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The Hindu
The Hindu
G Anand

SC order quashing Kannur University Vice Chancellor’s reappointment comes as a stinging setback for Kerala govt.

The Supreme Court’s order on November 30 (Thursday) rescinding the contentious reappointment of Gopinath Ravindran as Vice Chancellor of Kannur University after his tenure ended in 2021 seemed to have come as an arguably stinging setback for the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.

For one, it has rendered the government vulnerable to barbed criticism from Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition as the Cabinet pushed ahead with its high-profile Statewide public outreach programme Navakerala Sadas.

Mr. Khan termed the apex court verdict that slammed the Kerala government for “unwarranted interference” with the Chancellor’s prerogative to appoint vice chancellors “scathing”.

Mr. Khan said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the State’s Advocate General (AG) “illegally lobbied” for Mr. Ravindran’s reappointment in violation of University Grants Commission (UGC) norms.

Governor sees moral dilemma for CM, AG

He said the “CM and AG” should now address the moral dilemma of quitting or remaining in their respective offices.

Mr. Khan said he was not “suggesting” any particular course of action for the Chief Minister and the AG. He said he left it to them to take a call on Constitutional, political and moral propriety grounds.

“The moral arc (of justice) might be long, but karma will ultimately haunt you. There is no escape from the consequences of karma”, Mr. Khan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.

‘Undue pressure’

Mr. Khan accused Mr. Vijayan of “pressuring him in person” to reappoint Mr. Ravindran for a second term as Kannur University Vice Chancellor.

Mr. Khan said Mr.Vijayan repeatedly despatched the Chief Minister’s “personal legal advisor” and officer on special duty to follow up on the “personal request”.

Mr. Khan said he relented after the Advocate General “erroneously” opined that the Chancellor could bypass the panel of applicants comprising 12 candidates for the job of Kannur University Vice Chancellor and nominate the person proposed by the government.

(Breaking with conventionalities, Raj Bhavan had in November 2021 issued a press release stating that Mr. Khan strongly dissented from the government’s decision to reappoint Mr. Ravindran in violation of the UGC norms and bypassing over a panel of 12 candidates for the top job. The Supreme Court had taken cognisance of the Chancellor’s dissent when disposing of the case.)

Khan absolves Minister R. Bindu of wrongdoing

Mr. Khan said Higher Education Minister R. Bindu, as Pro-Vice Chancellor, wrote a follow-up letter seeking Mr. Ravindran’s reappointment.

Mr. Khan said he assented to the reappointment, plagued by the knowledge that it was norm-bending, violative of UGC rules and a brazen trespass on the Chancellor’s authority.

“The Chief Minister used the Higher Education Minister to push through the reappointment. There is no point in blaming the Education Minister. Moreover, the Chief Minister had met me personally and requested Mr. Ravindran’s reappointment, pleading that Kannur was his home district”, Mr. Khan said.

Congress sees moral victory

The Congress, which relentlessly agitated against Mr. Ravindran’s reappointment, portrayed the Supreme Court verdict as a moral and political victory for the Opposition.

For one, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala had moved the Kerala High Court accusing Ms. Bindu of nepotism in the controversial reappointment.

However, the court had dismissed the case, prompting Mr. Chennithala to cast the decision as politically partisan.

He said the Supreme Court decision now vindicated his crusade against the government’s “bare-faced transgressions” on the autonomy of State-funded universities.

Opposition accuses CM, Governor of shadowboxing

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the Supreme Court’s withering judgment warranted Ms. Bindu’s resignation

He said the verdict has exposed another instance of “shadowboxing” between Mr. Khan and Mr. Vijayan.

“They publicly postured as enemies but were, in truth, political allies. The Governor and the Chief Minister grandstanding about their irreconcilable political and Constitutional difference is an elaborate hoax to pull the wool over the public’s eye”, Mr. Satheesan said.

He said Mr. Khan legitimised Mr. Vijayan’s illegal demand to reappoint Mr. Ravindran as Kannur varsity Vice Chancellor while making loud noises of protest for public consumption.

Bindu says govt. will abide by SC order

Ms. Bindu told reporters in Malappuram that the government would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision.

The administration has sought a copy of the apex court’s verdict for detailed perusal, she said.

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