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Law

SC Sets Aside Reappointment of Kannur Uni VC, Cites Kerala Govt’s ‘Unwarranted Interference'

Justice Pardiwala read out a press release from the Raj Bhavan in court which said that the chief minister and higher education minister had initiated the reappointment process.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday, November 30, set aside the reappointment of Gopinath Ravindran as the vice-chancellor of Kannur University, saying the Kerala government made “unwarranted interference” in the matter.

Ravindran was the first vice chancellor in the history of the state to be re-appointed.

According to The Hindu, the verdict was delivered by a bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud. The top court overturned the Kerala high court’s February 2022 decision which upheld the validity of a November 23, 2021 notification reappointing Ravindran.

In the judgment, authored by Justice J.B. Pardiwala, the Kerala government was accused of “unwarranted interference” in the reappointment process, which led to the chancellor (the state’s governor) abdicating/surrendering his statutory powers.

Justice Pardiwala read out a press release from the Raj Bhavan in court, according to The Hindu, which said that the chief minister and higher education minister had initiated the reappointment process.

According to the Indian Express, the Supreme Court declared, “The impugned judgement and the order passed by the high court dated February 23, 2022 is hereby set aside and as a consequence, the notification dated November 23, 2021 reappointing the respondent number 4 (Ravindran) as the vice chancellor of the Kannur University is hereby set aside.”

A Kerala high court division bench had on February 23, 2022 dismissed an appeal against a single-judge order upholding Ravindran’s re-appointment. It said the appointment was in accordance with the law and that he was not “an usurper to the post”.

The high court’s decision came in a quo warranto writ petition filed by a member of Kannur University’s senate another person is a member of the Academic Council (Management Studies), Kannur University. According to The Hindu, they claimed the reappointment was not based on the independent evaluation or consideration of the contributions of Ravindran but instead at the state government’s request.

The newspaper reported that the Supreme Court’s decision was welcomed by the Kerala Students Union (KSU), whose vice president P. Mohammad Shammas said it is a “blow to the arrogance of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government”. He praised the judicial system as the “last hope” for the survival of the higher education sector.