The Kerala high court in Kochi on Friday quashed the decision of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, as the chancellor of universities in the state, to withdraw his nominated members from the senate of Kerala University.
The court said the chancellor's order to withdraw nominations of the members was not based on any reason and "was rather founded on prejudice".
"It was an unreasoned act, without regard to the facts and circumstances. All the above points to arbitrariness. It appears that the chancellor was under a misconception regarding the role of nominee, which also contributed to the arbitrary action," said the court.
"Therefore, on the facts as noticed above, this court finds that the order withdrawing the nominated members suffers from the vice of arbitrariness," Justice Sathish Ninan said.
The court also said that a nominee under section 17 of the Kerala University Act was "not a mere mouthpiece or an agent" and his actions have to be in accordance with law.
"The order of withdrawal of the nominated members (under section 17) is not for any alleged illegal act," it added.
Regarding some of the senate members who were 'ex-officio members', the court said their nominations could not have been withdrawn by the chancellor in exercise of the doctrine of pleasure provided under the Kerala University Act.
The high court also quashed a notification issued by the chancellor constituting a search-cum-selection committee, for selecting the vice chancellor of the varsity, and the panel's convener, saying it was not in accordance with the mandate of the Kerala University Act.
The order came on a plea moved by the 15 nominated members challenging the withdrawal of their nominations as well as the notification constituting the search committee and its convenor.
They had contended that the committee and its convener could not have been constituted when the panel's third member had not yet been decided by the senate of the university.
According to section 10 of the Kerala University Act, the search committee shall comprise one member elected by the senate, one nominated by the chairman of the University Grants Commission, and the third nominated by the chancellor.
The chancellor is to appoint one among the members of the committee as its convenor.
Khan, as chancellor, withdrew nominations of the senate members as even after his repeated directions to hold a meeting and provide a nominee for the search committee, nothing was done.
The senate, on the other hand, passed a resolution asking the chancellor to withdraw the notification constituting the search committee and its convenor.
The search committee was to be constituted to select a new VC for the university as the tenure of the one in office was slated to end soon.