SC appoints ex-CJI U U Lalit as head of committee for appointment of VCs in West Bengal

The ruling TMC dispensation has a running feud with West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose, who is also the chancellor of state-run universities, over how the state's universities should be run.
The Supreme Court of India.
The Supreme Court of India.(File Photo | ANI)

NEW DELHI: In a significant decision, the Supreme Court on Monday appointed former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit, to head a search and selection committee to supervise the appointments of Vice-Chancellors for public universities in West Bengal.

According to legal experts, the decision of the apex court would help resolve the deadlock between West Bengal government and the Governor. Both the parties were in a dispute over who gets the final say and supervision role over such appointments.

A two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice Surya Kant and K V Viswanathan pssed the order after hearing a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state government challenging the June 2023 verdict of the Calcutta High Court upholding the interim vice-chancellor appointments made by the Governor, in 13 universities, using his capacity as the chancellor of the institutions.

While saying that Justice Lalit will be paid ₹3 lakh per effective committee meeting, along with other compensated amounts as per law and procedure, and governing statutes for his service in the matter, the apex court fixed the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The court also said that in case of no allowances and perks being provided for committee members, the State must inform the Supreme Court on the next date.

The apex court also emphasised that the Chief Minister, not the concerned minister, will prioritise the names and forward them to the Chancellor. If the CM did not approve any name, reasons for the same, and supporting material must be provided.

The Chancellor would appoint the VC based on the CM’s recommendations and must provide reasons and materials if any name is rejected. All the objections from the Chief Minister and Chancellor will be presented directly to the Supreme Court, the apex court said in its order on Monday.

The SC had earlier in one of its hearings, warned both the parties to resolve amicably the differences in appointing the VCs. Failing to do this will result in the court directly appointing VCs, SC had said.

"Please try to resolve your (State Government VS Governor) differences, in appointing VCs amicably, else, we will come in the picture..," the court had said.

The Supreme Court on April 17 had directed West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose, who is also the chancellor of state-run universities, to appoint six suitable persons as vice-chancellors from a list of candidates provided by the state government within a period of 7 days.

The Attorney General (AG) R Venkataramani, the top law officer of the Union of India (UOI) appearing for the chancellor, had submitted to the apex court that the Governor approved six names from the list sent by the TMC's Mamata Banerjee government.

The top court was apprised in the hearing that the State Government had given a list of fifteen candidates for appointment as VCs for fifteen Universities. However, the Chancellor found seven persons out of this list to be unsuitable, and the rest were not considered.

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