Armed with a recent Supreme Court order quashing appointment of the vice chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University in Thiruvananthapuram for being contrary to UGC regulations, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Sunday sought resignations of VCs of nine varsities in the state.
The nine VCs include that of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University, according to a tweet by Kerala Raj Bhavan on behalf of the governor.
"Upholding the verdict of Hon'ble SupremeCourt dt 21.10.22 in Civil Appeal Nos.7634-7635 of 2022(@ SLP(c)Nos.21108-21109 of 2021), Hon'ble Governor Shri Arif Mohammed Khan has directed Vice Chancellors of 9 varsities in Kerala to tender resignation: PRO,KeralaRajBhavan," the tweet, accompanied by a list of the varsities, said.
The Raj Bhavan said Khan, as chancellor of universities in the state, also directed that the resignations reach him by 11.30 am on Monday.
Reacting to the governor's decision, the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist termed it as an outcome of the Sangh Parivar's "conspiracy" to topple the state's resistance to their alleged agenda of "saffronisation" of the education system in the country.
The CPI-M state secretariat, in a statement, alleged that the decision "violated all limits of democracy" and was part of a conspiracy to destroy the higher education in Kerala.
"It is also part of the Centre's plan to derail development in Kerala," it further alleged.
The CPI-M also said that the VCs appointed in the universities in the state were according to the laws in place here and through their efforts the higher education in Kerala was reaching greater heights.
The VC of Kannur University also reacted to the Governor's decision, saying he will not be tendering his resignation on Monday.
"If I do not resign, let us see what action will be taken," he said.
The governor's decision comes hours after the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala announced a series of campaigns, including "mass protests", against Khan, accusing him of making a move to implement "Sangh Parivar agenda" in the state's universities.
CPI-M state secretary MV Govindan and Communist Party of India's Kanam Rajendran said a meeting of the LDF leaders held here decided to organise statewide protests against the Governor for "misusing" his power as chancellor of the universities.
On November 15, the protests will be organised in front of Raj Bhavan and in the district centres.
The apex court had quashed appointment of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University Vice Chancellor Dr Rajasree M S, saying that as per the University Grants Commission, the search committee constituted by the state should have recommended a panel of not less than three suitable people among eminent people in the field of engineering science to the chancellor but, instead it sent only one name.
The top court, in its October 21 judgement, had said, "In view of the above two binding decisions of this court, any appointment as a Vice Chancellor made on the recommendation of the search committee, which is constituted contrary to the provisions of the UGC regulations shall be void ab initio.
"If there is any conflict between the state legislation and the Union legislation, the Union law shall prevail even as per Article 254 of the Constitution of India to the extent the provision of the state legislation is repugnant."
Therefore, the submission on behalf of the state that unless the UGC regulations are specifically adopted by the state, the UGC regulations shall not be applicable and the state legislation shall prevail cannot be accepted, it had said.
On the chancellor's decision, the Raj Bhavan said the VCs of University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University and Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit were appointed from a panel of a single name.
In the case of appointment of VCs of Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University, University of Calicut and Cochin University of Science and Technology, there was a non academic member in the search committee.
The Raj Bhavan also issued a letter to the varsities stating that in view of the SC judgement, "the appointments made in the Universities of Kerala contrary to the law have to be rectified and fresh appointments are to be made in accordance with law".
"The hon'ble chancellor has decided to give immediate effect to the verdict of the Hon'ble Supreme Court. As the appointment / re-appointment of the Vice Chancellors mentioned in the above table was made contrary to the UGC Regulations, the hon'ble chancellor has ordered that the persons mentioned in the table of this letter shall cease to be the vice chancellor of the respective Universities with effect from October 21, 2022," the letter further said.
Raj Bhavan sources also said that the state government has accepted the apex court order of October 21 as it sent a letter recommending who should replace the VC of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University.