This unseating of vice chancellors is faulty

Source– The post is based on the article “This unseating of vice chancellors is faulty” published in The Hindu on 17th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS2 – Polity

Relevance: Centre-state ralations

News- The article explains the issue related to appointment of vice chancellors of University.

What is this issue all about?

In  Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi vs The State Of Gujarat, from Sardar Patel University, Gujarat, the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of the incumbent Vice Chancellor on the ground that the search committee did not form a panel for the appointment of VC.Therefore, it was not in accordance with the UGC Regulations of 2018.

In  Professor (Dr) Sreejith P.S vs Dr. Rajasree M.S.,the appointment of the Vice Chancellor of the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technological University, Thiruvananthapuram, was challenged on the ground that the search committee recommended only one name.This is also against the UGC Regulations.

What is the core issue with SC judgement?

In both these cases, the issue framed by the Supreme Court is about whether the appointment of VCs should be made as per the UGC Regulations or the provisions of the State University Act.

Under the Indian Constitution both the Union and the State can legislate on a matter under the Concurrent list. A VC is appointed by the Chancellor under the relevant University Act.

But the Supreme Court has brought in Article 254 of the Constitution to rule that if provisions of the State law are repugnant to the provisions of the Union law, the State law will become void.

Why is this conclusion faulty?

First ,repugnancy under Article  254 relates to a State law and a substantive law made by Parliament. It thus excludes rules,regulations which are made by subordinate authorities, in this case the UGC.However, the substantive law is made by the superior authority,namely Parliament.

Second, the rules and regulations made by the subordinate authority, though laid in Parliament, do not go through the same process as a law.The Constitution cannot be assumed to equate the Act with the rules.

Third, The inclusive definition of law given in Article 13(2) is applicable only to that Article. It means the term law does not include the rules, regulations, etc. for the purpose of Article 254.

Fourth, the regulations made by a subordinate authority of the Union overriding a law made by a State legislature will amount to a violation of federal principles.

Finally, the UGC Regulations on the appointment of VCs are outside the scope of the main provisions of the UGC Act as none of its provisions refers to the appointment of VCs.

What is the way forward?

Article 254 needs to be analysed in depth before reaching such conclusions. Such an analysis would make it clear that a State law can be repugnant only to the central Act, and not the regulations and rules made there under.

Since this issue is bound with the right of States to manage university education, more serious thought needs to be given to it.

The Supreme Court held in S. Satyapal Reddy vs Govt. Of A.P. (1994) that the court has to make every attempt to reconcile the provisions of the apparently conflicting laws and the court would endeavour to give harmonious construction.

When this is done in most of the cases, there would be no need to strike down a State law on the ground of repugnancy.

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