Clearly on the path of a conflict, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, in his capacity as Chancellor of State Universities, on August 18 stayed the resolution of the Kannur University Syndicate that approved the selection of Priya Varghese, wife of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s private secretary K K Ragesh, as associate professor in the Malayalam department.
The development came close on the heels of the Pinarayi Government’s purported move to pass legislation to limit the Governor’s say in selecting Vice Chancellors. Moreover, the CPI (M) also came up with criticism against the governor, stating that Khan had “weakened the democratic process” by refusing to assent to the government’s request to re-promulgate 11 Ordinances.
KANNUR UNIVERSITY; GOVERNOR’S POWER
“The governor in his capacity as chancellor has stayed all proceedings regarding the appointment of the associate professor in Malayalam department with immediate effect. Show-cause notices are also issued to all stakeholders,” said the communiqué from the Raj Bhawan.
“The chancellor invoked the provisions of Section 7 (3) of the Kannur University Act, 1996. Show-cause notices to all stakeholders are being issued separately. The chancellor’s decision has been conveyed to the university,” said a note from the Raj Bhavan. Section 7 (3) of the Kannur University Act empowers the chancellor to annul any proceedings of the authorities of the university which is not in conformity with the Act and statutes, ordinances, regulations, rules or bye-laws.
KANNUR UNIVERSITY; THE CONTROVERSY
The selection of Priya Varghese was mired in allegations of favouritism. It was alleged that she was appointed to the post of associate professor flouting all norms of the University Grants Commission. She was alleged to have got the post overlooking deserving candidates. Moreover, it surfaced that Priya had scored very less compared to another candidate Joseph Scaria. The reports said that Priya’s total score was 156 and Joseph Scaria’s was 651. The Save University Campaign Committee (SUCC), a whistleblowers’ collective, had petitioned Khan against the selection of Priya. The SUCC alleged that the three years spent by Priya for faculty development programme and around two years on deputation as director of student services did not count as teaching experience. SUCC also said that Priya was ranked first in the interview even though her research score was the lowest among all the six shortlisted candidates.
KANNUR UNIVERSITY; VC
Soon after news of the governor’s decision broke, Kannur University Vice-Chancellor Gopinath Raveendran said he would move the court against the stay on Friday.
KANNUR UNIVERSITY; CLAIMS
In a Face book post, Priya had maintained that candidates needed to attain only a total research score of 75, as prescribed in the UGC Regulations of 2018, to be eligible for the interview. She also claimed that the charges that she did not have sufficient teaching experience had also been proven wrong.
On the difference in the scores, she said that while applying online, she had given details only of a few articles as published ones. She also claimed that if she had put all her published works, then her score would have been at least double.
On the allegation of not having the required years of teaching experience, she said that the UGC has unambiguously made it clear in the regulations that the research scores would be used to shortlist candidates (apparently not to make the final selection).
KANNUR UNIVERSITY; ACTION
Meanwhile reports said that the Governor is likely sought legal advice on taking action against the Vice Chancellor, who allegedly broke several rules by calling a syndicate meeting to take legal action against the Governor.
KANNUR UNIVERSITY; CPM
The ruling CPI(M) has come out against the governor in the issue. Rejecting the Governor’s charges that the University’s move appears to be a case of “favouritism and nepotism”, CPI (M) State Secretariat member A K Balan said that the stand taken by the Governor is unconstitutional, violation of the Kannur University Act and also against natural justice