Kerala High Court: In writ petitions filed by Vice Chancellors (VC) of eight Universities in Kerala alleging that the Chancellor of the Universities issued an analogously worded communication to them, informing that they are all ceased to be the Vice Chancellor of respective University with effect from 21-10-2022 and asked them to submit their resignation by 24-10-2022, Devan Ramachandran, J. while setting aside the impugned communication of the Chancellor, observed that as the Chancellor apparently has offered the petitioners an opportunity to show cause against certain action proposed by him, thus, it means that they are still in service and certainly eligible to continue as VCs, until such time as their term of office expires, or until they are removed as per law.
The petitioners asserted that the said communications are per se illegal, incompetent and beyond the jurisdiction of the Chancellor.
The Court viewed that the Chancellor asked the VCs to tender their resignations, and that too within the shortest period possible and declared that they have ceased to be the VCs with effect from 21-10-2022. Thus, prima facie, this Court has reservations regarding the impugned communications issued by the Chancellor and there is no requirement to expound, or to rely on any precedents, to declare that no one can be legally forced to tender resignation.
The respondent has submitted that the Chancellor offered the VCs an option of an honourable exit, by tendering their resignations, to pave way for initiation of fresh processes for the appointment of new Vice Chancellors, in terms of the inviolable holdings of the Supreme Court. in State of W.B. v. Anindya Sundar Das, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1382 and Gambhirdan K. Gadhvi v. State of Gujarat, (2022) 5 SCC 179. Thus, the Chancellor was only offering an advice, with the intent to notify and inform each of the VCs that their appointments are not only untenable but void ab initio.
The Court observed that it cannot grant imprimatur to any such advice, thus, the impugned communications will have to fail. It further observed that apart from the fact that no such ‘declaration’ could have been made by the Chancellor without following due procedure, the appointments of VCs are not illegal or untenable from 21.10.2022 alone, as the Supreme Court in the above cited precedents have used the term void ab initio.
The respondent submitted that the Chancellor has issued fresh notices to each of the VCs, asking them to show cause why action could not be taken against them, and to this, the Court observed that, the relevance of the impugned communications is, by far, lost, as once the Chancellor has offered the VCs an opportunity to show cause against certain action proposed by him, it ineluctably means that they are still in service and certainly eligible to continue as VCs. Thus, the Court set aside the impugned communications/orders of the Chancellor.
[Sabu Thomas v. The Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University, Writ Petition (C) No. 33820 of 2022, decided on 24-10-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Advocate Elvin Peter P.J.;
Advocate K.R. Ganesh;
Advocate Gouri Balagopal;
Advocate Sreelekshmi A.S.;
Advocate Abhijith. K. Anirudhan;
K. Jaju Babu;
Advocate Surin George;
Advocate M.U. Vijayalakshmi;
Additional Advocate General Asok M. Cherian;
Senior Government Pleader S. Kannan.