West Bengal: SC orders committee for varsity vice-chancellor appointments

A search selection committee led by a former CJI to oversee appointments of VCs for public universities

The  SC's decision comes after appeals from state govt and governor (file photo)
The SC's decision comes after appeals from state govt and governor (file photo)

NH Digital

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the formation of a separate or joint search selection committee headed by former Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit to oversee the appointments of vice-chancellors for public universities in West Bengal after the state government and governor C.V. Ananda Bose came knocking on its door.

A bench of justices Surya Kant and K.V. Viswanathan passed the order and posted the matter after four weeks. The bench stated that the committee should be constituted within two weeks and the chairperson (Lalit) would preside over every search selection committee, which shall consist of five members. The committee is required to prepare a panel of three names for each university VC appointment, alphabetically and not in order of merit.

The recommendations should be endorsed by the chairperson and then presented to the state's chief minister. If the chief minister finds a person unsuitable, they should provide remarks and supporting material to the chancellor (which is the governor, de facto) within two weeks. The CM can also recommend the shortlisted names in order of preference to the chancellor.

“The Chief Minister, not the concerned minister, will prioritise the names and forward them to the Chancellor. If the CM does not approve any name, reasons and supporting material must be provided,” said the bench.

The CM shall be entitled to recommend the shortlisted names in order of preference to the chancellor, who will then appoint the VCs from the empanelled names in the order of preference recommended by the CM.

The Supreme Court ordered that Justice Lalit should be paid Rs 3 lakh per effective committee meeting, with others compensated as per governing statutes, and if no allowances and perks are provided for committee members, the state must inform the Supreme Court on the next date.

In May, the Supreme Court had warned that if both parties failed to resolve the issue amicably, the court would have to intervene.

A special leave petition (SLP) had been filed by the state government challenging Calcutta High Court's June 2023 judgment upholding the interim vice-chancellor appointments made by the governor in 13 universities in his capacity as chancellor.

In April, the SC directed Bose to appoint six suitable persons as vice-chancellors from a list of candidates provided by the state government within a week.

In December 2023, the SC had urged attorney-general R. Venkataramani to facilitate the appointment of vice-chancellors in numerous state-run universities of West Bengal.

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