January 22, 2021 1:32:11 am
In a setback to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Thursday stayed the operation of a January 8 government resolution (GR) that had appointed Ramdas Atram, former director of Nagpur’s Institute of Science, as the registrar of Mumbai University (MU) for one year.
The court also directed Atram to immediately handover the charge to former in charge registrar Baliram Gaikwad. It further allowed MU to continue with the process of regular appointment of a registrar.
A division bench of Justice S C Gupte and Justice S P Tavade passed the order on a plea filed by Dhanesh Sawant, MU senate member, who had challenged Atram’s appointment.
The MU registrar’s post had been lying vacant since last July after the death of Ajay Deshmukh. MU Vice-Chancellor Suhas Pednekar had then given additional charge of registrar to Vinod Patil.
Pednekar, through a letter dated September 17, 2020, had requested the state higher education department to initiate regular appointment for the registrar amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but the state government delayed its response, alleged Sawant.
Meanwhile, Pednekar, using his powers under the Maharashtra Universities Act, appointed Baliram Gaikwad as in charge registrar last November. However, on January 8, this year, the government issued a GR appointing Atram to the post.
Sawant told the court that as the presence of Gaikwad, who was appointed for six months, was needed while MU was being evaluated by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, there was no reason to appoint Atram in his place.
Sawant added that MU is a “statutory body” and does not require intervention of the state government to appoint its officials. The plea stated that the state higher education department has “attempted to encroach upon powers of the university and sought to quash and set aside the January 8 notification”.
Advocate Anjali Helekar, appearing for Sawant, said that the appointment of a new registrar is “arbitrary, excessive, unreasonable and in utter disregard” of the provisions of Maharashtra state universities law.
However, Additional Government Pleader Kedar Dighe, appearing for the state, opposed the petition. He submitted that the government had appointed Atram, as he was more qualified as an administrator and the temporary term of the registrar – appointed for six months after the demise of Deshmukh – was ending on January 2. Dighe stressed that the government had powers to appoint officials of state universities.
After hearing the submissions, the court stayed the registrar’s appointment as per the January 8 GR.
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