The vice-chancellors of six state-aided universities whose extension of service had been questioned by former West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar handed their resignation to his successor, C.V. Ananda Bose, on Tuesday and got a three-month extension with his approval.
Dhankar had questioned the extension of the VCs’ tenure because the government had issued the orders without his approval. The governor is the ex officio chancellor of all state-aided universities.
An organisation of college teachers and researchers had filed a PIL in the high court challenging the extension of the tenure of the VCs of 24 state-aided universities, including those who went to Raj Bhavan on Tuesday, on the ground that the government had not followed UGC procedures, including obtaining the chancellor’s approval.
An official in the education department said six VCs resigned and got an extension signed by the governor.
The PIL is expected to be taken up for hearing soon.
Sources said another group of VCs will go to Raj Bhavan on Wednesday to tender their resignation.
“Seven VCs are among the 24 whose appointment (extension and full-term appointment) did not have the chancellor’s signature. So it created a legal complication…. Of them, six VCs submitted their resignation to the chancellor and each of them got an extension for a period of three months,” said education minister Bratya Basu, who accompanied the VCs at a news conference.
Sources said the extension of the tenure of the seventh VC was found to be in order.
“We will constitute search committees (for the appointment of full-term VCs) and bring an amendment to the law governing search committees. The chief minister has worked this out as well,” the minister said.
Governor Bose, who was seated next to minister Basu, said: “What we witness here is the birth pangs of a new order and death throes of an old one. The litmus test of education is its ability for conflict resolution. We would like to take education to a kind of no-conflict zone…. Some technical issues were there in light of the Supreme Court order. This has been amicably resolved with the vice-chancellors themselves coming forward to tender their resignation voluntarily.”
The 24 VCs include Sonali Chakravorty Banerjee, a former VC of Calcutta University whose re-appointment was scrapped by Calcutta High Court following a PIL. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.
The PIL had contended that the state government had no power to reappoint a VC “as the power to appoint/reappoint lies with the chancellor”.
The Supreme Court had on October 11 upheld the high court order saying “allowing such actions would be antithetical to the rule of law”.
“The observation of the Supreme Court with respect to a university created uncertainty about the fate of 23 VCs. We were concerned about this. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had a few days back advised that we speak to the governor about this,” Basu said.
The process of constituting the search committee, which will shortlist candidates for the appointment of VC, has started in regard to two universities.
The education department on Tuesday asked Calcutta and Jadavpur universities to send their nominees for the VC’s post to the respective search committees, an official of the department said.
CU has been helmed by pro VC Ashis Chattopadhyay since the departure of Chakraborty Banerjee. JU VC Suranjan Das is serving an extended tenure which will end in June. His name, too, features on the list of 24 VCs. A statement issued by Raj Bhavan said: “Today, the Hon’ble Governor gave the green signal for the formation of the Search Committee as per UGC guidelines and the Supreme Court directives....”