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Karnataka HC bins PILs against VTU V-C appointment

The high court has dismissed two public interest litigations (PILs) challenging the appointment of S Vidyashankar as the vice-chancellor of Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Belagavi.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit observed that the petitions are ‘copy-paste’ petitions couched in verbatim duplicate language and that the petitioners have not approached the court with clean hands, clean hearts and clean objectives. However, the bench clarified that it has not expressed any opinion as to the regularity or otherwise of the entire proceedings that culminated in the appointment of S Vidyashankar as the vice-chancellor.

Vidyashankar was appointed as vice-chancellor on September 24, 2022. The first petition was filed by Prof B Shivaraj on October 31, 2022, followed by the second petition by Dr K Mahadev on November 21, 2022, and both the petitioners were represented by the same counsel.

The bench noted that Prof B Shivaraj, a former acting vice-chancellor of Mysore University, has failed to disclose various litigations filed by him in relation to disciplinary proceedings initiated against him. “The contesting respondents are more than justified in contending that the writ petitions lack bonafide. Their contention that because of the caveat entered by the 3rd respondent (Vidyashankar) qua Dr K Mahadev, he has set up Prof B Shivaraj to file an independent petition, cannot be discounted in the pleaded circumstances,” the bench said.

The court further said, “In our considered opinion, petitions lack bonafide and petitioners have not approached the court with ‘clean hands, clean heart & clean objective.’ This apart, there is a short unexplained delay on the part of the petitioners in calling in question the subject’s appointment to a public office. The vice-chancellor, ideally speaking, is the “Conscience Keeper of the University” vide the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Marathwada University vs Seshrao Balwant Rao Chavan case whilst examining the appointment of such a high functionary, this aspect cannot be lost sight of. After all, Mahatma Gandhi said, “means are as important as the ends.”

Petitioners’ contentions

The petitioners had argued that the appointment of Vidyashankar was opposed to the UGC Regulations 2018 as no nominee of the UGC was in the search committee. It was also contended the committee consisted of two persons who are associated with the university.

According to the petitioners, the appointment was opposed to the law laid down by the apex court in the case of Gambhirdhan, K Gadhvi Vs State of Gujarat, wherein it had been held by the top court that without the UGC nominee on the search committee and the appointment made by the chancellor is illegal.

(Published 08 November 2023, 23:54 IST)

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