Kerala's Pinarayi Vijayan-led government, engaged in a tussle with the Kerala Governor over appointments in universities, had another setback today over the appointment of a professor at the Kannur University. The Kerala High Court said today that Priya Varghese does not possess sufficient teaching experience to be appointed as associate professor of Malayalam.
Priya Varghese is the wife of the Chief Minister's private secretary KK Ragesh. Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had objected to the appointment, citing nepotism.
The High Court asked for the appointment to be re-examined as it is not in keeping with University Grants Commission norms.
The court said a teaching experience of eight years is needed to apply for the post of associate professor and her teaching experience falls short.
The court also questioned how the University's scrutiny committee had overlooked that.
Priya Varghese had conceded that she did not teach when she was pursuing her PhD. Responding to the court verdict today, she said: "I accept the court verdict... Will decide on how to move ahead after discussing with legal experts."
The petition challenging her appointment was filed by Dr Joseph Scaria, an assistant professor from Changanassery, who was put second on the list.
This was the government's second big setback in three days. On November 14, the Kerala High Court cancelled the state government's appointment of a vice-chancellor at the Kerala University for Fisheries and Ocean Studies.
Mr Vijayan's government, engaged in a tussle with Governor Arif Mohammad Khan over the functioning of universities, is trying to remove him as the Chancellor for the state universities. They say they want pre-eminent academicians to head universities.
The Governor has been raising objections to appointment of relatives or party cadre to various posts in universities, calling it nepotism.
Mr Khan has said that if he was removed as Chancellor from the state universities through a bill or Ordinance, he would refer it to the President of India.
Today's verdict "is a tight slap on the CPM, which has been supporting the appointment of Priya Varghese as an associate professor," said BJP spokesperson E Krishna Dass.
The verdict, he added, is a "turning point in the ongoing face-off between the Governor and the government".