Supreme Court quashes re-appointment of Gopinath Raveendran as Vice Chancellor of Kannur University
The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the re-appointment of Dr. Gopinath Raveendran as the Vice Chancellor of Kannur University on the grounds that the appointment was vitiated by undue interference from the Government of Kerala.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra observed that though the notification of appointment was issued by the Chancellor in November 2021, the same was vitiated by ‘unwarranted interference’ by the state government.
Setting aside the February 2022 verdict of the Kerala High Court, the Apex Court observed that the Chancellor (Kerala Governor) ‘abdicated or surrendered’ the statutory powers for re-appointing the Vice Chancellor, rendering the entire decision making process ‘invalid’.
Taking cognisance of a press release issued by the Kerala Raj Bhavan, which stated that the process of re-appointment was initiated by the Chief Minister and the Higher Education Minister of Kerala, the Bench noted that the process of re-appointment need not be similar to the fresh appointment of a Vice Chancellor. It added that re-appointment was permissible in a tenure post.
Pronouncing the verdict on behalf of the Bench, Justice Pardiwala said that only the Chancellor could appoint the Vice Chancellor and not even the Pro Chancellor could intervene in the process.
He said the upper age limit of 60 years as stipulated in Section 10(9) of the Kannur University Act was not applicable even in the case of reappointment for four years.
Setting aside the Kerala High Court order, the Apex Court said it was not concerned with the suitability of the candidate as suitability was up to the appointment authority.
The decision-making process vitiated the re-appointment of Vice Chancellor. Such a power of decision was amenable to judicial review, added the top court of the country.
In February 2022, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court had approved the re-appointment of the Vice Chancellor, upholding the December 2021 judgement of the single-judge Bench.