Bengal govt terms SC order on VC appointment as ‘win of democracy’

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Kolkata, Jul 8 (PTI) The West Bengal government on Monday described as ‘triumph of democracy’ the Supreme Court order which said a search committee set up by the court for appointing vice-chancellors of universities would send names of candidates to the chief minister and not the governor.

Earlier in the day, a bench of Justices Surya Kant and Ujjal Bhuyan directed that the committee headed by former Chief Justice of India U U Lalit be constituted within two weeks after noting that both the state and the office of the governor, who is also the chancellor, agreed on the formation of the panel.

Welcoming the SC order, state Education Minister Bratya Basu in a post on X handle, said, "Democracy wins again.

In the order, the bench instructed that the search cum selection committee, to be headed by ex-CJI Justice (Retd) U U Lalit, to recommend a panel of three names for each university to the “democratically elected head of the state", Basu said.

“The Hon’ble chief minister will then recommend the panel according to her preference to the chancellor, recording her opinion, if any, against any name. The chancellor will then appoint the VC," the minister said.

In a similar vein, the Educationists' Forum, a pro-TMC platform of academicians, said, "Cutting through the illegalities imposed by the Chancellor on the higher education sector of West Bengal, Hon'ble Supreme Court has today affirmed the principle of fair selection through due process under former CJI Justice Lalit." The top court was hearing an appeal of the West Bengal government against the June 28, 2023 order of the Calcutta High Court, which said there was no illegality in the orders issued by the West Bengal governor appointing interim vice-chancellors (VCs) in 11 state-run universities in his capacity as the ex-officio chancellor of these institutions.

The ruling TMC dispensation has a running feud with Governor C V Ananda Bose over how the state's universities should be run.

The West Bengal Assembly in August last year had passed an amendment bill raising the number of members in the search committee set up for appointing vice-chancellors in state-run universities from three to five.

The panel will have the Governor by virtue of being the chancellors of state varsities, representatives of the chief minister, the University Grants Commission, the state education department and the state higher education council.

The BJP had opposed the West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2023 alleging that the new search committee would further enhance the ruling party's control over the appointment of vice-chancellors. PTI SUS NN