From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Vice-Chancellor Appointment and Centre state relation
- Recent judgments of the Supreme Court of India on the appointment of vice chancellors (VC) in State universities in violation of the regulations of the University Grants Commission (UGC) are significant in the context of higher education in a federal country such as India.
What are the recent judgements of Supreme Court?
- Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi vs The State of Gujarat (March 3, 2022): In the case, Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi vs The State of Gujarat (March 3, 2022), from Sardar Patel University, Gujarat, the Court (Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna) quashed the appointment of the incumbent Vice Chancellor on the ground that the search committee did not form a panel for the appointment of VC, and, therefore, was not in accordance with the UGC Regulations of 2018.
- UGC regulations will prevail over state law: It was held that since the State law was repugnant to the UGC regulations, the latter would prevail and the appointment under the State law had become void ab initio.
- Professor (Dr) Sreejith P.S vs Dr. Rajasree M.S. (October 21, 2022): In the second case, from Kerala, i.e., Professor (Dr) Sreejith P.S vs Dr. Rajasree M.S. (October 21, 2022), with the Bench of Justices M.R. Shah and M.M. Sundresh, the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technological University, Thiruvananthapuram, was challenged on the ground that the search committee recommended only one name, which is against the UGC Regulations.
- Supreme court quashed the appointment of VCs: The Court quashed the appointment of the VC on the ground that the provision relating to the search committee in the University Act is repugnant to the UGC Regulations, and was therefore void.
Implications of the recent judgement
- Many VCs asked to resigned by Governor: Decision of the Supreme Court triggered unprecedented developments in Kerala with the State Governor, who is the Chancellor of all the universities in Kerala, asking as many as 11 VCs of other universities of the State to resign immediately on the ground that their appointments too had become void after the Supreme Court’s judgment.
- Tussle between governor and state: No VC has resigned as per the direction of the Governor. This development has intensified an already raging battle between the state government and the Governor, which is likely to become fiercer with the Kerala High Court quashing the appointment of the VC of the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies on November 14 on the ground that this appointment was in violation of the UGC Regulations.
What are the legal and constitutional issues with judgement?
- UGC regulations vs state university Act: In both these cases, the issue framed by the Supreme Court is about whether the appointment of VCs should be made as per the UGC Regulations or the provisions of the State University Act.
- Education in concurrent list, Centre and state can make a legislation: As education is a subject on the Concurrent list, this question needs to be addressed seriously. A VC is appointed by the Chancellor under the relevant University Act, but the Supreme Court has brought in Article 254 of the Constitution to rule that if provisions of the State law are repugnant to the provisions of the Union law, the State law will become void.
- State law declared void over UGC violations: In the cases mentioned above, the top court found that the search committee recommended only one name for the appointment of VC which violates the UGC Regulations which require three to five names, and, therefore, the provision of the State law is void.
- Subordinate regulations prevailed over state law: Thus, the Court’s conclusion is that if any provision in the State university law is repugnant to the UGC Regulations, the latter will prevail and the former will become void. So, on the one side we have an Act passed by a legislature and on the other we have regulations made by a subordinate body such as the UGC.
Opinion of experts
- State laws are subordinate to the act of parliament: A careful reading of Article 254 would show that the repugnancy under this Article relates to a state law and a substantive law made by Parliament. It impliedly excludes rules, regulations, etc. Rules and regulations are made by subordinate authorities in this case the UGC whereas the substantive law is made by the superior authority, namely Parliament.
- State laws are not subordinate to UGC regulations: The repugnancy can arise only between the provisions of the University Acts and the UGC Act, and not the regulations of the UGC.
- UGC regulations are inferior to state assembly: The rules and regulations made by the subordinate authority, though laid in Parliament, do not go through the same process as a law. Normally these do not require the approval of Parliament. The rules and regulations have an inferior status as compared to an Act. The Constitution cannot be assumed to equate the Act with the rules.
- Article 254 does not include regulations: The Constitution does not, in general terms, define the term law. The inclusive definition of law given in Article 13(2) is applicable only to that Article. It has no application to other Articles, which means the term law does not include the rules, regulations, etc. for the purpose of Article 254.
- Violation of federal principle: The regulations made by a subordinate authority of the Union overriding a law made by a state legislature will amount to a violation of federal principles and a negation of the concurrent legislative power granted to the State by the Constitution.
- UGC regulations are Not part of UGC act: The UGC Regulations on the appointment of VCs are outside the scope of the main provisions of the UGC Act as none of its provisions refers to the appointment of VCs.
- Issue of appointment of vice-chancellor has opened the new conflicting chapter between Centre-state relations. Supreme court’s decision has further added the confusion rather than clarity to the issue. Supreme court need to review the judgements for harmonious relations between Centre and states.
Q. Explain the article 254 about Centre-state legislative relations? How the issue of vice-chancellor appointment is problematic for Centre-state relationship?
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