The Calcutta High Court on Thursday struck down the education department’s decision to “rescind” (revoke) the order by which Saikat Maitra, the vice-chancellor of the state’s technology university, was reappointed for a four-year term starting from February 2021.
Justice Kaushik Chanda in an order said: “The order dated July 29, 2022, issued by the Assistant Secretary, Department of Higher Education is set aside. The respondents will allow the petitioner (Saikat Maitra) to join the post of vice-chancellor within three working days from the date of this order.”
Maitra had moved the court on Monday, challenging the removal and the court granted an interim stay. Maitra went to the university’s campus in Haringhata in Nadia district to join at around 1.20pm.
He could not enter the office immediately as Malayendu Saha, who was appointed by the state government in place of Maitra, remained seated in the VC’s office till 5.50pm because he did not get a copy of the order till then.
“During these four-and-a-half hours, I worked from the visitor’s lounge and signed the files. He (Malayendu Saha) left the office after getting a copy of the order. The judgement proved that the decision of my removal was illegal,” said Maitra.
Repeated calls to Saha, who is the chairman of the state joint entrance examination board, went unanswered.
Education minister Bratya Basu while explaining the reasons to replace Maitra on Monday evening said the “removal of difficulty clause” under which Maitra was reappointed as the VC, was not applicable according to the statute of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University of Technology.
The court in its judgment struck down this contention.
“The order dated February 26, 2021, re-appointing the petitioner (Saikat Matra) as vice-chancellor of the university cannot be said to be without any authority of law. Though the said order mentions a wrong provision, the said power of the state, in fact, has been exercised under Section 19 of the Act of 2017 (West Bengal Universities and Colleges (Administration and Regulation)....mentioning a wrong provision of law by itself is not sufficient to invalidate the exercise of power when such power can be traced to a different provision of law,” the order issued by Justice Chanda stated.
Maitra was first appointed as the VC of the technology university in February 2017.
When his first term came to an end in February 2021 and the search committee, constituted by the department, could not come up with recommendations to appoint the next full-term VC after the expiry of Maitra’s term, the department sent a proposal to the chancellor in terms rule 9 of West Bengal State Universities (Terms and conditions of the VC) Rules 2019.
Since then chancellor governor Jagdeep Dhankhar did not accept the proposal, removal of the difficulty clause was invoked to reappoint Maitra, said Dwip Raj Basu and Uttam Kumar Mandal are the advocates for the petitioner.