SC quashes reappointment of Gopinath Ravindran as Kannur Univ. VCtext_fields
New Delhi: In a blow to the Kerala government, the Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the re-appointment of Dr Gopinath Ravindran as the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University, stating that the state government’s ‘unwarranted interference’ in the matter has vitiated the appointment.
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra held that only the Chancellor (the Kerala Governor) can make appointments to the post and not even the pro-chancellor can intervene in the matter, reports Bar and Bench.
Though the Court agreed with the state's submission that the reappointment was not affected by the age-limit prescription, nor of reappointment of the same person, it quashed the reappointment on the grounds of excessive State interference whereby the Governor as Chancellor was not able to exercise his powers on his own.
The top court has set aside a decision of the Kerala High Court which had upheld the validity of a November 23, 2021 notification re-appointing Dr Ravindran.
The judgment, authored by Justice J.B. Pardiwala for the Bench, accused the Kerala government of “unwarranted interference” in the re-appointment and the resultant abdication/surrender of his statutory powers by the Chancellor/Governor.
Justice Pardiwala read out in court a press release issued by Raj Bhavan saying that the Chief Minister and the Higher Education Minister had kickstarted the re-appointment process.
The Kerala High Court had upheld the re-appointment, saying the process was done in compliance with the Kannur University Act, 1996 which did not preclude re-appointment.
The 2021 re-appointment of Dr Raveendran as the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University was challenged on the grounds that he was past the statutory age limit of 60 years at the time of his re-appointment since he was 61 at the time of his reappointment (being born on December 19, 1960), reports Bar and Bench.
The re-appointment was defended on the grounds that he was within the age limit when he was appointed for the first time. The said age limit would not apply when it comes to his second appointment, it was argued.
The High Court had reasoned that the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations and parameters were followed at the time of initial appointment. It had said the criterion of the age of the candidate was not applicable.
The High Court decision had come in a quo warranto writ petition filed by Premachandran Keezhoth, member, Senate, Kannur University, and Shino P. Jose, member, Academic Council (Management Studies), Kannur University.
The reappointment of Dr Raveendran as Kannur Vice-Chancellor had been entangled in political controversy.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan had said that he faced pressure from the CPI-M-led state government to approve the reappointment, highlighting excessive executive interference in university appointments.
The Governor also accused Dr Raveendran of being involved in a conspiracy to attack him during his visit to Kannur University. Allegations further surfaced regarding the irregularities in the reappointment process, suggesting a deviation from the standard norms. However, these incidents wee not subjects of legal review reflected in the court order.