Escalating his tussle with the CPI(M)-led LDF government in the state, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Wednesday stayed the appointment of Priya Varghese, wife of K K Ragesh, CPI(M) leader and private secretary to the Chief Minister, as associate professor in Kannur University’s Department of Malayalam over alleged violation of norms and favouritism.
The Governor issued a show-cause notice to Kannur University Vice Chancellor Prof Gopinath Ravindran.
Ravindran told the media in Kannur that he will challenge the Governor’s stay order in the court.
In a media release, the Raj Bhavan stated that Khan, in his capacity as Chancellor of the university, “stayed the Resolution (No. 2022.313 dated 27.06.2022) of Kannur University Syndicate and all further proceedings pursuant to the selection procedure…with immediate effect until further orders”.
It stated that Khan “invoked provisions of Section 7(3) of Kannur University Act, 1996, in this decision. Show cause notices to all stakeholders are being issued separately. The decision of the Hon’ble Chancellor has been conveyed to the University.”
Referring to controversial appointments in Kannur University, Khan had on Tuesday said that he is surprised that the opinion of “everyone” — from the Advocate-General to the UGC — is sought, “but as a Chancellor, I am kept in the dark”.
He said: “The reason would be that they want to hide irregularities. Prima facie, there are very serious irregularities and serious cases of favouritism…there are a series of cases. It appears as if in Kannur University, violations of law, norms and decency have become a rule.”
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan has had many face-offs with the state government since his appointment in 2019. Khan's decision to stay Priya Varghese's appointment comes a day after the state Cabinet ratified the draft of a Bill, to be presented in the Assembly later this month, that proposes to curtail the power of Governor, as Chancellor of state universities, in appointment of vice-chancellors.
Last week, a panel against corruption in the higher education sector, called the ‘Save University Campaign Committee’, had submitted to the Governor that Varghese was selected by the university over several “deserving candidates”. The committee had furnished details it said was obtained through an RTI plea, which allegedly showed Kannur University had selected Varghese flouting norms.
In their complaint to Khan, the committee’s general convener, M Shajarkhan, and chairman, R S Sasikumar, stated that at 156, Varghese’s research score was the “minimum” among the six candidates. They pointed out that the candidate who she edged out — Joseph Skariah — had “scored 651 research score”.
The committee alleged that Varghese was selected only on the basis of her score in the interview — 32 out of 50, against Skariah’s 30.
Varghese’s appointment has been in news since November 2021, when Kannur University Syndicate cleared her name. It was alleged that Ravindran was reappointed V-C, overriding several “deserving candidates”, as quid pro quo for selecting Varghese.
Khan had then stated that he was under pressure from the state government to reappoint Ravindran even after forming a search committee for selecting the V-C.