In an unprecedented move, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has asked Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to take over as the chancellor of the universities, a post held by the Governor in respective states, “so that nobody would question the political appointments and interference in the universities”.
In a hard-hitting letter on December 8, released now, Khan has asked the CM to amend the Act concerned regarding this, saying Vijayan could then carry on his political objectives without depending on the Governor.
Khan said wanted to quit as the chancellor, raising a few issues over which he had locked horns with the CPI(M)-led government. A look at the issues raised by Governor Khan:
Reappointment of Kannur University V-C
Last month, in an unusual development, Vice-Chancellor of Kannur University Prof Gopinath Ravindran was re-appointed for another four years even after issuing a notification for a fresh appointment. The Kannur University Act says no person above the age of 60 shall be appointed as Vice-Chancellor. The re-appointment of Prof Ravindran as VC is a violation of the law as he has crossed the age of 60 years. Incidentally, the re-appointment of Ravindran as the V-C came close on the heels of the alleged illegal selection of Dr Priya Varghese as the associate professor in the Malayalam Department of the University. She is the wife of former CPI(M) Rajya Sabha member K K Ragesh, who is presently private secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
About the controversial re-appointment of Kannur V-C, the Governor says: “I wish to make clear that in that matter I did something against my better judgement, but I don’t wish to do such things any more. And at the same time, I don’t wish to pursue a course of conflict with my own government.’’
The Governor, in his letter, has stated that he had tried to convince the legal advisor to the chief minister that re-appointment is not an extension of the term of an incumbent VC.
Salary dues of V-C
Sree Narayana Guru Open University Vice-Chancellor Prof Mubarak Pasha is yet to receive a salary even a year after his appointment. Pasha was appointed in October 2020. The Governor’s office took up the matter with the Higher Education Department and sent three letters this year and two reminders in this regard. The Governor is peeved at the fact that there was no acknowledgement from the higher education department for the communications from the chancellor’s office.
Selection of Sanskrit University V-C
The Governor had appointed a selection committee, which, as per the UGC guidelines, should shortlist three names for the post of V-C. However, the selection committee, which initiated the process in September this year, recommended only a single name, which is against the norms laid down by the UGC. The committee, during its two-month-long period, did not make any recommendation, which facilitated the government to have its political nominee as the V-C candidate. But, the Governor, who did not favour it, turned down the recommendation. By recommending only a single name, the Governor was deprived of the opportunity to handpick.
Curtailing the Chancellor’s power
Recently, the state government amended the University Act, which took away the power of the Governor as chancellor to make appointments to the University Appellate Tribunal. Besides, the amendment did not consult the high court with regard to the appointments. The Governor has questioned the amendments as that gives absolute power to the state government in making appointments to the tribunal.
Faculty appointment at Sree Narayanaguru Open University
Due to the delay in the appointment of faculty, it would not be possible for the university to begin the academic programme even in the second year of its existence. The Governor has said the process of appointment, which commenced now, would take three months and the details have to be uploaded in the UGC portal. However, the portal would be closed in January, 2021, and it would be opened again only in October, 2021. That delay would impact the academic activities at the university, he added.
Governor Khan-Kerala government standoff
In 2020, Governor Arif Mohammad Khan had turned down the recommendation of the state cabinet to convene a special session of the Assembly to discuss the new farm laws of the Union Government. Khan had then questioned the very purpose of summoning the Legislature. He had also flayed the government when the assembly passed a resolution demanding the Centre to revoke the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Khan had stated the resolution was unconstitutional and insignificant.
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