour' was withdrawn, the ministers can continue in their current positions. This does not even conform to common notions of what the principle of 'favour' is.

This is a government which is taking many steps to improve the higher education sector of Kerala. There are three Reforms Commission reports that are currently under active consideration of the government. Thare are many qualitative gains coming out of universities. Some of them are the ranking leaps made by our universities in the field of NAAC accreditation. It is also the success of talented vice chancellors in our universities. No one has any dispute about their erudition or experience. All of them were selected by a select committee of experts as per UGC rules. There were some issues related to one appointment. The Supreme Court quashed the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala Technical University on the technicalities of the recruitment practices. The government is studying the verdict. All the VCs appointed by the LDF government including this vice chancellor are very talented. All the universities where they are in power are progressing well

This is a state that is moving forward with care to create an educated knowledge economy. It goes without saying at this stage that these extraordinary actions of the governor are in collusion with the evil forces that are trying to undermine it. There may be several reasons on why hindutva communalism is interested  in Kerala's higher education sector. Such moves will be strongly opposed here. Why can't he embrace the steps to empower the higher education sector in Kerala? The government is making interventions with good direction in this regard. Why is the governor trying to hide it?

The general public in Kerala is aware on why he is so eager to belittle the government at every opportunity and abuse its ministers. The governor's move to remove vice-chancellors ,appointed by the governor himself, overnight is to satisfy someone else. The Governor's favor is something governed by the values of the Constitution and the convictions of natural justice. He should have that realization. Instead, he himself works for the dominant interests of certain political parties. Obviously he is also seeing the protests against it. Is it in line with the constitutional values to say that critizicing him is unconstitutional, to hold personal press conference in the governor's position, to insult ministers and representatives of the people in public meetings? Everyone should remember that they will have to face protests in a democratic society if they are doing things that are not according to the constitutional status. There will be no situation where the government will surrender to any action from any side that violates legal procedures and political correctness in matters including the autonomy of universities.

No one has the authority to say that the Vice Chancellors ,who was appointed following all legal procedures, should resign by this time today, . An overbearing tendency to deny even general justice cannot be allowed. No employee in government service can be dismissed without giving notice and without hearing what they have to say. The position that VCs do not deserve even that general justice is autocratic. It can only be seen as such. Trying to apply the decision of the Supreme Court on a particular issue to all universities is nothing but an attempt to usurp the powers of the judiciary. The chancellor was also seen directly giving instructions to the state police chief. The Chancellor has no such power. He cannot interfere in any administrative matter of Kerala. At first he was against the appointment of teachers, then the elected Senate and Syndicate democratic committees, finally the vice chancellors. The aim behind this is to destroy the autonomy of the universities. The aim is to disrupt government plans to create a knowledge society. The aim behind this is to stop the boom of Kerala in the field of higher education. Above all, the aim is to turn the universities into a playground for sanghaparivar. We have seen the sanghaparivar's involvement in JNU and Hyderabad University. We have to read the attacks on the universities here along with that. Those who do not see the connection is jumping into a big political mistake.

The governor asked about the professors of all the universities. Isn't that before judgment? So the new moves were pre-ordained?
Those who are eager to describe themselves as authorities should realize that their authority is only in a technical sense. It should be remembered that the state has a democratically empowered cabinet and in a democracy nominated systems are not above that. The position of chancellor is a boon bestowed by the democratic system. That provision is always reversible.

The position of chancellor is not meant to paralyze universities. The search committee was tasked with finding a person for the post of vice chancellor. How can the chancellor order the inclusion of the ineligible persons in the panel if that committee has deemed all but one ineligible? What special ability does the chancellor have to expect that the position the Supreme Court might take in cases that are not before the Supreme Court?- asked the Chief Minister.