Appoint 6 Vice-Chancellors From State's List: Supreme Court To Bengal Governor

The Attorney General appearing for the Chancellor told the top court that he has approved six names from the list sent by the Mamata Banerjee government.

Appoint 6 Vice-Chancellors From State's List: Supreme Court To Bengal Governor

CV Ananda Bose and Bengal's ruling party, the Trinamool Congress, have a running feud (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose, also the chancellor of state-run universities, to appoint six suitable persons as vice-chancellors from a list of candidates provided by the state government.

Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Chancellor, told the top court that he has approved six names from the list sent by the Mamata Banerjee government.

The ruling Trinamool Congress, or TMC, has a running feud with Mr Bose over how the state's universities should be run.

"Let these six be appointed immediately," said the bench comprising justices Surya Kant and KV Vishwanathan.

It also asked the state government to send a fresh list of suitable candidates to the office of the Chancellor, who may decide to appoint some more VCs from among them.

Hoping for an amicable solution to the ongoing tussle, the bench said it may consider setting up a search committee later to short-list candidates for appointment as vice-chancellors in the remaining state-run universities.

Earlier, it had asked the Governor, the state government, and the University Grants Commission (UGC) to suggest three to five names each to set up a search-cum-selection committee that will decide the candidates for appointment as VCs.

At the outset, the attorney general told the bench that the Chancellor approved six names for appointment as VCs from the list forwarded by the state government.

He vehemently opposed the submissions of senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the state government, that the Governor was deliberately not consenting to the Bill on universities passed by the state assembly.

The West Bengal Assembly passed an amendment bill raising the number of members in the search committee set up for appointing vice-chancellors in state-run universities from three to five.

The BJP opposed the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023 alleging that the new search committee would further enhance the ruling party's control over the appointment of vice-chancellors.

"I do not want to say more on the issue as things are evident," the attorney general said while indicating the non-cooperation of the state government on the issue.

The bench has now fixed the plea for hearing on April 30.

Earlier, the top court had asked the attorney general to use his "good offices" for amicable appointment of vice-chancellors in several state-run universities of West Bengal following a bitter tussle between the state government and the governor over how the state's universities should be run.

It emphasised that only persons of eminence should be appointed as vice-chancellors and asked the AG to meet with all stakeholders to resolve the issue.

The senior-most government law officer had assured the court he would take the initiative to remedy the situation.

The top court was hearing an appeal of the Bengal government against the June 28, 2023 order of the Calcutta High Court which said there was no illegality in the orders issued by the Bengal Governor appointing interim vice-chancellors (VCs) in 11 state-run universities in his capacity as the ex-officio chancellor of these institutions.

In October last year, the top court stayed the emoluments of the newly appointed interim vice-chancellors and asked the Governor to sit with the Chief Minister "over a cup of coffee" to resolve the deadlock over the appointment of VCs.

It said there was a need for reconciliation between the Governor and the Chief Minister "in the interest of educational institutions and the future careers of lakhs of students".

The bench also suggested that the names of individuals, over whom there is a consensus between the state government and the Governor, should be cleared promptly.

Earlier, the High Court held the Chancellor has the power to appoint VCs as laid down in relevant enactments.

Sanat Kumar Ghosh, a petitioner who moved the High Court, and the West Bengal government, claimed the orders appointing VCs to state-run universities were illegal as the Governor had not consulted the higher education department before making the appointments.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)