'SC ruling on V-Cs encroaches on state's right to legislate,' says Kerala law minister P. Rajeev – ThePrint

Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala is in touch with political parties in other states to mobilise them on the Supreme Court October judgment that appointments of vice-chancellors in state universities must abide by University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, Kerala’s Law Minister P. Rajeev told ThePrint. 
The Pinarayi Vijayan government has also decided to legally challenge court orders quashing vice-chancellor appointments for violating UGC norms, the minister said in an interview with ThePrint.  
Rajeev was referring to the Supreme Court’s October verdict that quashed the appointment of Thiruvananthapuram’s APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University vice-chancellor M.S. Rajasree. In its order on 21 October, the court said the appointment contravened UGC regulations on appointing vice-chancellors.
Rajeev said UGC guidelines are subordinate legislation of Parliament and that the Supreme Court’s verdict could be extrapolated to mean that the central government could annul any law passed by a state on a subject that is on the Concurrent List. 
“The implications of the Supreme Court judgment are not confined only to education. UGC guidelines are subordinate legislation. It’s only tabled in Parliament and deemed passed if the Parliament does not make any modifications,” he told ThePrint. 
This, Rajeev argues, raises larger questions of Centre-state relations and the rights of states to make laws on subjects that are on the concurrent list
“This is a very serious issue,” he said. “We’re discussing this with other state governments and trying to mobilise [support],” Rajeev said.
Subordinate legislation is a law made by any authority other than a legislature, Rajya Sabha says in its Practice and Procedure series. 
Speaking to ThePrint, Rajeev pointed out that before the October ruling, the legal position had been different. 
“In the Kalyani Mathivanan case of 2015, the SC had held that the UGC guidelines are mandatory for central universities and directive for state universities. This means that if the state Act and the UGC regulations are contradictory then the former prevails,” Rajeev said.
The October ruling of the Supreme Court changes this position, he said, adding it was now up to the Supreme Court to clarify if the law applied retrospectively. 
“The chancellor is not the authority to decide that,” Rajeev added.
He was referring to Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan’s directive last month asking vice-chancellors of nine state universities to resign in the wake of the Supreme Court’s verdict on the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University case. 
Instead of complying, the vice-chancellors took the case to court, where its currently being heard. 
Rajeev’s remarks also come at a time when the Pinarayi Vijayan government has recommended that the governor convene an assembly session from 5 to 15 December. The move has sparked speculations that the government might pass a Bill to strip the state governor of his powers as the chancellor of the state.
Also Read: Arif Mohammad Khan vs Pinarayi Vijayan was up for a showdown. Until it became personal
As the debate over vice-chancellor appointments continued in the state, the Kerala High Court quashed the appointment of K. Riji John as the vice-chancellor of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies. 
John was one of the V-Cs whose resignation Khan had ordered. 
Rajeev told ThePrint that the decision impinges on the “state’s right to legislate”.
“We’re trying to get that changed. The vice-chancellor is filing a review petition, but the state government, too, is likely to be a party because it has other implications and encroaches on the state’s right to legislate,” Rajeev said. 
The governor, he said, is a constitutional authority and the chancellor is a statutory authority. 
“The legislative authority has the right to decide who becomes chancellor based on the needs of the day,” he said, adding that according to the state Act, the chancellor can remove a vice-chancellor on only two grounds — financial misappropriation and for misconduct. 
“Even that requires the constitution of a commission under a judicial officer based on whose recommendation the Chancellor needs to act. There is no provision to expel for any other reasons,” he said.
If the Supreme Court’s October ruling were to be applied retrospectively, over 100 vice-chancellors across India would lose their jobs. 
“If this is the position then more than 100 V-Cs should be removed. In Rajasthan, the search committee [for V-Cs] has representation [from] the state government. There is no provision for that in the UGC norms. In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the government constitutes a search committee that submits [names] back to the government, which then recommends one name to the chancellor,” he said. 
“In Gujarat, the state government appoints V-Cs not the chancellor and this amendment came into force when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state. West Bengal has representation [from] the state government in the search committee. All these appointments [will be called into question] if the court holds that the appointments of the V-C of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University void ab initio,” Rajeev told ThePrint. 
On Tuesday, several parties such as neighbouring Tamil Nadu’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) joined the ruling LDF in a show of strength in front of Kerala’s Raj Bhavan. The parties were demanding the abolition of the office of the governor. 
Rajeev clarified that there was currently no formal movement on that front. However, he added that the appointment and the role of the governor had been debated in great detail in the Constituent Assembly. “A demand was made about the governors being elected, and Ambedkar [wondered if anyone would] contest elections for a post that has no discretionary powers,” Rajeev said. 
“The Shamsher Singh case had settled once and for all that the ‘satisfaction’ of the governor is that of the council of ministers and not personal satisfaction. But there are also multiple recommendations about the mode of appointment. Ideally, it should happen from among a panel that the states send to the Centre and not top-down like it currently happens,” Rajeev said.
In the Shamsher Singh case, the Supreme Court had held in that case that “satisfaction required by the Constitution is not personal satisfaction of the President or of the Governor but the satisfaction of the President or of the Governor in the Constitutional sense under the Cabinet system of government”. 
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)
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