Kerala HC Declines to Stay Governor’s Order Appointing Ciza Thomas as KTU’s Vice Chancellor

Kerala HC Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: November 8, 2022 at 19:01 IST

On Tuesday, the Kerala High Court declined to block Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s decision to designate Ciza Thomas, the Senior Joint Director of the Directorate of Technical Education, as the university’s Vice Chancellor (KTU).

Khan, the university’s chancellor, and Thomas received notice from Justice Devan Ramachandran on the petition filed by the state government.

Additionally, the UGC was suo motu admitted as a respondent in the case.

The State has contended that Thomas’s appointment by the Chancellor is not in compliance with the requirements of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University Act, 2015, in the petition submitted through Senior Government Pleader V. Manu.

The appointment of Dr. Rajasree M.S. as the university’s Vice Chancellor was recently revoked and declared void from the start by the Supreme Court.

The State has argued that the only people who can be appointed as the VC to hold office while a regular VC is chosen are the Vice Chancellor of any other university, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university, or the secretary to the government higher education department, as recommended by the government.

In compliance with Section 13(7) of the Act, the Registrar of KTU had already proposed Dr. Saji Gopinath, Vice Chancellor, Digital University of Kerala, to the Chancellor as a temporary solution.

However, on October 24, the Secretary to the Governor informed the Principal Secretary of the Higher Education Department that the Chancellor did not accept Dr. Gopinath’s recommendation for the position.

The State has claimed that the Governor’s justifications for doing so were false.

According to the petition, the government subsequently suggested Principal Secretary to the Government’s Higher Education Department for the position of Vice Chancellor of the University in order to avoid a deadlock in the university.

The petition also notes that the Director of Technical Education was asked to provide the complete list of professors affiliated with the Government College of Engineering, Barton Hill, Thiruvananthapuram, and the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram, who have more than 10 years of teaching experience, in accordance with UGC regulations, on October 26 by the Deputy Secretary of the Kerala Raj Bhavan.

On November 3, the Chancellor gave Thomas the go-ahead to assume the role of acting Vice Chancellor of the university and carry out the duties that come with the position, pending the nomination of a permanent Vice Chancellor and until further instructions.

According to the State, a Section 13(7) appointment could only be made for a tenure of no more than six months. It has been argued that Thomas’ appointment is negative for the law.

The State asserted that Thomas was neither the vice chancellor of another university nor a pro vice chancellor, and added,

“Even though it is admitted for the sake of argument that the UGC Regulations 2018 are to supersede the Act even in matters of appointment of Vice Chancellor – in charge, it is most humbly submitted that there is no provision in the UGC Regulations 2018 contrary to Section 13(7) of the Act.”

The State has further stated that the current Pro-VC of the University, Dr. S. Ayoob, who had been appointed on June 28, 2019, and who was still in office, could have been ordered to exercise the powers and duties of the VC if the Chancellor, for any reason, found the Principal Secretary to Government, Higher Education Department, not acceptable for the post.

The argument has also been made that the Chancellor is only permitted to act in accordance with the Government’s suggestion under Section 13(7) of the Act, not that the Act’s provisions provide him the freedom to choose anyone to perform the duties of the VC of the University.

The subject has been scheduled for additional discussion on Friday.

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