The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have weaponised Kerala High Court’s damning order cancelling K. Riji John’s appointment as Kerala Universities of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) Vice Chancellor.
They seek to put a dampener on the Left Democratic Front-sponsored Vidyabhasa Samrakshana Samiti (Education Protection Council) mammoth march to Raj Bhavan on November 15 to protest against Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s alleged trespasses on the jurisdictional autonomy of State universities.
Top LDF leaders will lead the march and sit-in protest. A representative of the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which faces a similar run-in with Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi over State university administration, will likely be present. Incidentally, Mr. Ravi is in the capital on the protest day. Mr. Khan is away in New Delhi.
State Ministers will probably stay off the march to ward off the possible legal dispute that could arise if they protest against the head of State. The LDF has claimed over a lakh will participate in the Raj Bhavan siege.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said the High Court’s ruling was an indictment of the government.
He said the decree was consistent with Mr. Khan’s position that university Vice Chancellor appointments in Kerala brazenly violated University Grants Commission (UGC) norms and opened the door for nepotism.
Mr. Muraleedharan said the ruling front’s Raj Bhavan march was yet another bid to pull the wool over the eyes of the people to hide the corruption and nepotism in Communist Party of India (Marxist)-controlled State universities.
Higher Education Minister R. Bindu said KUFOS was under the Fisheries department and not her lookout. Nevertheless, the government would study the High Court order and make amends if necessary.
Law Minister P. Rajeeve denied the court ruling was damaging to the government. He said the court had set aside Mr. John’s appointment on the technical ground that the recruitment process was not in congruence with the UGC norms. He said whether the UGC norms or university laws prevailed in varsity administration, including Vice Chancellor appointment, remained unsettled. The government would seek recourse to settle the debatable question with legal finality.
Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the court ruling was a slap on the government’s face. It validated the United Democratic Front’s stance that the higher education sector was corruption-riddled. Nepotism in appointments ruled the roost. Mr. Khan had acquiesced in silence to Vice Chancellor postings deemed illegal by the Supreme Court and, subsequently, the High Court.
Meanwhile, BJP State president K. Surendran wrote against government employees participating in the LDF-sponsored Raj Bhavan march to the Chief Secretary.
He said the BJP would launch a counter-campaign to protect the Governor by knocking on doors to tell people about the CPI(M) ‘s criminal dominance of higher learning centres.