The Kerala High Court on Monday set aside the order of the state government recalling B Ashok, an IAS officer, from the post of the Vice-Chancellor of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
A Division Bench comprising Justices C N Ramachandran Nair and K Vinod Chandran passed the order on a petition filed by Ashok challenging the single bench order which upheld the decision of the state. After removing him, the government had put Additional Chief Secretary in charge of the post.
The Court also asked the state to reinstate the petitioner to the post of the VC. The petitioner submitted that the order was without any specific reason and it was a premature termination from a tenure post.
The petitioner alleged that the reason for the removal was that he had expressed views against the then Chief Secretary in an article in a newspaper. However, the state government submitted that Ashok’s removal from the post was an administrative step.
“The act of recalling the petitioner from the post of VC is not for any bonafide administrative reason, but it is tainted by prejudice,” the court said and observed that a democratic government should not be over-sensitive to the criticism and reaction in a manner detrimental to public interest by removing Ashok.
The government on October 21, 2011, had requested the Governor to remove Ashok from the post. Soon after recalling him, the government levelled charges against him by initiating criminal disciplinary action on the basis of the article.
The act of withdrawing a full-time Vice-Chancellor from a newly set up university and handing over the charge to the Additional Chief Secretary was intrinsically against public interest, the court held.
“We do not know how the government can expect the Additional Chief Secretary, loaded with heavy work in the Secretariat, to responsibly discharge the duties of the VC of the new university, that too located 500 km away from the Secretariat,” the court further observed.
The court further held that the state is free to proceed with disciplinary proceedings initiated against Ashok.
The petitioner contended that he was appointed to the post for five years, and was therefore entitled to continue in the post up to 2016.
However, the court said that being a member of the IAS, he can always be recalled by the government for administrative reasons.