‘Morality must begin from leader’: SC quashes appointment of Sardar Patel varsity VC

The Supreme Court on Thursday quoted the principle of governance by Chanakaya in his “Nitishastra”, as it set aside the appointment of Vice Chancellor of Sardar Patel University in Gujarat.

A bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna said: “The appointment of respondent No 4 as a Vice Chancellor of the SP University – respondent No.2 herein, is contrary to the UGC provisions, namely, UGC Regulations, 2018. We hence allow the present writ petition and issue a writ of quo warranto quashing and setting aside the appointment of respondent No.4 as the Vice Chancellor of SP University.”

Justice Shah, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench, said: “Against the backdrop of principle of governance as quoted by Chanakya in his ‘Nitishastra’, ‘Yatha Raja Tatha Praja’, the sense of morality must begin from the door of the leader who preaches it”.

The bench said the universities are autonomous and the VC is the leader of a higher education institution. “As per the norm, he/she should be an eminent academician, excellent administrator and also someone who has a high moral stature,” it added.

Justice Shah said a VC needs to be one who understands and handles the affairs of the university as ethical business and maintains pellucidity in his conduct towards the betterment of the university as well as the students therein. “A Vice Chancellor should be one who can inspire students and guarantee entry of high-quality teachers into the university system. A Vice Chancellor functions as a bridge between the executive and academic wings of a university as he is the head of both a teacher and an administrator,” said the bench in its 58-page judgment.

The top court judgment came on a writ petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the appointment of the VC of Sardar Patel University and sought quashing of the notification issued on August 29, 2019.

The bench said it is clear that Gujarat has failed to take note of the communication from the UGC and instead ,the university has left to the sweet will of the search committee to prescribe eligibility criteria for the appointment of the VC. The UGC counsel argued that in a search committee for appointment as Vice Chancellor, one of the members of the search committee shall be a nominee of the Chairman of the UGC.

“It has been clearly stated that the UGC has prescribed minimum qualifications for the appointment of a Vice Chancellor and therefore, such an appointment must be in accordance with the provisions laid down in the aforementioned regulations of the UGC,” said the bench.

The bench said the university’s VC does not fulfil the eligibility criteria as per the UGC Regulations, 2018, namely, having ten years of teaching work experience as a professor in the university system.

Petitioner Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi argued that ignoring a regulation of the UGC, a search committee was constituted under Section 10(2)(b) of the Sardar Patel University Act, 1955 on July 29, 2016, with no nominee of the Chairman of the UGC.

The Gujarat High Court dismissed the plea by the petitioner in July 2018, holding that the UGC regulations had not been adopted by Gujarat and thus were not binding upon respondent university. The petitioner moved the top court against the high court order.

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