The Supreme Court today questioned how a UGC regulation, under which only a teacher with minimum 10 years experience can be considered for the post of Vice Chancellor, infringed the minority status and constitutional rights of reputed Aligarh Muslim University. “The UGC regulation says a person should have 10 years of teaching experience. How does it affect the minority rights of the university,” a bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud asked.
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The bench also sought to know about the provisions of the Aligarh Muslim University Act which have been violated by the UGC regulations.
It then tagged the PIL filed by advocate Mushtaq Ahmad with some other pending petitions on the issue and listed them for hearing on January 20.
Ahmad claimed that the UGC regulations were not applicable to the AMU as it is a minority institution and moreover, Article 31 of the Constitution gave independence to minority-run institutions to look after their own affairs.
An apex court bench, which had been critical of AMU’s selection process in appointing Lt Gen (Retd) Zameeruddin Shah as the VC, had tagged a plea seeking his ouster with an appeal of AMU challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict divesting the varsity of its minority tag.
Earlier, the apex court had taken exception to the AMU’s submission that an eminent person can be appointed its Vice Chancellor, saying did it mean that “a singer, a sportsman or a musician” can also be selected for the coveted assignment.
The Centre had told the court that it had not taken a “rigid” stand on appointment and had already forwarded three short-listed names to the President for approval, as the varsity has kept the UGC regulations on the issue at abeyance.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development had said the names were forwarded to the President under the relevant provisions of the Aligarh Muslim University Act.
The President appointed one of the short-listed persons as the VC, the ministry said, adding the varsity is yet to adopt the UGC regulations.
The reply of the HRD Ministry was filed in response to a plea of an alumni of the university seeking a direction to quash appointment of Lt Gen (Retd) Zameeruddin Shah as the VC.
“The ministry did not take a rigid stand at the time of forwarding the panel to the visitor in May 2012 as the post of VC was vacant and was required to be filled up without delay,” the ministry said, adding that the post was filled up in May 2012 with the approval of competent authority, that is the Visitor (President), on the basis of panel recommended by the court as per the relevant statutes of AMU Act”.
Shah’s appointment as the VC of AMU on May 11, 2012 was challenged on the ground that according to the UGC regulations, the VC ought to have worked for at least 10 years as a professor in a university or on an equivalent post in a research or academic institute.
The petitioner had argued before the high court that the regulations — which pertained to minimum qualifications and maintenance of standards in higher education — had become binding on AMU when it had adopted these on December 6, 2010.
The ministry had said that the UGC regulations on Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and Other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for Maintenance of Standards in Higher Education, 2010 are mandatory for central universities.
“All the central universities should adopt these regulations without fail and as early as possible in order to ensure maintenance of standards in higher education,” it had said.