Kerala High Court quashes the appointment of K. Riji John as Vice-Chancellor of KUFOS

The Kerala High Court building in Ernakulam.
| Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Monday quashed the appointment of K. Riji John as Vice-Chancellor of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) as it found that the appointment is in violation of the University Grants Commission(UGC) Regulations 2018.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chali, while allowing two writ petitions challenging the appointment, directed the Chancellor to constitute a search- cum -selection Committee for recommending a panel of names to the Chancellor in accordance with regulation 7.3 of the UGC Regulations, 2018, at the earliest possible time.

The court held that the selection of Mr. John as the Vice-Chancellor of KUFOS “overlooking the UGC Regulations, 2018, cannot be sustained under law”.

The court further pointed out that it was an admitted fact that the appointment of the search- cum- selection committee and the Vice- Chancellor was made by the Chancellor in terms of the provisions of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies Act, 2010, though not fully. “Therefore, we have no hesitation to hold that the constitution of the Selection Committee and the appointment of the Vice Chancellor admittedly done on the basis of Section 33 of Act, 2010, cannot be sustained under law”.

The court observed that the provisions of the UGC Regulations, 2018 in the matter of the appointment of Vice -Chancellor and the constitution of the search- cum -selection committee had supremacy and paramountcy over the provisions of the Act, 2010.

The court also added that a State University once recognized by the UGC is obligated under the law to follow its requirements.

The petitions were filed by K.K. Vijayan from Kochi and G.Sadasivan Nair, a former Professor. According to them, the appointment of Mr. John was not in consonance with the 2018 UGC regulations. The regulations required the selection committee to submit a panel of three names to the Chancellor unanimously. However, the selection committee had recommended the name of Mr. John alone for appointment to the post. Besides, the mandatory requirement of a representative of the U.G.C in the selection Committee had not been followed.

The court, however, held that the contention of the petitioners that Mr.John was disqualified for the appointment as VC for want of 10 years of service as a professor, was not legally sustainable, especially in view of the fact that the certificate issued by the Tamil Nadu Dr. J. Jayalalithaa Fisheries University would make it clear that he had sufficient qualification as a Professor.

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