Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday lashed out at Governor Arif Mohammed Khan for seeking resignation of vice chancellors of nine universities in the state.
Vijayan said the Governor has no such powers and accused him of acting against the Constitution and the essence of democracy.
The chief minister, in a press meet held in Palakkad, alleged that the Governor's move was an encroachment on the powers of a democratically elected government, and the universities that are supposed to be academically independent.
A day after Khan kicked up a political storm seeking resignation of vice chancellors of nine varsities in the state, Vijayan said it was an unusual move and accused him of 'waging war' with an intention to 'destroy' the universities in the state.
"It was the Governor who appointed the VCs of these nine universities and if these appointments were made illegally, then the primary responsibility lies with the Governor himself," the chief minister said, adding that the chancellor has no authority to seek their resignations.
Armed with a recent Supreme Court order quashing appointment of the vice chancellor (VC) of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University in Palakkad for being contrary to University Grants Commission regulations, Khan on Sunday sought resignations of VCs of nine varsities in the state.
The Raj Bhavan had said that Khan, as Chancellor of universities in the state, also issued directions for the resignations to reach him by 11.30 am on Monday.
Vijayan said the Governor, who is also the Chancellor, was forgetting the basic principles of rule of law and justice and was showing unnatural haste and misusing the position of chancellor.
"...the position of chancellor was being misused to exercise a power that does not exist," Vijayan said.
The chief minister pointed out that the Supreme Court order on KTU vice chancellor was based on a procedural issue and did not say anything on his academic qualification.
"Even in that, there is still an opportunity to file a review petition. However, the chancellor is using this judgment to destabilise the entire university administrations in the state," he said.
"There is a violation of natural justice in this intervention in the field of higher education. The unilateral move by the Chancellor was without even hearing the vice chancellors," Vijayan said.
The chief minister said the Governor as Chancellor cannot ask the vice chancellors of other universities to resign based on the Supreme Court judgment in the technology varsity VC case because the order in that case applies to the VC in that particular case alone.
"It's clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of law... Don't think that you can exercise power that you don't have," Vijayan said.
The chief minister said there was no provision in the University Act which empowers a chancellor to dismiss a vice chancellor.
He said there are procedures to be followed while removing a VC.
"A VC can be removed in case of any misuse of any fund of the university or on the grounds of moral turpitude. Even then, such allegations must be probed by a high court or Supreme Court judge and can be removed if proven," he said.
Vijayan said the state has a democratically empowered cabinet and added that 'it should also be remembered that nominated posts are not above that'.
"The position of chancellor is bestowed upon the Governor by a democratic system and is always reversible. Even after continuous encroachment upon the democracy and the autonomy of the university, that position was not reversed due to generosity and not out of fear," he said.
The chief minister also expressed his protest against the Governor who had not signed the Bills passed by the legislative assembly.
"Eleven ordinances got lapsed because the Governor has not given his assent. Many Bills passed by the government are also not signed by the Governor," Vijayan added.
Vijayan also hit out at Khan who had earlier made some remarks against the state ministers and said if he was not acting in accordance with the constitutional provisions, protests would erupt in a democratic society.
"Recently, he mocked one Vice Chancellor for his language. He called another vice chancellor a criminal. He called a renowned academician a 'gunda'. There is no wonder that such a person decides to insult the ministers," he said.