Home   »   Supreme Court Appoints Former CJI to...

Supreme Court Appoints Former CJI to Head VC Selection Committee in West Bengal

On July 9, 2024, a division bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice K V Vishwanatahn, passed an order appointing former Chief Justice of India, Uday Umesh Lalit, as the chairman of the search and selection committee for appointing vice-chancellors in West Bengal’s state-run universities.

Legal Basis

The order was passed on a special leave petition filed by the West Bengal government under Article 138 of the constitution. This petition challenged the Calcutta High Court’s order of June 28, 2023, which had upheld the legality of 13 state-run university vice-chancellor appointments made by the state governor, C V Ananda Bose.

Six-Member Search and Selection Committee

The Supreme Court has ordered the constitution of a six-member committee within two weeks. The key points regarding this committee are:

  1. The committee will prepare a panel of three names in alphabetical order for each vice-chancellor position.
  2. Recommended names will be presented to the Chief Minister.
  3. The Chief Minister can reject names deemed unsuitable and suggest alternatives to the Chancellor (state Governor).
  4. If the Chancellor agrees with a name, the appointment must be made within one week.
  5. In case of disagreement between the Chancellor and Chief Minister, the Supreme Court will be the final authority.

Background of the Case

2022 Calcutta High Court Ruling

  • The court ruled that the West Bengal University Amendment Act 2018 was contrary to UGC guidelines and therefore illegal.
  • All vice-chancellor appointments made under this act were deemed illegal, leading to resignations.

State Government’s Response

  • Issued the West Bengal University (amendment) ordinance 2019 to comply with UGC guidelines.
  • Submitted 27 names to the governor for interim vice-chancellor positions.

Governor’s Actions

  • Accepted only two names from the state’s list.
  • Appointed 13 interim vice-chancellors without consulting the state government.

Legal Challenges

  • The state government challenged the governor’s actions in the Calcutta High Court.
  • The High Court upheld the Governor’s power on June 28, 2023.
  • The state government then appealed to the Supreme Court, resulting in the current judgment.

Underlying Conflict

The appointment issue is rooted in the strained relationship between West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose and Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee. Their constant disagreements have led to this deadlock, prompting the Supreme Court to suggest that they meet “over a cup of coffee” to resolve their differences.

Supreme Court Appoints Former CJI to Head VC Selection Committee in West Bengal_4.1