The Kerala High Court will this evening hold a special sitting to consider petitions challenging Governor Arif Muhammed Khan’s controversial direction to Vice Chancellors of nine universities to quit by 11:30 am on Monday.
Governor Khan, citing a previous Supreme Court order, says the state government has no authority to appoint Vice Chancellors of universities. However, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has shot back with strong words, accusing him of “waging war” with an intention to “destroy” the universities in the state. He also said the Governor is acting as the spearhead of the Sangh Parivar.
The Chief Minister alleged that the Governor’s move was an encroachment on the powers of a democratically elected government, and the universities that are supposed to be academically independent.
This comes in the backdrop of the Kerala government appointing VCs to various universities on their own, while the Governor raked up the issue, saying those appointments are his responsibility.
Vice Chancellors of University of Kerala, Mahatma Gandhi University, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kannur University, APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, Shree Shankaracharya University of Sanskrit, University of Calicut, and Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University have been asked to quit.
The ruling Left Democratic Front has decided to carry out huge protest demonstrations across the state universities next month.
“The Governor has no authority to give such a direction. This is arbitrary, illegal and politically motivated. They want to control & destroy the higher education system of Kerala,” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said.
“They want to appoint RSS workers there and control the higher education system so that they are able to propagate Hindutva ideology in educational institutions. It’ll be challenged in court as the Constitution doesn’t permit the Governor to issue any such order,” he added.
Often at loggerheads with the Governor, the Chief Minister has also intensified his attack, saying “no one who respects democracy can accept such overbearing tendencies”.
The office of the Governor is not to put the state government in crisis or to take action against the government. The powers and duties conferred on the Governor by the Constitution are to preserve the dignity of the State, the people, and the Constitution, Mr Vijayan said.
“According to the Governor, the VC appointments were made in all these nine universities without following the UGC rules. In all the nine universities, the Governor is the appointing authority. If the VC appointments were made illegally, then the primary responsibility lies with the appointing Governor himself,” the Chief Minister said.
He also pointed to alleged “Sangh Parivar interference” in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad University.
The Governor, while asking for resignations, had pointed to a recent Supreme Court order quashing appointment of the Vice Chancellor of APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University for being contrary to University Grants Commission regulations.