SC appoints ex-CJI U U Lalit as head of committee for appointment of VCs in West Bengal

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New Delhi, Jul 8 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Monday appointed former Chief Justice of India U U Lalit to head a search-cum-selection committee to oversee the appointments of vice-chancellors for state-run universities in West Bengal.

The ruling TMC dispensation has a running feud with West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose, who is also the chancellor of state-run universities, over how the state's universities should be run.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and Ujjal Bhuyan directed that the committee be constituted within two weeks after noting that both the state and the office of the governor agreed on the formation of the panel.

Besides Justice Lalit, the committee will comprise five members, who will prepare a panel of three names in an alphabetical order for appointment of vice-chancellors in each university.

The time period prescribed for completing the entire process is three months, the apex court said.

The apex court said the committee's recommendations, endorsed by the chairperson, will be presented to the chief minister.

"If the CM finds any candidate unsuitable, the supporting material and remarks will be forwarded to the chancellor (governor) within two weeks," the bench said.

The committee's remuneration will be borne by the state and former CJI Lalit will receive Rs three lakh per effective meeting of the committee.

The West Bengal Assembly 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 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.

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.

In October last year, the top court had stayed the emoluments of the newly appointed interim vice-chancellors and asked the governor to sit with the chief minister "over a cup of coffee" to resolve the deadlock over appointment of VCs.

The apex court had said there was a need for reconciliation between the governor and the chief minister "in the interest of educational institutions and the future careers of lakhs of students".

Sanat Kumar Ghosh, a petitioner who moved the high court, and the West Bengal government claimed the orders appointing VCs to state-run universities were illegal as the governor had not consulted the higher education department before making the appointments. PTI PKS AS AS