SC appoints ex-CJI U U Lalit as head of panel for appointment of vice-chancellors in 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 Trinamool Congress dispensation in West Bengal has a running feud with Governor C V Ananda Bose, who is also the chancellor of state-run universities, over how the universities should be run.

A bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan said 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.

The top court authorised the chairperson of the panel to constitute separate or joint search cum-selection-committees for one or more universities, keeping in view the nature of subjects/disciplines in which education is being imparted in such pooled universities.

"The chairperson is requested to nominate four persons out of the empanelled experts, whom he finds capable of shortlisting suitable names for appointment as vice-chancellors.

"The chairperson shall preside over every search-cum-selection committee and thus, the composition of each such committee shall be five. The search-cum-selection committee shall prepare a panel of at least three names (alphabetically and not in order of merit) for each university," the bench said.

The chairperson is requested to constitute the search-cum-selection committees for a group or individual universities as early as possible and preferably within two weeks, it said.

"The Department of Higher Education, Government of West Bengal, is hereby nominated as the nodal department of the state government to issue advertisements giving vide publicity to invite applications for the posts of vice-chancellors.

"Such advertisements shall contain the details of the requisite qualification and other eligibility conditions, with a specific reference to this court's order, so as to infuse confidence, leaving no uncertainty in the minds of the meritorious aspirants in submitting their claims," the bench said.

The advertisements shall give four-week time to submit the applications, it added.

"Such applications shall be scrutinised by the department concerned of the state government within one week and shall thereafter the entire set of all applications be placed before the chairperson of the search-cum-selection committee, who in turn, will get the dossier of each candidate prepared for consideration of the search cum selection committee," the bench said.

"The search committee may endeavour to complete their task within three months from today. The chairperson shall be paid an honorarium of Rs 3 lakh for every effective day of proceedings of the search committee until the entire process is completed. The state government, in addition to the honorarium, shall provide the chairperson with a suitable office and full secretarial assistance, along with transit accommodation in Kolkata," the bench said.

The recommendations made by the search-cum-selection committee, duly endorsed by the chairperson, shall be put up before the chief minister (and not the minister in charge of a department) for necessary consideration, it said.

"In case the chief minister has reasons to believe that any shortlisted person is unsuitable for appointment as vice-chancellor, the remarks to this effect along with supporting material and the original record of the recommendation made by the search-cum-selection committee shall be put up before the learned chancellor within two weeks.

"The chief minister shall be entitled to recommend the shortlisted names in order of preference for appointment as vice-chancellors. The chancellor, on the receipt of record from the chief minister, shall appoint the vice-chancellors out of the empanelled names in the same order of preference as recommended by the chief minister," the bench said.

The top court said that in case the chancellor has any reservation against the empanelled names and/or the remarks made by the chief minister against any shortlisted candidate, he shall be entitled to put up his own opinion on file, duly supported with reasons and relevant material.

"The chancellor shall accord his approval (save and except when there is a difference of opinion) within two weeks of receipt of the file from the chief minister. The Department of Higher Education, Government of West Bengal, or any other department concerned of the state government are hereby directed to notify the appointment within one week from the date of receipt of approval from the learned Chancellor of the University.

"In the case(s) where the chief minister has objected to the inclusion of any name in the panel and such objection is not acceptable to the chancellor or where the chancellor has an objection against empanelment of any particular name for which he has assigned his own reasons, all such files shall be put up before this court," it said.

The top court made it clear that a final decision in this regard shall be taken by the apex court after giving a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the objectors.

The state of West Bengal shall file the status report in respect to compliance with the directions issued hereinabove before the next date of hearing, the bench said. PTI PKS PKS NSD NSD